Saturday, November 06, 2010

Every day a New Orleans Adventure

A New England Fisherman cuts the New Orleans fog.
Isn't every day an adventure in New Orleans?  Especially for those unfamiliar with the lay of the land and the ways of the city?  To most visitors, New Orleans must seem like a spermatozoa in profile: the blocks of the French Quarter and the long tail of the St. Charles Avenue Streetcar Line.  When I look at the map of the city that is hung on my wall, it is much bigger.  It resembles a pair of testicles, with Algiers and New Orleans East stretched out and cradling big, fertile balls.

It's not an accurate anatomical comparison.  Unless you live in Algiers or New Orleans East, those parts of the city are the furthest thing from your mind.  They are there nonetheless, part of the citizenry and fabric of this wonderful place.  They are, in fact, as mysterious and chemically influential as actual testes are to a male body.  New Orleans is not male, however.  It is the most seductive and sensuous of cities, a courtesan among the metropolises of the world akin to Venice in its charms and wiles.

If New Orleans can be compared to any part of the human anatomy before it is a zygote, it is more egg than sperm.  It is fertile, waiting to hatch.  New Orleans is a womb in which adults are born to their true natures, becoming more human in the process of self-discovery.  The humidity during a New Orleans summer is an amniotic bath.  You cannot know New Orleans by only knowing the French Quarter, the Vieux Carre, and the Garden District.  There are many, many more districts than those, each with its own flavor and patter and patois, each with its own creeds and conundrums and contradictions.

I watched a jazz funeral down North Broad Avenue today.  I thought it was a second line until I saw the pall bearers marching with their hands pressed to the side of a hearse, three to a side.  What's the difference?  I cannot tell you yet.  Both employ brass bands and colorful dress and a sense of celebration.  The funeral had an obvious purpose, to accompany the dead to his or her final resting place, while a second line parade is held for no other reason than being alive.  What is the difference?  I cannot tell you yet.  It is November and I have only lived here since June.  When I discover it, I suspect I won't have the words to express it.  You'll have to find out for yourself if you care.  You should.

This is New Orleans.  There is nowhere else like it that I've ever encountered.  I'm from New England.  Every town and city is pretty much the same except for the fact that they all hate each other and perceive differences in the layout of the town green, the civic administration, the number of Congregational churches vs. the number of Catholic churches vs. the Unitarians vs. the Baptists.  If you aren't from one New England town or city, you are from no where.  You may as well be from the moon or from Brazil or from Texas or from some other far flung place that has nothing to do with the square miles that make up this particular place.

New Orleanians don't hate anyone.  They welcome them, invite them for a drink, a meal, a dance, a good time.  Like an egg in a uterus, New Orleans' barrier is permeable.  I'm from New England and I find New Orleans like nothing I've ever encountered.  People from elsewhere in Louisiana say the same thing: "New Orleans may as well be its own country."  It is its own country, I think.  It is an Eden in its way where sin is conceived but carries no taint.  It seems impossible to do wrong in New Orleans.  Every avenue leads to adventure and discovery.

When I typed that last word my finger slipped and I wrote 'dixcovery.'  That's what New Orleans is, the land of Dixie, Dixieland, a country known to all with borders that can't be located on any map but the one a person carries in his or her soul.  
I am happy to live here and call it my home.  I cannot imagine ever being unhappy in New Orleans.  The good outweighs the bad in ways so that the bad doesn't seem all that bad at all.  It is.  Everything is.  Everything is good.  Everything is New Orleans: potholes, mold, moss, lichens, lizards, roaches, termites, aches and agues, stagnant water, midges, mosquitoes... Brilliance and transcendence all; motes, like us, in a gracious God's beaming eye.  If anything is corrupted, it is a parcel of the city's effervescent jigsaw, harlequin, unwritten yet implied, parti-colored constitution.

Stars shine over New Orleans and they are lucky stars.  They beam and smile bemused at the all the fertile activity they witness.  Heaven is not blind to human genius.

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