Monday 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
I 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
I know, I know, I’m a broken record, but wow, what a beautiful day for a bike ride in New Orleans. Today’s my last day in the city before heading north to the frozen tundra that is Spring classes, and I spent most of it on N.’s bike. I first rode into the Marigny to meet R. and A. for brunch at the third outpost of that restaurant I think of as where I met D. and M. and S. for the first time~I knew from that first morning that they would all be bosom friends that morning, and I was right; today, same sort of friends, same sort of restaurant, and iit was just a perfect start to a day that then took my to Mid-City to see M.~an unannounced bike-by from the olden days. I pedaled back toward the Quarter along Orleans. I remember when they repaved that street, such a dream, and today it was a respite from the truly awful New Orleans infrastructure. My god, iron your streets! I snapped this picture of an empty building that looks like it used to be a theater. I think the sign is smaller now, but I will have to check the ol’ archive. So much has changed around here~new public housing, new asphalt, newness, but not at this spot and the others where there’s so much blight. It reminds me of Baltimore. A walk through the Quarter for a dog parade and more friends and then I was riding Uptown on the old route to see R. and then S. The fork is still embedded in the street at Baronne and Jackson, the cow’s still there, Muses looks lived-in, and we are still being exhorted to be the change we wish to see in the world. it was a lovely ride, lovely stops, and a perfect vacation. I’m not going to lie, though: I’m looking forward to going home in the morning, if only to get a break from my vacation schedule. Thank you, New Orleans, as always.
And then I got on a bike, took a right then a quick right, a left then a right, and I was on Baronne, headed Uptown to meet C. and P. for parades filled with floats and bands and Metairie’s best dance troops. Oh, it’s good to be back home, or in this home, at any rate.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.