New Oldleans

New Orleans is an amazingly beautiful city. The beauty comes from its people, its architecture, its colors, its smells, its green space, its cultures and it’s problems. I was stumbling around on the interwebs when I came upon these beautiful gems. Most of the photos are courtesy of Shorpy.com, where you can buy prints of the pictures. The other pictures were found on google images. All of these pictures are of New Orleans pre-1950. The differences between then and now are really incredible, but what I find more incredible are the similarities. People still love Mardi Gras, Canal and St. Charles still have street cars, buildings still have beautiful wrought iron balconies, the streets still flood, and the city is still a wonderland.

“New Orleans Negro street,” December 1935.

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Photograph by Walker Evans. X’s at bottom are crop marks.

New Orleans, Louisiana, circa 1903. “Mule teams on the levee.”

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New Orleans, Louisiana, circa 1907. “Canal Street.” Life on the grid a century ago.

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Canal St. circa 1903.

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The Crescent City circa 1906. “The French Market, New Orleans.”

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New Orleans circa 1910. “St. Charles Avenue from Canal Street.”

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Canal Street in New Orleans circa 1910. Large building is the Maison Blanche department store.

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New Orleans, 1937. “Le Pretre Mansion, 716 Dauphine Street, built 1835-6. Joseph Saba house.”

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Flooding

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Flooding

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New Orleans circa 1937. “Courtyard at 1133-1135 Chartres Street.” Young and old, hangin’ with the laundry.

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 New Orleans circa 1907. “The Rex pageant, Mardi Gras.” Laissez les bons temps rouler!

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Mardi Gras

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 Feb. 27, 1900. “Mardi Gras procession on Canal Street, New Orleans.”

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The point?

Nothing changes
And nothing stays the same
And life is still
A simple game.

-Moody Blues

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BEAD-azzled Truck

One of the things that I love the most about New Orleans is its innate acceptance of characters. One morning I was driving to work at 8am and I saw a cross dresser on stilts doing the walk of shame. People always embrace an impromptu dance or jam session, regardless of location. Awkwardly tall bicycles, like you need a ladder to get on and off that thing, are common. I could go on and on about the characters that I have seen in New Orleans. Even our cars have a little extra personality. I was at the corner of Press St. and Dauphine when I came across this little gem…

“Mardi Gras Truck”

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This man is second lining, those who follow the brass band just to enjoy the music are called the “second line“, they follow the “main” or “first line” who are the actual paying krewe members. Participants of the second line have a traditional style of dancing, they also carry umbrellas and wave handkerchiefs.

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The side view shows the brass band, including the saxophonist, trumpeter, bass drummer, some krewe members (right over the wheel, they are dressed in traditional [and slightly creepy] masks)

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With this close up you can see that everything on the truck is made out of Mardi Gras throws (things thrown at Mardi Gras…duh). The coins are Doubloons, each parade has its own style Doubloons. The music notes, fleur-de-lis, people and instruments are made out of different beads. At the bottom of the picture you can also see the specialized beads with different krewe and parade medallions (you can also see the creepy krewe members).

The point? We can do anything with Mardi Gras beads.

Differences between D.C. & NOLA

Last weekend I was in Washington, D.C. for the One Million Bones National Mall Installation. If you don’t know what that means click on either of those two links. I’m not going to write about the actual event in this post. I’m going to talk about the differences between D.C. & NOLA, of which there are many.

1. Noise Level

All cities have their noise pollution: cars, buses, people, ambulances, fire trucks, second line parades…But one thing I learned quite quickly this past week is that not all cities are as loud as New Orleans. I noticed this almost immediately. I walked outside of our hotel and I said…”oh my these people are so boring and quiet”. I realized that my flamboyant tendencies were quite out of place. Nobody was dancing, or singing, or yelling, or talking to themselves. Everyone was plugged in and tuned out. People kept their eyes forward and didn’t smile. WHAT?! No random conversations? No random street performers? No slightly crazy crack heads asking for change? Even the homeless were quiet…it was weird. When students from NOLA arrived (I’ll explain their trip later) I asked, “what is the biggest difference between DC & NOLA?” Without skipping a beat one student answered “People be quite here. We’s loud in New Orleans”. Amen, brother, amen. I only began to feel at home in DC when Cole & I were walking back to hotel and stumbled upon the National Gay Pride Parade. But even that had its differences…

2. Parades

If there is one thing New Orleans can do better than any other US city it’s party. Let’s face it, a parade without beer in the street is like Santa without a beard…unnatural (& kinda…meh[insert indifferent shrug here]). I always forget that you can’t just ask for a to-go cup & mosey on out into the street in other cities. So how do people enjoy parades? -which are often filled with uncomfortable situations?…no idea. BUT, I can tell you that it cuts down on the amount of trash in the street! Oh and the fact that DC has these magical, mystical creatures called “street sweepers” doesn’t hurt.

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I’m sorry…what do you mean you don’t clean the city with a prison chain gang…well that just seems like some foolish, un-American, logic to me. Seriously though, there were like 6 of these things sweeping & cleaning the streets in beautiful harmonious dance akin to the likes Swan Lake.  No lie, it was amazing, actually better than the parade.

3. Cleanliness

If cleanliness is next godliness,  lets just say New Orleans makes a lot more sense now.

4. Understanding of Time, actually, understanding time period

Being from the North promptness was always built into my system. You weren’t on time unless you were 10 minutes early. That all went down the drain my Freshman year at Tulane when it took me 20 minutes to get a bagel before my 9am class. I have adapted over time, as mammals do, to my surroundings. I have now realized that I move at the speed of New Orleans. For those of you who don’t know that speed it’s meh…[insert indifferent shoulder shrug here]. You get there when you get there. Oh there was an impromptu parade down Decatur and you’re going to be 20 minutes late? ok. Oh the train is moving backwards across St. Claude and you’re going to be 15 minutes late? ok. Oh the bus you’re on just pulled over so the driver could talk to his Auntee and you’re going to be 37 minutes late? ok. Oh there hasn’t been a single Street Car for 45 minutes?- and you don’t know how long it will take you to travel from Jefferson to Canal? cool. NOT IN DC. There is this crazy thing called timely public transportation…weird I know. First of all, you travel underground…WHAT?! Shut the front door, I thought underground there was only water! Also, there are these monitors that tell you how much longer you have to stand around awkwardly pretending you have something important to do on your smart phone until the next metro comes….stop it, stop it this is all too logical.

5. Pavement & Street Signs

This one is pretty self-explanatory. The roads are paved & the side walks are straight & the streets are marked. None of this driving on the other side of the road to avoid a crater. Or circling the block because you don’t know what street you’re actually on, or driving down a one way street the wrong way because it wasn’t marked. (These are all also reasons why NOLA time is so special).

Basically what I have outlined here is that the Nation’s Capitol is completely functional, tidy & orderly. But it’s also boring. I missed the drag queens walking around at 3pm on a Tuesday with a Huge Ass Beer To Go. I missed the random yelling & dancing. I missed the street performers, and the gutter pu…no, not them, never mind. I missed bumping into friends at a random food festival.

I missed the community that is New Orleans.

That would be a really good line to end on, but I’m going to tell my theory on why New Orleans is such an awesome community…right…now:

It’s an awesome community because things are broken and corrupt, and the streets have no signs, but the homeless have honest & funny  cardboard ones. Because we are in constant danger, and the Hornets, no wait, Pelicans suck & Roger Goodell is dick. Because we have hurricanes, and oil spills, and tornadoes, and the lights go out during the Super Bowl. Because we have billions of cockroaches & termites, and the Mighty Mississippi is really gross. Because all of these terrible, miserable things give us something to talk about. I came to this realization my Sophomore year at Tulane. I was standing outside of Bruff sizing up a puddle trying to decide if I could jump over it, and if I didn’t make it if I’d drown. Some soaked girl ran by me trying to save what was left of her straight hair. And I laughed. I just started laughing, because, then I realized, this place sucks, yet we all choose to stay here. We’re all as insane as New Orleans.

The point? insanity + weird/crappy ass situations = awesome city community