Waiting on the Train at St. Claude and Homer Plessy Way

A train stalled on the tracks in the dark.

Ok, so this isn’t what I saw riding my bike around today, but I’ve been in a writing funk that I’m climbing out of, so I’m going to write about some past bike rides as I get back in the habit of biking and writing about it. This picture is from a ride I took back in early November. I was in New Orleans for the American Studies Association annual conference, the first in person since my last trip in November 2019. It was so, so good to be there, to see so many old friends, to be all sweaty and hot in November. I was going for the intellectual community, the colleagues and friends, but if I’m being real, I was going there for the biking.

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Brompty Checking Out the View at Chalmette National Battlefield

Brompty Checking Out the View at Chalmette National BattlefieldMonday was my last day in New Orleans, and I used it to bike as many places as possible. When I first moved to NOLA in 2007, there were no bike lanes. Then the St. Claude bike lane went in, and then there was one on Broad Street, and that tiny stretch of Magazine in front of the WWII Museum, and the protected bike lane out in Gentilly, and now they are all over the place, and I wanted to ride them all. I wanted to take that favorite ride out through City Park and to Lake Pontchartrain to see the bayou and look for pelicans. I wanted to get lost out in Gentilly and do laps around Audubon Park and ride the Mississippi River Trail out to the end to see what they’ve done to that riverfront park in Kenner and if that abandoned suitcase is still there. Continue reading

Krewe of Choctaw Plantation Float at Charles & Louisiana

Krewe of Choctaw Plantation Float at Charles & LouisianaI spent my Friday packing Brompty in her new suitcase and then flying slowly south to New Orleans for the first weekend of Carnival, my annual pilgrimage to this place that used to be home. It was Brompty’s first flight, and I had all the jitters of a new mom dropping her baby at day care as they took my sweet bicycle away with the rest of the checked bags. She came out fine at the other end, and oh, I was glad I brought her along for a Saturday riding all over town. I headed toward Uptown from the Treme, a ride I used to make as often as I now make the ride up the hill from the Inner Harbor. This time I was off to meet P. and C. and the rest of the gang for the day’s Uptown parades. Continue reading

Generators at Chartres & Elysian Fields


It was so, so hot today, so I spent most of it inside in air conditioned comfort. I rode to the coffee shop to meet M. for a work date, likely our last for awhile. Afterward I made the quick ride to the bar to meet M. for a Pimm’s cup and a little scuttlebutt. She is going to do just fine here. By the time we finished dinner it had cooled off just enough for a ride around the Bywater. I stopped to take a picture of this power station on Chartres and Elysian Fields. It looks eerie at night, with its coils and heft and height. It is imposing, but it has become so much a part of my landscape I don’t even see it anymore. But it’s there, and that part where we all use energy like there’s no tomorrow? That will catch up to us sooner or later, so we best not forget what we started. When the machines rise up, they atent going to look like people, but they are going to have effects we didn’t plan for. And then there’s the part where it’s kind of beautiful. I contined my ride home and thought about what it might be like to ride a bike in autumn.

People Dancing at the St. Roch Tavern on St. Claude & St. Roch


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.

Train and Truck at Press Near Burgundy


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.

Men Moving a Freezer Into the Soda Shop at Magazine & Andrew Higgins


I swear, you go out of town for a week, and they’ve added something else to the ever-expanding empire of the World War II museum downtown. After a day spent dodging rain, writing emails, and looking work in the face, I hopped on my bike and headed Uptown to meet A., C., and L. for dinner at the Ethipian place. On a similar ride last month I noticed the new “preservation pavillion” added to the complex–a big glass box of a building where some kind of ship or somesuch is being rehabbed. Today I noticed folks moving things into the Soda Shop, another nostalgic addition. I wonder if the audience for this museum will persist, if the nostalgia can be inherited on down the line, or if we’ll have a giant museum to remember our war in Iraq, a special building just for the Navy Seals who took down Osama bin Laden, a retro coffee shoppe serving Grande Light Mocha Frappucinnos. This museum is a huge tourist draw aside from just being an exercise in collective memory, which means there’s the money and the will to build, build, build. I wish we could extend that will to the neighborhoods of New Orleans, an exercise in collective memories of Fazendeville or the 7th Ward or West Baltimore. But those aren’t memories, they’re living communities, but I wish we could have the will to build there too. I continued my ride Uptown, then back downtown throught the Bywater, and home again. It’s good to be home.

NOPD Shirts For Sale at the Station on Royal Street


Today’s ride took me Uptown from my current digs in the Marigny for lunch with N. and then to the office where I took care of last minute things for my trip to Baltimore tomorrow. I had meant to also stop by the courthouse as the Danziger trial started again, but the skies opened up and kept me and my bicycle in the office for most of the afternoon. I rode home under crazy thundering skies, stopping for a treat and then coffee with S. I had a bee in my bonnet about how little I have been taught about Frederick Douglass–he was one of our premier statesman! Why don’t they teach us that in schools!–and she filled in some blanks for me–friends, man, they’re the best. After a quick stop at home to get the cat out of the rain, I was back on the bike to meet R. and her kid for dinner. I pedaled up Royal as fast as I could to beat the rain, just stopping to take a picture of this sign outside the 8th District police station. T-shirts for sale? Really? I wonder who buys such things, and if the market’s been hit by the fallout from Danziger or Henry Glover or the cops arrested during their own prostitution stings (I thought we had decided to decriminalize!) or the other cops giving instructions to keep a special eye on all the Black men in town for Essence Fest or any of the other scandals showing this to be one of the most corrupt forces in the nation. Nah, I’ll pass on the shirt. After dinner I did my loop around the Bywater, deftly avoiding collision with that driver taking a left turn in front of me at the intersection of Poland and St. Claude. Look alive, people. It’s dangerous out there, but that’s no reason to stay off your bicycle.

Blighted House Over a Fence at Chartres & Marais


I was so worn out yesterday that I went to sleep far in advance of my summer bedtime, and still I woke up exhausted. I spent most of my day waiting to go to sleep, except for an interview with J. for his documentary project (I committed to film my strong opinion that democracy rules, and if you really read our Constitution and Bill of Rights, it’ll blow you away). I fully expected to stay off the bike, but once I got out on it, it was just good to pedal. I can’t believe that after riding a bike every day for years, it still never fails to lift my mood. I did a spin around the Bywater–man, I love some bike infrastructure–and stopped to visit L. and S., two dogs, and a passel of mosquitoes in L.’s backyard. I snapped this picture, dark as it is, of a blighted building over the fence. That’s New Orleans–there are signs of decay and blight over the fences, but on the other side is somebody’s backyard with dogs and projects and picnic tables. Yep, you’ve got to keep your eyes peeled.

Empty Lot Behind a Fence at Piety & Chartres

I got up early this morning, ate some breakfast, and then–gasp–hopped in my car for a drive to Pearl River for a horse riding lesson. I can’t remember every being on a horse in my life, so when one of those interwebz coupons showed up offering two lessons, I was on board. Continue reading