New Orleans in a Moment – Three Odes

“[New Orleans] is capable of moments unlike any moments you’ll ever experience in life…Lots of American places used to make things. Detroit used to make cars. Baltimore used to make steel and ships. New Orleans still makes something. It makes moments. I don’t mean to sound flippant, and I don’t mean it to sound more or less than what it is, but they’re artists with a moment, they can take a moment and make it into something so transcendent that you’re note quite sure that is happened or that you were parts of it.” – David Simon

It is Halloween Night, and I’m standing on Frenchman Street, located on the border between the French Quarter and the Fabourg Marigny. my fingernails are painted black, my hair gelled in spikes. My friend Nic is wearing a studded leather dog collar, his girlfriend Abby towering behind him in a pair of thigh-high latex boots with six-inch platforms. The block is packed with Frenchman hipsters, dressed like pirates, gangsters, Ghostbusters, Teenage Music Ninja Turtles, a requisite drag queen or two. On an empty gravel parking pad to our right, a gaggle of young women, don fairy wings and dance in formation like a Greek Chorus. Up the block, where Frenchman meets Decatur Street at the mouth of the Quarter, the Second Line horns ricochet off the slumped over bars and brick rehabbed warehouses, a parade of lubricated costumers trailing behind, arms flailing to the bleeps. Neon signs and flambeaux torches flicker, casting shadows over the the bulging throng. One reveler stand in the middle, by himself, masked as a Dia de Muetros skeleton. His face and torso are hidden under a paper mache skull…

It is a Tuesday evening in August. Kerry Irish Pub, which sits at the Decatur Street and North Peter’s split in the Quarter, just across from Jax Brewery and the Mississippi River, is mostly empty. I’m still wearing my white buttoned-down work short and khaki pants, and my skin is damp from the suffocating humidity and my own sweat. On stage, my friend Whitney is picking a banjo and singing ‘Long Black Veil’. His voice is rough, masculine, like molasses poured over gravel. He sounds just like a Texan. A four-piece string  band backs him, strumming along on guitar and mandolin and fiddle and bass. When there is a harmony part, our friend Mike, from Tennessee, leans in to the mic as accompaniment. His voice is piercing, lucid, as if coated in mountain well water…

It is a sun-kissed Sunday afternoon. The French Market is busy but not overly packed, tourists mostly, milling through the pavilion canopy. Like most city residents, my girlfriend and I don’t visit the Quarter much anymore, but it is spring and there is intoxicating weather. We floated past the fruit stands and coffee vendors and plastic souvenir operations in the old section to the open air flea market in the far end. There, I purchase a pair of knock-off brand aviator sunglasses from a stand operated by an elderly Vietnamese couple. So does my girlfriend. Mine are silver, hers gold, matching her silken hair. Later, we drink beer from clear plastic cups and watch a crowd watch a jazz trio play at a nearby outdoor cafe, sitting just under the gilt statue of Joan of Arc, blazen in the sun. My alcohol buzz settles over me like a warm blanket. I wrap an arm around my girlfriend and let the murmur consume me…

Photos Courtesy of New Orleans Photographer Ryan Ballard (A Long Ago Nola Running Mate)


One response to “New Orleans in a Moment – Three Odes

  1. Hey amigo,

    Thats a photo of me in my Light-Tux at the funeral/party/bonfire of a good friend whose final act upon this earth was to hang himself on April Fools Day.

    Not taken in NOLA, but in Colorado Springs (amazingly enough). You can flood the weird out of the swamp, but you can’t swamp the flood out of the weird…

    We came back “home” last summer after 4 years of bouncing around. If you come around for the GRAS this year, let me know… Its gonna be intergalactic.

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