We’re still star-fishing our way in and out, back and forth spikes out of Panama City Beach, moving on interstate spines. This is last trip where we go out and back before leaving our friend’s nest for good. Three New Orleans nights and return then it’s not so straight lines to nowhere.
New Orleans is glistening voodoo jewel jubilation with rhythm and heat in the pit of its soul. New Orleans sleeps rough in the dirt of it’s past, it’s disasters and racial divides. It’s truth is a sweet spot between.
We don’t get warned about need to be armed, just told to use sense after dark. We stay in a basement with small kitchenette and a bed four feet taller than any I’ve leapt on, located a way from the hotels and streets designed for distractions of tourists. We walk and we bus and we breathe in the city, the air tasting different from street to street, from house to house, from district to district. It’s the first time I feel like I’m some place truly else.
Homes in half-ruin sit with gleaming new houses, streets without rhyme running into another. We walk, bus and tram in to main city / French quarter.
Quizzical eyes cast over our skins as the only pale exceptions on bus route transportation, taxi drivers in evenings praise our want to see more than the average white tourist or travelling bear. Quizzical never uncomfortable. Though a girl in late teens has old eyes shoot her down as she walks on a bus talking to us… cut-switch from confident, light and inviting talker to resisting from standing too close. Who’s more scared of who and how long’s it been set? We stay open to all as we’re this city’s guests.
Inside it’s main streets are all walks of life; half alive, just arrived and done living. Rhythm clings to the buildings and sidewalks as kids beat on paint drums in cliques from a couple to dozen. Lines of sticks and white tubs beat from young age in unison, corners collapse under weight of the sound where pop-up jazz groups gather out of thin air; brass sections, bass drums, military snares, grand standers and money collectors. None of this thrill comes free and whatever you give aint enough. I’m mesmerised and roped into romantic notions that music here is necessary for survival. It’s
clear its for more than all show in this mishmash mismatch of Cuban/ European where life can be found and devoured.
History hangs off the Romeo Spikes that stick out of black balcony poles, they’re an early prevention from suitors escaping from bedrooms of lovers, the cost a castration or worse. Voodoos, palm readers and spiritual healers collect underneath to offer their wisdom and everything vies for attention.
Walk to the river, tram to cemeteries, eat two dollar tacos in run down looking shacks that taste better than anyplace else. Walk the streets with 16oz beer and take in or ignore all you want. But violence here’s throbbing as loud as the drums, one side of the knife is gleaming and clean while the other is stained from its use. All shivers and tingles are as real. Joy, threat and thrill all wrapped up.
New Orleans has made a place in me. I can’t shake it’s mythology, I cant shake it’s sound. I can’t shake its mix of welcome and hurt and I cant shake the thoughts that sprawl out. From Marie Laveau to vampires on council who objected to new electric wire lines (on the grounds of flight path interruption), I have a love for this place that I’m scared of.