I could easily spend a months worth of post talking about New Orleans, it probably has the most colorful past of any American city, but I will condense my thoughts on New Orleans into a post (or a few). These are my impressions…
New Orleans has secrets, not the garden variety kind found in other parts of the country; no simple affairs with the poolboy or crazy uncles living in an asylum. Because the secrets there create the fabric of the communities. You can feel them in the whispering streets, the music floating from seemingly every block, the secret gardens that you find peaking down dark hallways. The cemetery even feels secretive, with the above ground graves hiding your view. You get the sense that there is something just outside of your line of vision, that you might catch out of the corner of your eye, but will not be there by the time you turn your head.
Bourbon St- in a word music; it pours across every block and encompasses all genres, so you are bound to find something that you will like. I heard Spanish-style samba, top 40’s reimagined, a smattering of blues and of course jazz. There are no starving artist in New Orleans, what with live music pouring out of every bar and restaurant. And nearly every corner occupied by a veritable orchestra or more likely a brass band. It seems like the perfect place to exercise your craft.
The French Quarter- it still maintains it’s old world charms among the tourist traps that have sprung up. The streets are close and nearly every walkway is overhung with these amazing metal work balcony’s. This area of the city largely feels almost new, but there is something definitely old-soul-like about it. It has been reborn, and I find myself wishing I knew it when it was still in it’s dotage. Less yuppies and more real people I suspect.
Treme -If I were going to even entertain the idea of living in New Orleans I would live in the neighborhood of Treme. As one of the first neighborhoods of all black free people in the country it has an interesting history. But the houses there feel like a much beloved auntie, a whole lot frayed around the edges, but she is still maintaining her cool. Like most black neighborhoods there are a lot of derelict buildings and sagging streets, but Treme seems to maintain it’s dignity and promises that if you just sit for a spell she will be like a phoenix and rise again. I just hope that black people are still there after the rising.
On religion – As one of the original sin cities I wasn’t shocked to find a religious contingent, after all it is in the Bible belt, but I was shocked to see it so prominent. New Orleans seem so separate from the rest of the South, it wears it’s vices like a badge and invites you to dare to challenge them with a bawdy smile. Shame is in short supply there and the residents seem to like it that way. So imagine my surprise to find not only a large and prominent cathedral, but a large nunnery as well. St Louis Cathedral is one of the oldest catholic cathedrals in the country and is the home of the Archdiocese in the region.
Fun Fact: Is it ironic to anyone else that the oldest building still standing in New Orleans is the Ursuline Convent? It dates back to 1732. It has clearly had a recent facelift, but is still in use today.
One Final Thing: The second oldest structure is Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop (now a bar) which was owned and operated by one the more colorful characters in New Orleans past. Jean Lafitte was a pirate, spy, diplomat, entrepreneur and war hero. What he wasn’t was a blacksmith. I am left wondering if this was where he laundered some of his ill gotten gain, but I suspect people in the 1770’s cared little where their coins came from….