ferns and flower power …

July 29, 2009 § 6 Comments

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(picture taken in Pirate’s Alley. It’s the Faulkner House Bookstore, a tiny shop with room for perhaps 10 people to browse. I stop there every time we visit the city. The shopkeeper recognizes me but isn’t quite sure why. She always helps me find a book about or relating to New Orleans. I have not yet, however, been able to finish A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES.  I will share in the next blog a nice little treasure that I found there on my own!)

It’s not all peaches and cream in NOLA but you might believe it is. Even this soon after Katrina. It’s going to take a long time for Katrina to fall out of the Crescent City’s connotative vocabulary, to fall out of the national vocabulary, in fact.

Five years later, there is still damage everywhere. Bricks jut through walls.  Vinyl peels from siding, gutters are rotten. There are still mattresses and old bathtubs and the flotsam and jetsam of daily life in the pretty little courtyards, back behind the gorgeous iron grillwork and the ferns and flowers.

The city has done an enormous amount of work.
But is it nice? Is it OK to go there? Yes. Of course. Go.
There is a terrible fragility about the place but it has always been there.
And also still there, now and forever, are the New Orleans residents, those who could stay or return and rebuild.
And they still love their red beans and rice on Mondays.

There are hundreds of pictures like this one to be taken in the (good old) French Quarter. Hundreds.
Adn if you’re really really hot – it was 102 degrees most of the days we were there – you might be lucky enough to walk under someone’s balcony as they are watering their plants.

The hotter it is, the hotter the hot sauce you can tolerate.
The hotter it is, the stronger the drink and you just plain will not notice.
The hotter it is, the more you wonder about the difference between the tap water and the toilet water.
The hotter it is, the more you understand a culture that has grown and thrived in spite of the weather, in spite of being surrounded by water that is higher than the land, in spite of the way the air and the light and the scents of the place all melt and glom together.

You would think that walking around the French Quarter several times would be enough. But so many buildings have stories. So many people in the shops and on the streets have stories. And they tell them. They tell them with glee, they tell them with smiles or eye-rolling or accents thick with the swamp, with an earnestness that belies the truth. It is a city of storytellers. This city might just top the 8 million stories that NYC reportedly has. Yessuh, this city might just out-story all the others.

It is a writer’s city.

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§ 6 Responses to ferns and flower power …

  • jeanie says:

    Oh, I just knew when you posted about NOLA that I would be wild with delight! I’ve never been there at a time that wasn’t hot and humid. You curse the curly hair that appears to be growing up and sideways rather than down and play and explore! I understand perfectly what you mean about the French Quarter buildings having stories to tell! I only wish I’d had a camera glued to my hand when I was there before!

    I’m so looking forward to more!

  • ds says:

    And you are just the writer to tell those stories. Your top photo is exactly as I had pictured New Orleans in my head, before the devastation of Katrina. So glad the city is rejuvenating itself. Says a lot for the human spirit, and the “kindness of strangers.”
    As for the Faulkner Bookshop–there’s a story in there. Do tell. Do!

  • oh says:

    Jeanie – have an excellent trip to the Eastern shore!

    DS – hmmm…now you have me thinking…I shall have to come up with some stories and anecdotes. Let me just finish this darn article that refuses to be written (boring?) and then…yay! back to blog world in earnest!

  • JoAnn says:

    What a gorgeous photo! Thanks for visiting my blog…I can’t wait to spend some time looking around here.

  • oh says:

    Thanks for visiting, JoAnn. I hope to be posting more regularly again – funny how having your kitchen torn apart and put back together disrupts EVERYTHING!

  • There’s no question about your last statement. Your post on the Faulkner house was fascinating, too, along with your reflections on Faulkner’s writing at different stages of your life – sorry I was too lazy to trot over there and comment. It’s been a week. 😉

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