dylan (overlain with ig), janis, three versions of “house of the rising sun,” & back to blonde again

21 08 2008

sunday we only had a little coffee at the house before heading out to the re-instated projects, driving between caged lots that looked like the used to be basketball courts and playgrounds that were instead full of random piles and broken grids of pvc, which we finally figured out were the pipes—still there—for the trailers when those were the temporary housing plots on higher ground, to go prowling around st. louis cemetery no. 1, the oldest of the three, where the dead live (and are yet adored) in neat (and crumbling) houses of all sorts of ages, in mazelike rows with iron crosses (and even they have balconies), and to find and make wishes at marie laveau’s tomb. (which isn’t in this picture—more prowling is required.)
that done—our spiritual deed for the holy day—it was time to case the market one more time, assess the crowds at cafe du monde, decide they were absurd, order our coffees (iced lattes) and beignets at “cafe beignet” across the street instead, sip said lattes, read the newspaper, and chat while the pastries were frying up hot, and then take them to a shady but quieter place around the corner to burn our fingers and tongues noshing on their messy sugary goodness before taking our third dive through the market (and up and down the streets for just a little longer—because: free samples of fresh, crumbly-soft pralines at the market candy shop, smart-assed fema t-shirts, and the burning question of whether the indiana jones hat was awesome enough to be owned in two colors) to actually acquire presents for our people and ourselves. then it was time for our much-anticipated soul-food luncheon at the praline connection where the entire staff of the restaurant seems to be made up of beautiful & photogenic young black men in smart black hats, who seemed to be the drawing force for at least some of the clientèle, as picture-taking kept going on, and where, between the lot of us, we ended up with a table heavy with gumbo, red beans & rice, jambalaya, collard greens, fried chicken, catfish, & the necessary accompaniment of many glasses of sweet tea—SK-L’s selection even came with a generous little cup of bread pudding that, between the three of us, we couldn’t finish—and i brought enough of our leftover greens and beans home to have for dinner! (plus, guess what: there were more balconies!) with a massive return-trip looming in our monday-morning future, and, honestly, with all three of us being absolutely beaten to halfway catatonic from the humidity-n-sunny-heat combination (100 degrees at 70% humidity, seriously—but did i mention i love the balconies?) we decided another evening in was in order; the lads mostly played video games & watched south park, sasha whined through another storm, and i finished my postcards and then read almost all of this (so i still felt thoroughly entrenched in my surroundings, anyway!): which we’d kept passing in bookstores as we shopped, and which the owner of the host-house happened to have a copy of. it’s a collection of short essays by columnist chris rose that take place over the year and a half of-and-immediately-after katrina, and they are at times creepy but often also funny and are mostly really, really fascinatingly revealing depictions of the long, long story that most of us only saw as at most a couple weeks’ media coverage, a story that i don’t think most folks realize is still going on, for many folks to the exclusion of everything else, three years later. evidence other than the pipes: fema trailer and search-and-rescue x-mark in uptown (where it stayed mostly dry–ima_spoony_bard says the 9th ward still looks like a war zone, and didn’t take us—and where even the well-off folks in the expensive houses are just now getting a chance to think about calling first-dibs on having their flood-damaged basements repaired). i recommend the book—he’s an excellent writer, and it’s appreciably eye-opening. it was also a great end-cap to our short visit: because we were staying in uptown, where the writer lives, and because when you write about new orleans you write a lot about the quarter, where we’d been hanging out, i recognized a lot of place-and-street names already, which added a layer of texture & depth to both the reading and the seeing. and on our way out of town in the morning, i knew the proprietor’s name on a barber’s-shop window that went zipping by—he’d been featured in one of rose’s essays as operating on the street under the open roof of a closed gas-station during the weeks after, when power was hard to come by and store-fronts were gone, and when the essay was written he’d had no clue how he might start to go about starting over; it looks like at least a few of those stories do have happy endings.

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