Monday, March 26, 2007

Back in Noir

I absorbed as much as I could during my flying circus visit to New Orleans, spoke to a lot of people, only just glimpsed the devastation outside of the French Quarter. Even so, my main hope is that people from other parts of the world will chance a post-Katrina visit. I've been wanting to get back for a while and am happy I went.

In fact, there were people from everywhere. New Orleans is, I discovered, a place where being from Detroit holds some fascination. If you're comfortable in one part of old "New France," you'll be comfortable in the other, only New Orleans has a lot more to do concentrated in relatively smaller areas than Metro Detroit. Aside from some blues guys, a bartender who told with numb detachment of his friend getting shot while looting, a woman originally from Adrian, Michigan who drives a mule, and a bunch of miscelleneous people on street corners, I learned a lot in particular from an Indian shop keeper and a Hungarian woman who's lived in New Orleans since the 1960s. I sucked in a heap of culture, damned good food, and much weirdness like watching the immediate aftermath of a woman bartender stabbing a frat boy in the hand for some unexplained reason (I'm guessing he may have provoked it).

The Quarter, according to some of the entrepreneurs there, say things are picking up again though mostly just in the past couple of months.

The layers of law enforcement were interesting -- armored cars decked out for the Iraq War on the fringes (I saw one roll by the Projects next to St. Louis Cemetery Number 1 where there had been an exchange of gunfire); Louisiana State Police; volunteers from other precincts; and New Orleans cops on motorcycles, on horses and in squad cars. They seemed to be there mostly to quell violence; minor infractions like selling beer and pot out of the backs of pickup trucks were openly ignored (I've never seen so many people drinking or smoking so brazenly in front of the law). The idea of widespread graft and corruption was widely acknowledged. One thing is sure: never a dull moment.

Today's Rune: Breakthrough.

Today's Birthdays: Tennessee Williams, Erica Jong, Robert Frost .



Sheila said...

I have wanted to visit New Orleans for quite some time. I think my fascination with it started out when I read Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice when I was little. Since then I've read numerous books set their and my interest continues to grow. I plan on taking French this coming fall and I want to visit New Orleans and see if I can pick up on some of the phrases they throw around down their.

Charles Gramlich said...

Alcohol is a staple of life in New Orleans. Very little regulation of it is done, except in regards to driving while intoxicated. However, with pot, it depends on the mood of the officer. It can be treated harshly or overlooked.

Erik Donald France said...

Thanks y'all for your comments. Sheila, find an internet deal and go ;) No French required, though I did hear two people debating whether Cajun French is purer and older than other forms. One woman was adamant that it is. There's also a Spanish Creole element from way back in the day.

Charles, I guess graffiti is a bigger infraction! But that makes sense on the alcohol/marijuana distinction. People were cagier with their smoking, and that was either in packed crowds on the fringes of the Quarter or just a little more discrete. Booze, though -- everywhere, and from morning through night.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Did'ya take some digital pics? Sure would like to see some. And I agree with your prior comment about Detroit - not fully recovered from the '67 riots. There's an old timer at our facility, locked up for killing a cop at those riots; Forty years later, still locked up.

Erik Donald France said...

Jim -- no digital shots, but hopefully at least a few decent ones from a throwaway cam. So, about those beads? Bad luck or what? I saw a woman who put beads around her neck and then started hollering that she felt like she was choking -- she finally tore them off. Weird, huh?

Bubs said...

I love the stuff you've written on your visit to New Orleans. I'm glad to see people going back there.

Nice blog you got here!