Sunday, March 4, 2018
New Orleans Description Passage from The Rules of the Game
Post-Katrina New Orleans had a mixed feeling of the flooded disaster of 2005 and the history of a world that existed unto itself from the way that much of America lived. The mix of French heritage, debauchery, pre-Civil War Southern influence, modern urban life, and voodoo all came together in an eerie, but unique way that made the city a distinctive expression unto itself. This combination either made the town one of the premier American travel destinations or a Sodom and Gomorrah to avoid.
In addition to the high-class shopping areas and jazz clubs, there was the impoverished devastation of the Ninth Ward as it waited behind levees to be flooded again. Down the streets from this, mansions stood proud and tall in the Garden District. Just outside the city, plantations drew crowds to marvel at a historical way of life that the guides now told with a small apology at the end for slavery. Of course, there was an opportunity for mint juleps along the way. However, no matter where the crowds went, there was a feeling of being haunted by the restless spirits of a past that still flourished amidst the street performers and paddle boats.
From the mix of Spanish and French architecture to the above ground cemeteries, the town was alive with a flavor all its own. What’s more than the average tourism appeal that they city offered, this “flavor” had very little to do with absinthe, gumbo, Hand Grenades, jambalaya, or blackened catfish. Perhaps, it had something to do with the counter-cultural call of the voodoo business of Marie Laveau. Then again, maybe it was the witching and vampire world built up by Anne Rice, memories of the Carter Brothers murders, or the mysterious coffin-shaped boxes in the Old Ursuline Convent. If that was case for these hordes descending on the city, then it was only a superficial and pretend understanding of what the truth in those stories truly represented.
Maybe New Orleans was more than that as the jazz of Congo Square and Louis Armstrong, which the white world segregated itself from, despite their habit of naming bars and music halls after it, still floated into the humid air of this swampland. Then again, there were the bored housewives and other privileged classes who snuck into the clubs to hear the lustful musical notes of the sexual world of jazz and the sweet release of the blues as told through gravelly voices and out of tune acoustic guitars. The big brass band blew hard into trumpets and trombones to express the primal feeling of joy from deep inside their souls. Everyone knew how these everyday people would get curious about the darkened nature of these mysterious Caribbean types or the jazz world and its personalities. While the women would buy medical dolls labeled voodoo dolls, the men would attend quadroon balls to enter into placage contracts. Naïve and prejudice-reared people and their fortunes are quickly parted, especially when they’re told what they want to hear.
To add humor and warning to these historical tales and present news articles, the men and women who ran the city and ghost tours would speak of how the Crescent City was founded by pirates, pickpockets, and prostitutes, as well as how the city’s open container laws only recently changed. When the history was explained, it made perfect sense, and the groups continued wandering along Conti Street, Bourbon Street, and Burgundy Street to find their way to Canal Street and the walled off tombs in the heart of the French Quarter.
Everyone who braved the spirits and hurricanes to come here knew how special the city was. Sure, Mardis Gras and the Saints brought the tourists in so that they could find their way to Preservation Hall and the bars of the city that served mixed drinks in plastic goldfish bowls. This combination brought the horny men who threw beads to the balconies in hopes of receiving a glimpse of boobs. And as they did, tourist couples and families would find their way into shops for cheap T-shirts and souvenirs of women fornicating with alligators.
Nevertheless, the real feeling came from somewhere else, as along the way, young African American children would beat on gigantic plastic paint cans that were almost as big as they were with a feverish determination to achieve musical ecstasy. Slapping their makeshift sticks in the same way that their musical elders would play their own beats on “real” instruments, the crowds stood in awe to watch them, too. Still, at every other corner, bigger bands with brass accompaniment wailed out the harmonies of the town to speak of the truth of NOLA in front of the shadow of Jesus on St. Louis Cathedral, as painters offered up their art for pennies on the dollar.
Tightly confined streets featured colorful buildings and decorative palm trees that punctuated the passageways. Along the uneven pavements, giant bubbles would float through the drunken crowds, who were no longer consciously able to avoid the septic puddles in the potholes of the streets. Standing in the shadow between cars or mixed with crowds, local business people and waiters warned of thieves, who lurked at every turn. Additionally, beggars seemed magnetically drawn to everyone who appeared to have a fat wallet.
The mixed bag of New Orleans was alive and well throughout the restaurants, drag shows, bars, curio shops, art studios, and strip clubs that made up a world that tourists demanded from this mecca to the hedonistic world of the lewd and lascivious.
In the midst of it all, traffic jams and jaywalkers hustled from side to side as construction crews hurried to repair the city for the next endless Fat Tuesday celebration and six weeks of parades that led up to it. Through the honking of horns and drifting street music sounds, endless lines of people stood waiting for beignets. Still other tourists hustled by the shops, too busy to notice the hanging flower baskets and the police Smart Cars, statues to leaders of the past, horse drawn carts, and the smell of garbage slowly decaying. Instead, it was all bars and lingerie mannequins in the windows as the bars beckoned them for huge ass beers or enormous mixers.
Sometimes, it was the call of the voodoo and witchcraft shops, but for the curiosity that they offered, the evil-eye owners and enormous bouncer-esque guards that stood watch inside made sure that nobody did anything stupid like belittling the merchandise. Heaven and Hell forbid that someone try to take a picture or video inside! Satan and Baphomet would rise up from their netherworld kingdoms to destroy the offending iPhone on the spot!
For that reason, it was no surprise that here was where the intersection of all of those antagonists who S1 fought on The Whale were getting ready to convene to establish the next phase of their mission.