Monday, May 17, 2010

New Orleans East

The sun came out today and I forgave the sky.  I took Gentilly Boulevard past Dillard University to Chef Menteur Highway, which is how I originally entered New Orleans over a week ago.  Tourists don't visit this part of town and, if I were from somewhere besides New England, I wouldn't blame them.  This is an area typical of many newer cities in the south and midwest and west; developments of one family, brick bungalows planted on their predetermined, surveyed lots.  A modern Levittown.  At least that's how it appears on the main residential streets.  If you go back a few blocks, you'll see a bit more variety and, unfortunately, Katrina's damage.
I don't want to harp on the lingering effects of this disaster, but they are apparent most everywhere five years later and they are apparent in New Orleans East, a sprawling subdivision of the city.  There is no escaping that there is work still to be done even if the French Quarter is unscathed.  I passed many houses that had spray painted disaster information fading in the sun on paint-peeling, front porch walls.  I didn't pass one shopping center that was fully rented for business.  I saw many that were still wholly abandoned.  There were a lot of empty parking lots.

I took Chef Menteur Highway up to Read Boulevard and noodled around Morrison and Lakeview Boulevards and side streets in between.  My favorite street was the one closest to the Industrial Canal, Downman Street, which is anything but upwardly mobile but had plenty to look at.  It serves port and factory workers, stevedores and truckers.  I saw where Luzianne tea gets made and when I headed south from that factory, I smelled coffee.  Looking to my right, I saw I was passing a Folger's plant.  It didn't smell that savory, just coffee-like.
I didn't go all the way up Chef Menteur to city limits since I had already been there on my way in.  This part of New Orleans is home to a large Vietnamese community and when I passed through last week I was cheered to see all the South Vietnam flags on various businesses and homes.  I felt like I was back in Dorchester, which is home to Boston's large and thriving Vietnamese community.

On a concluding note:  I've been saying Terpsichore Street like Sinatra, TERP-si-kor.  I heard someone say it today in a way that is closer to the original Greek and probably more accurate for here, Terps-HICK-ory.

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