Saturday, October 31, 2009

Last day in New Orleans

I've seen much more of the city this time around than my first experience many years ago. The narrow nearness of the French Quarter caught my attention upon my arrival. This part of town has its own close intimacy. The blocks are small, easy to traverse. Go tromping along a midtown Manhattan block and you'll see the difference.

The tour through the city took us to parts left unrepaired from Hurricane Katrina, areas that are far from the tourist candy land of the French Quarter. Grass has grown over the vacant lots where houses once stood. I took some photos, shot some video. Yes, it's been some four years since Katrina struck and the effects are still quite present and in many cases permanent.

I was surprised by St. Charles Ave. Mardi Gras beads draped on tree branches as well as on the trolley car cables that bisect traffic on the street. At one end of St. Charles you have Tulane University and LSU followed by million dollar pillared manses built in the Romanesque and Victorian styles. As you approach the business district though, large apartment buildings emerge on plots where more mansions once stood.

There is much more to say, but I think I can sum up my visit this way: New Orleans is a collision of culture, history and people perched on the cusp of the gulf. Old southern tradition, youthful libertines, the salt of the earth working to build a better tomorrow for themselves and the visitors drawn from around the world. New Orleans is many things, but I'm just a visitor passing through. I'm tempted to make a romantic analogy about the city holding hidden charm like the simple wonder of music in Preservation Hall with its stripped down walls and ceiling fans. But that would imply I know what the heck I am talking about.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Getting ready to fly

In about 12 hours I will be in New Orleans. It's supposed to be pretty warm though there's going to be scattered storms when I arrive and again Friday afternoon. That's when I will be on a bus tour of the city. Awesome timing, JP.

It will be hot and humid the first two days and I packed appropriately. Then the temps are supposed to drop like 20 degrees for Saturday. At least I won't be sweating bullets on Halloween.

I decided to skip the evening riverboat. It was becoming a very tour-heavy schedule and the weather might not cooperate Friday night.

I will see parts of the city still suffering from Hurricane Katrina. Some of the proceeds from the tour go to relief efforts. I had misgivings about taking such a tour, concerned it would be inappropriate and voyeuristic. But would it be better to simply stay in the French Quarter the entire time and act like the rest of the city is not hurting?

I expect plenty of revelry over the weekend, I'm staying one block from Bourbon Street. It's a good thing I was eating salad these past few days because I'm sure I will do some damage at the local restaurants. Maybe I'll return with some new recipe ideas.

This trip is a writing retreat for me, I won't be tromping around The Quarter the entire time. Might do a little bit of blogging, but you may have to wait to hear about this trip after I return.

That's it for now, got some last minute things to attend to.

Flame and Bone

When I was made from fire
Poured into the tender vessel of caution
That keeps my smoke from rising
Quickly did I discover that apart from crisp drizzles or falling snow
The world chilled my touched
Walking the narrow cornered gap between girders and cut stone
One learns to tuck his shoulders in or risk
Jostling a neighbor passing by rapt with want
For a clear path without the distraction
Of another man's boiling eyes
The tip of a finger
That oldest of all weapons
Grown deadlier and pristine in its invention
Gathers a mote of a cinder on its bare flesh
And turns pondering how best to scratch the impious itch
Prying open the tender seam
Where the oil of thought dews
Offering a new wick to ignite
Squirming alive as a salamander of mischief
That yearns for a taste of air it is so ready to devour
The steam of breath betrays me
Before the glint of orange spreads
In popping bright waves
Eroding the fibers feeding it
Leaving naught but ash
As my shell of quietude falls away