An image that keeps playing back over in my mind since I’ve been here happened the first night we tried to hit a meeting. There were a couple listed as close to us so we ventured forth in search of bad coffee and like minds. Our first choice was several blocks up from our house and though I’d been warned that it’s not adviseable to be anywhere along I-10 if I wasnt in a car I figured what the hell. Up the road we went, lovely tree lined streets and restored buildings cheering us along.
The further out we went though, the less care seemed to be taken in their upkeep. Boarded windows, tall grass, abandoned cars and trash encrouched on the less frequently lovely old homes. We finally came up on the church where the meeting was listed at and were confronted with a long sign across the side of its entrance. There it listed some 200 names subheading the years 2007 & 2008. Next to each name was the person’s demise. And no meeting. I checked my gps and found another meeting a little back the way we came and several blocks up, running the perimeter of what is considered the good and bad side of town.
Off we went, recalculated and further determined, marching turf I hadnt cruised since the bad old days of making drops. It’s funny how all of it comes back to you; how you carry yourself, move your arms, enough eye contact to claim your business without unnecessarily challenging, who to nod at and who not. All the while keeping in mind my girl’s protection whilst not reading like I thought I needed to as eyes followed us.
And then it happened.
Along the very wide grassy and tree filled corridor separating east and westbound traffic was one of the most surreal things I’ve ever seen, like Oliver Stone hallucination scene stunning; a black kid, maybe 12 years old trotting along the grass atop a gorgeous horse, bareback. And I mean this steed was majestic. Like those spanish show horses I’ve seen on tv. Big, flowing tan mane and tail, prancing, toned physique. Juxtaposed against a bustling road. Staged behind working class, abject poverty. It stopped me in my tracks. And i smiled. Ackowledging it changed everything. They were off about their business, just as we were. Just as everyone else was. Only now I saw the laughter as we made our way up the road to a new meeting where they didnt do it right. And I didnt mind one bit.
For those of you who used to read my blog posts here is God’s Country the original story, regarding steps, perception and having a servant’s heart. Enjoy!
I cant begin to describe how in love I am with New Orleans. I’ve often said that I’ve traveled all over the states and many places had their charms but I’d trade none of it for my bay area. I found the exception off the bayou. New Orleans touches something in me that I havent found a voice for yet but I fully intend to visit and revisit till the words come.
Hidden within it’s dense, humid evening air is 400 years of secrets, legends, music, sex, cuisine, corruption, culture and beauty that insists upon slowing down and breathing deeply in every decadent, elegant piece. It becomes a part of you. If not for the complicated obligations holding me here I’d trade this place in for a first floor shop and upstairs apartment on Royal street in a second.
I am taken with the sense of family that permeates each subculture I passed through there. Everyone is somehow interconnected. It was almost as if I hadnt known I was holding my breath when confronted with NOLA’s playful, gregarious, baudy warmth. Sitting outside our hotel the first night three old women stepped out to hail a cab from the 50th anniversary party they’d been attending. They chatted as if they knew us about how nice it was to see the judges again and chuckled wistfully that they’d all outlived their husbands, dubbing themselves the First Widows’ Club. As one passed me to sit on a marble landing I told her to hang on. She set her hand on my thigh, looked me in the eye with a twinkle and this elderly woman of old Nawlins money said in a purposely lusty voice, “You said hold on” to bursts of cackles amongst them.
Later in the week we were sitting in a seedy bar having amazing red beans, rice and andoulie sausage when the bartender suddenly bolted out the door shouting after someone. She brought him back in, slapped him and gave him the business about slipping out the back on his tab a few nights back. He sheepishly paid up as she waved him off, saying not to do it again. She came right over to ask how we were as if we were regulars. This sort of casual, sensual familiarity played out over and over during our stay. It called to me all week long. It truly is the Big Easy and even as it still tries to find its footing post Katrina, (the upper and lower 9th wards made me cry in their ever-present X marked shacks acknowledging searches and bodies like so many poor man’s makeshift crypts) it is a stunning city in all it’s forms. Wherever we went we were welcomed warmly. people thanked us for coming and pleaded for us to let people know that Nawlins had survived. Indeed only half of it’s original 600,000 inhabitants ever came back. Only 1 in 10 remain in the 9th ward where people were handed down shotgun shacks and row houses generationally and had no insurance.
NOLA is San Francisco’s sensual, traveled great aunt, chuckling sweetly at it’s angst-fueled reinvention of the sexual wheel. Patting it’s chilly, damp, activist, no left turn allowing kin on the knee she proffers assuredly, “Oh honey, you just go have fun!” with the wink of a worldly retired whore. I cant wait to know her biblically again.