After two whole days off the bicycle–a shockingly rare event in my life in the past three years–I was a little nervous getting back on today. What if I don’t like it anymore? Yeah, that’s what my obsessions look like these days. Anyway, I needn’t have worried; it felt so good to just pedal and pedal and pedal. I headed Uptown to see J. and her sangria, and I spent most of the ride thinking about road conditions and the stickers I want to design that will say, “Don’t park in my bike lane; it’s all I have.” I spent a lovely couple of hours and was back on my bike to meet R. and family for dinner. After an ice cream pit stop, I took the bike, and headed to M.’s for poker night. I took Willow, marvelling at how terrible the asphalt was. I mean, this is paved road in only the most technical of senses. After losing my chips and my patience, I got back on the bike and rode as fast as I could back downtown to lay eyeballs on S. I took only smooth roads on this ride, pushing a hard gear so it felt like flying, until I got to the Quarter, when it was time to put eyes on the road surface. A brief stop here and there and then I was locking up the bike for dancing. I snapped this picture after taking a break to watch other people move their feet. I could say a lot about this place, but mostly tonight I thought about the world that’s going on as we move across surfaces. Takea minute, look down. And then all of a sudden it was time to go home, an easy roll back to the apartment. Yeah, I really needed a bike ride.
I haven’t felt much in the mood for bicycling in the past couple of days. Crazy, I know, but as my days in New Orleans wind down, I feel myself moving to walking speed. Yesterday I paced back and forth through the Quarter, picking up $10 in the process. Today I drove around town running errands and shipping the first bunch of boxes to Baltimore. Tonight I walked over to the bar/restaurant for dinner and drinks with friends, some of whom I met too late, but isn’t that always the way. M. walked me homr for some conversation and cat talking with Z. I walked her to her truck and took her offered ride to Cafe du Monde for late night beignets and coffee, a nice walk home to follow. I can see the outlines of the goodbye tour; sometimes the bike ride is simply be too fast. Oh, I miss you already. Sometimes you just need to walk it off.
Today’s ride took me to the Irish Channel to meet K. for dinner at the place where we’ve been having dinner for three years. I’m spending the month in the Marigny, so the ride was uptown instead of downtown, which it was for most of my time in New Orleans. After dinner I headed to J. and B.’s house for a dinner party–I kept it to dessert. Ordinarily I would take Jeff Davis to get there, but tonight I went Piydras to Galvez to Orleans, following the bike lanes and sharrows. I rode home the same way and then through the Treme. I rolled along Governor Nicholls, but not to stop at S.’s place–she moved over to Barracks. I stopped for traffic at N. Rampart and took a picture of this broke-down shopping cart on the corner. I had no idea their front wheels could go flat. I wonder how many different streets this cart rolled down to end up here, waiting for the bus. I mean, I don’t think there’s a Winn Dixie in the neighborhood. There’s the tiny Rouse’s in the corner, but other than that, the area is pretty much limited to drugstore groceries, and I need more than cereal, peanut butter, and Folger’s coffee. That’s what I miss most about living Uptown–easy access to fresh food. This neighborhood must be starving.
I had a lovely day, up early, got some work done at the coffee shoppe, and then got a good bike ride in, first to R.’s place for a little bike lesson and a lot of catching up. It has been moons since our last session, and R. claimed to have forgotten everything she knew. I moved the seat down for her so she could sit and shuffle, pumped up the tires, and away we went. After mere minutes she did three revolutions on her own–she can ride a bike! I left her with my two cardinal bike rules: the faster you go, the easier it is to balance, so just keep pedaling, and second, look where you want to go, not where you don’t want to go, which is really a basic life philosophy. She promised to practice and I continued my ride Uptown to meet C. and H. for burritos and cat visitation before speeding back downtown to swap shoes and bag before pedaling back out to meet J. for Dita Von Teese’s burlesque show at the House of Blues. I could go on and on about the show, especially the part where Dirty Martini was there with her twirling tassles…she’s amazing, but you know what? That closing number? The one where Dita is some kind of Orientalist fantasy, from the “opium pipe” down to the hair and the awkward bowing? Yeah, that just kills my buzz. I’m sure I could make a case for it being an interesting mimesis that subverts yadda yadda yadda, but really, come on, can we please get a break from those tired tropes, especially when we’re a bunch of white people? Thanks in advance. After that bout of humorless feminist I was ready to head home, grateful for J.’s offer to drive me and my bike, because it is way past my bedtime.
Today is one of those days that just runs away from you, best laid plans be damned. The bicycle rides have been similarly fruitless, first in the middle of a downpour after what otherwise was a positively lovely lunch with new friends I met too late and then this bike ride to the fancy bar on North Rampart to meet M., but it turns out we got our Mondays mixed up. I’m thinking we both have moving on the brain–she’s still in Georgia and I’m still in New Orleans and those facts can leave us a bit addled. Sigh. But that means I get to sit here and have a couple of drinks by myself while watching the place fill up. First it was the hipster couple–he knows a lot about what makes water carbonated. Then it was the woman with the book, waiting for her mess of friends–that table reminds me there’s a whole world of thirty something straight women I don’t know anything about, but I hope the sunglasses-on-the-head lady has a good blind date later, in spite of her headache. Then there were the tourists from New York by way of South Florida who are relating to our just-here-for-the-summer bartender until they started sharing pictures of their cats with me. I can totally play that game. And then the two guys on a date and the other hipsters and now the bar is full. Hi, everybody! Time to ride my bike home cheerfully in the after-rain, toss a salad and heat up a pizza, and watch some TV. Not a bad ending after all.
I woke up too early but early enough to meet M., D., and J. For a pre-brunch coffee and muffin. It was just after 9:00am on a Sunday, so the streets were empty, the air smelling a bit like somebody had a “good” time last night. I pedaled over to St. Claude to pick up the bike lane, but I got stopped by another train on the tracks at Press Street. Yep, the same Press Street where Plessy tried to take a seat, but now it’s where we regularly get stuck waiting for a train to roll up and down the tracks, switching rails, but it’s still Plessy’s street just the same. Most folks know to take a right here and beat the train at Chartres, but I was in no mood to race, happy to settle in and watch the thing rock back and forth, back and forth. But then cars were making their turns and going around the train, and I felt like some kind of rube, standing there waiting with my bicycle like I didn’t know I could go around. I gave in to the phantom peer pressure and went on my way, stopping to take a picture of train at momentary rest with yet another vehicle going around. it is rather amazing to me sometimes how much work I have to do to make myself stand still, and I wouldn’t have minded standing still a little longer this morning. And then I rolled up to the cafe just as M. and D. did, and I was just happy to see them. I am going to miss some friends something fierce.
Today’s bike ride took me Uptown for brunch with N. and the visitation with my cats, currently ensconced with former students/cat ladies. The weather was a typical New Orleans summertime thing: gray skies, then sun and coconut clouds, and finally a return of that steel blue and a total downpour. But the rain didn’t start falling until after I made it back down to the Marigny to meet S. for a ride to the Record Raid at Siberia, another place that could seriously use some nike racks. I don’t own a record player, nor do I ever really wish I did, except on afternoons like this, watching people sift through the boxes for music they didn’t know they wanted. It took me about two minutes of shuffling to find a copy of Bruce’s Born in the USA. My sister and I used to listen to that album at our dad’s place, on near-constant repeat when no one else was home, that and a Los Lobos album. I remember the day we scratched it, by accident, of course–probably resetting the needle for the title track. I was so scared I was in big trouble, but more than that, I was scared the fun was over. Thing’s have turned out better than expected. Still love that record so much. I sat on a stool, had a drink (Crown Royal, something else that reminds a kid of her pops), watched other people shop, and listened to another monsoon. What a nice way to end the day.
It was another gray and rainy day and it was still sprinkling when I headed out on my bike for an errand or two. I pedaled Uptown to visit a video store–look it up–and then back downtown for a trip through the Ogden. I stopped at the intersection of Prytania and Camp to snap a picture of this statue of Margaret Haughery. It’s the first statue of a woman erected in the U.S., and it’s right there, and it took reading a book about Civil War memory for me to learn about her. Anyway. She was born in 1813, her parents died, she was adopted, those parents died,and she was all alone in the world. She worked hard, moved her way up some kind of ladder, and became a rich baker. She distributed free bread to the needy, gave away most of what she had to provide for the (white?) widows and children of New Orleans, and seems to have been generally incredibly generous and supportive of the community’s poor. Maybe we should trim some of those trees and remind people of some alternatives to the way the vast majority of those of us with economic privilege act now. I rode to the museum, watched that Benny Andrews video again. Art can do something special, for sure. It was a good ride.
Today’s ride took me up to the office and back, with a couple stops along the way. It started with sun, but by the time I got Uptown the skies had that steely blue thing going on, and I could mostly just think about my car down on Frenchman, parked in a spot still wet from earlier in the week, and you know what that means. I wonder what it’s like to live in a place with an infrastructure you can trust not to flood in a hard rain. Those places exist, right?
Anyway, I wrote a couple of recommendation letters and threw the rest of my office stuff in to one more box before pedaling home as fast as I could to beat the rain. Annnnnd the clouds were breaking up. Phew. I slowed my roll to enjoy the ride and stopped to take a picture of this lot for sale at Prytania and Josephine. There was a beautiful old church here until January when the place burned down. It had been empty and for sale since Katrina, but I guess there’s not much of a market for a church. The fire was intense, but walls and rubble were left strewn about the place. That lot was cleared in record time, and now here it is, just the ironwork sign and a leaning tree on empty land. Sometimes the bulldozers move quick; we’ll see if the property does. I continued on my way, happy for a day without rain.
The sun has come out, the sun has come out! I wheeled my bike out of the apartment this morning and was shocked by how different everything looked in sunlight, and by the immediate need to put on some sunglasses. I pedaled to the Lower Garden District for a lovely brunch with A. After a quick stop at her place to see her cats–we are both resolute cat ladys and proud of it–I rode back down to the Quarter. I’m a Friend of the Cabildo (pardon my brag), so I decided to stop in at the Presbytere to avail myself of my membership privileges. After waiting behind some Swedish tourists, I got my free member ticket and headed into the Katrina and Beyond exhibit. I have been to this one before, but it definitely deserves multiple viewings; it is a really tense experience. Today I watched the entire 1929 silent film about New Orleans pout out by the Eastman company. It is all about what a beautiful place New Orleans is, the romance of our sultry air and elaborate ironwork, our outdoor restaurants and eclectic architecture. It showed our prime spot as a port, with easy access to the Mississippi, over 40,000 miles of railroad tracks, and a direct route to markets in the U.S. and around the world. And there was, of course, video of Mardi Gras parades. The last words of this silent film were, “Romance, work and play combine to make the charm of New Orleans.” True that. The rest of the exhibit makes claims not unlike this old movie, and the new film installation at the end of the exhibit echoes many of these scenes (though the 1929 movie didn’t make me cry). We are not telling new stories, though the old one about how great MRGO is doesn’t quite resonate anymore. Yes, world, New Orleans has a right to exist. I checked out the photography exhibition upstairs, but the Mardi Gras stuff just seemed out of place with the mood I was left in, so I headed home to work out of the sun before a longer ride tonight. If only they’d figure out how to put some bike racks in Jackson Square. Seriously, folks, we can park bicycles without ruining the historical look of the place, right?