Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Goodbye French Quarter, hello Spanish St. John

I have been slowly preparing myself to move back to my chosen neighborhood, Bayou St. John/aka MidCity/aka JazzFest Neighborhood/aka Fair Grinds area....

Since I was a crazy teen (roaming the Quarter barefoot and bookish), I have used the Esplanade corridor as my escape route OUT. On bike and on foot then, on scooter or on bike or car now, I invariably head towards City Park. Eyes towards the oak trees...
So, when I moved back to the Quarter a year ago, I knew I would enjoy it only for a short time. I would head back to the bayou, no matter what everyone else thought I would do. No question.

Can't really explain it. I love the Quarter, it's tightness and looseness happening concurrently. Love the light playing off the buildings at daybreak, at sweltering lunch and at magical dusk. I like that some friends (like my adopted kid sister) would come to see me more, just to hang for an hour or two.
I like my landlady who has carved a pretty great life on Saint Ann, with her 91 year old mother around the corner on Madison.
Love the burgers at the Nelly Deli. Love th gin and tonics at Harry's, with 2 dog biscuits for Maddie always. Three, if she insists.

I usually like the tourists who look at me curiously sometimes, sometimes with indifference (as I am clearly not there to serve their needs) sometimes with delight when they see a person not in obvious costume, just making her way home with dog and groceries. Wow, they mouth nudging their friend casually. Look. I think she lives around here.
Sometimes I grumble at those same tourists on a bad day. Sometimes I do it just to freak them out.
I owe these blocks a lot; I was let loose for the last time as a teen by my mother in the French Quarter, about 1981, maybe 1982. After we moved into our tiny place that day across from Matassa's Grocery (and Bar back then), she looked at me with some amusement and said, "Well kid, welcome to the French Quarter." and went back to her office and started her own deserved emerging life, leaving me to (finally) figure out me on my own terms-albeit in her beloved Quarter.

Wait for the book being written now about those times. Let me just say, I was lucky to be a part of the last pre-World's Fair days there. So lucky.
But the Quarter is really my mother's world, and my stepfather's. They both have worked in walking distance of their home for the last 30 years, only leaving it on average once a week, sometimes not even that often. They are known (more so 15-20 years ago when they were a bit wild and building the legend of Jerry and June), but known by enough people that during Katrina, people came yelling for my mom over her wall assuming she was there. She was not and regrets that to this day.

I love the ability to do anything there. I love the gorgeousness. I love the mix of courteous blue collar workers. The some snobby, the more often genial residents and the never-ending parade of daily workers, full-time scammers and first-time gawkers.

I hate the number of bikes that are missing their front wheel first thing in the morning. I really am tired of the trash thrown on the street by people who delight in making ugliness.
Hate/love, that thin line.

I appreciate it, let's just say. Finally, I thank it for continuing to be there for me when I need it.

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