John Brown’s New Orleans Sidewalk Astronomy at Cafe du Monde

John Brown's New Orleans Sidewalk AstronomyTonight’s bike ride took me over to the Treme to watch some TV with D. and friends. The evening air felt oddly cool; it’s only August, and it already feels like fall! I’m sure it will warm up again, but I’m just a bit nervous that summer’s over. On my ride home I stopped at Cafe du Monde, locked my bike to the railing, and sat down for some beignets and coffee. While sitting there I watched John Brown’s New Orleans Sidewalk Astronomy. I have passed this guy a zillion times, but I’ve never actually looked in that telescope, or even stopped to see what he’s selling. But he’s part of the underground economy here in New Orleans. It’s massive, including tarot card readers, tap dancers, frozen mimes, and, well, an astronomer. John Brown clearly states “Donations Accepted” on his materials. Other street acts put out their buckets or shoeboxes with dollar bills clearly visible as a sign to tourists that pictures can be taken, but dollars should be exchanged. As I started on beignet number three, a drunk couple, probably in their late 40s, stumbled up to John Brown. She had peeked at Jupiter earlier and wanted him to do the same. He drunkenly landed his eye on the eyepiece and asked if that was “Titan up there? Or another moon? Wait. It’s Saturn?” Then he wandered away, hand on his pocket but not in it, drunkenly failing to meet his end of the bargain. It can’t be easy to make a living here, depending on the tourist to lay down the cash. I wonder how, exactly, people manage to make a go of it. That’s some hard work.

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