Saturday, December 11, 2010

Goggling agog and agape in New Orleans

The day began humdrum enough.  I had to go to Covington, my first time, across the the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, a twenty-four mile  long bridge with nothing to look at.  I know people who drive this span everyday to New Orleans and back.  It would kill my spirit.

Approaching the opposite shore, I was struck, as I usually am, by the flatness of the land.  In this part of Louisiana they measure elevation with a yardstick.  I passed through Mandeville into Covington.  I don't mean to insult the aesthetics of my new state but, as the lady of the house has commented to me whenever we venture beyond Orleans Parish, Louisiana is ugly.  Not the land.  The landscape is intriguing with its fecund wetness and nooks and crannies.  The towns are ugly.  The buildings are ugly.  The layout that men and women have built for themselves is ugly.

I'm used to my New England landscape where stone walls border twisty roadways and recede into the woods, where a town is anchored by a public green with a white, steepled church, a sprinkling of monuments, and houses and commercial buildings that have stood the test of time.  New England isn't overly fancy but it isn't plain.  It is lived in.  Outside New Orleans, everything is functional and seems to have been built on the cheap.  Louisiana's towns, when they are even incorporated, aren't fancy and they lack any fancy whatsoever.  Uniform, slab housing and sheet metal buildings predominate.  It is an industrial streetscape even when it is intended to feel homey.

A power station Uptown.
Returning to New Orleans, a city aswarm with craft and details, I was happy to be back home.  I don't live in Louisiana; I live in New Orleans.   I wandered a few hours, getting my bearings and getting the city back under my skin, savoring the little things.
The details are always interesting.
Having a home in which I have ample room to spread out may curtail my constant perambulations about
the city.  Not too much, of course.  I am still an urban animal and I enjoy being around people even when I don't engage with them too much.  Given the choice between sitting in a smoky barroom (and smoky barrooms are my habitat of choice) and here...
...sitting on my back porch, it will be a tough decision to make.  Both are in New Orleans and both are part of life in the city.  I'm sure I'll strike a balance somehow with both gadabout WK and homebody WK sharing the best of both worlds.

I am sanguine about moving out of the Lower Garden District.  Magazine Street has spoiled me and the constant ferment that goes on in the area is good for me.  Greater Treme is another world.  I'm sure I'll love it, it is New Orleans after all and what's not to love, but I don't know the area well enough yet.  The Lower Garden was an easy fit.  I'm sure Esplanade Ridge will be too, just different.

Heck, all of New Orleans is different from anywhere else I've ever visited, let alone lived in.  Let the games begin.  I find myself content with my surroundings, as if I've eaten a bellyful of oysters.



Anita said...

Your house is breathtaking. It is the very essence of New Orleans. That porch and that balcony are so inviting. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed my sojourn in a similar house. Coffee on the balcony in January was part of my introduction to New Orleans. Now such a possibility belongs to you for any day you choose. You need a sweet olive tree and some jasmine back there for the full effect. Congratulations.

Whalehead King said...

If we are going to go swimming, we might as well go in over our heads and get wet all the way. I'm still just amazed to see palm trees and old southern oaks which are very different from the oaks I'm used to.

Thanks, Anita. I seem to be settling in more quickly than I hoped or expected. Soon enough, I'll be a solid citizen. At least I'm paying taxes directly now.


Rich said...

Nice porch only a few things missing. An 12 year old bottle of Glenfiddich, a Montecristo #2. I just happen to have a bottle and a box of #2's. You can not convince me there is a finer way to the end of a hard days work then taking in the evening in the solitude of your own back porch.


Whalehead King said...

A fine sentiment. Thanks, Rich.


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