Friday, June 17, 2005

The Big Easy



The first time I visited New Orleans the desk clerk at the hotel I was staying at took my map from me, then drew a thick, dark circle around the downtown area. "New Orleans isn't really a dangerous city, as long as you stay inside this circle, especially at night." I appreciated the advice, but he needn't have bothered. If there's a seedy part of town, some place where no tourist has any business being, then I will automatically, magically, find myself there. The first time I went to Chicago I got woefully lost and drove right up to the notorious Cabrini Green Housing Project. (This was before muggers on crack were replaced by joggers who've had too much frappuccino.) In Charleston, SC, I took a few wrong turns and found myself in the only place I was expressly told not to go. As darkness fell, a man trudged down the sidewalk, past burnt out buildings and overflowing trash cans, a TV hoisted on one shoulder, the power cord dragging behind him. My first night in London was spent in a basement hovel in Earl's Court, complete with pre-dawn knife fight outside the window. ("Aw, c'mon, just put that thing away before the police come," one guy finally pleaded. Surprisingly, it seemed the suggestion was taken, and I listened to their footsteps ricochet off in different directions.) And on and on. Trust me, I'm not showing off here. There's nothing particularly fun about winding up on the toughest street in town. You're grateful if all it takes is a little spare change to secure safe passage through some of these neighborhoods. I'm only relating this as a set-up for the next post. But don't get your hopes TOO high--it's probably not what you think. Anyway, the top and bottom photos are from Bourbon St., early on Easter Sunday, 2005. (The guy with the crown wants stuffed animals from the ladies in the carriage.) This middle shot is from the Garden District during a wait for the trolley.

1 comment:

Doug Sterling said...

Because of this post, I started reading about Cabrini-Green and specifically, the case of "Girl X". Good god, that was the hardest case I've ever researched...

On a slightly more lighthearted note, the same post reminded me of a time I accidentally got lost after moving to Baltimore. I was driving around looking for a place to do a u-turn, and came across the perfect spot - a cul de sac. As I was driving to the end of it, several people immediately started taking notice of me and stepping off the sidewalks and their porches to approach my path. I noticed they were all wearing some variation of red clothing and thought "how festive" (it was around Christmas), and then about three seconds later my brain made the connection and I pretty much floored it out of that cul de sac as fast as my little Integra could go.

Ah, good times...