Tuesday, May 17, 2016

5 1/2 Reasons Why I've Lived on "The Border of the Quarter"

Tons of people ask me about my apartment. Mostly, they want to know why I live in (almost) the French Quarter and why I put up with no parking and no washer/dryer and the lack of w/d connections. So, I've been thinking about that lately as I prepare to move to Tennessee and attend the Sewanee School of Theology for my MDiv (as a postulant for priesthood in the Episcopal Church!!!!!) When I moved from Milledgeville, GA to take the position of Director of Choral Activities at The University of New Orleans, I was looking for an apartment during the immediate recovery from the aftermath of hurricane Katrina
At least 80% of the housing in the whole area had been destroyed completely or enough to where it was not fit to live in. I remember it took me three different trips down here to explore housing options and check out apartment possibilities. On the third trek, my friend Kate came with me and we both called every number we saw outside of houses offering space and investigated every ad in the paper and online. It was extremely DIFFICULT to find something (AND that accepted pets). The apartment I finally took was in Metairie, tiny, and VERY expensive ($750 per month - compared to what I was paying in Georgia). My job was a one-year visiting position so I figured that after a fun year of FINALLY finishing my doctorate, I'd probably be leaving for another job somewhere. As it turned out, I "woke up" in the spring, a freshly-minted doctorate holder, and realized "Whoa, I live in New Orleans!!!". By then, the university offered me another year and so I found myself wanting to really live in New Orleans proper. I found a terrific apartment on Esplanade Avenue, the border of the Quarter, technically The Marigny neighborhood, and lived there for five years. Then, I moved again, but stayed in the same basic neighborhood. 
There are tons of reasons why I love living in this area, but here are the five that stick out the most to me!

1. Close, but not too close...

Photo by Caroline Carson. 
According to the Myers-Briggs, I'm a borderline introvert/extrovert and as many times as I've taken it, that's been the case. I love to be on my terms when it comes to entering the action or not. I'm there, but I'm not there (just like the woman above, she is outside the scene behind her, yet she IS part of the scene.) I like hearing the nightly brass bands down the street. I live on Frenchmen Street so that's just about every night. Drum circles at 3:00 AM, I don't love that so much. Hearing parades begin to pass by....well, I can choose whether or not to run outside and watch it on our front porch or to simply know it's happening and continue reading my book. Usually, I choose to run out and wave and watch until everything passes by! People, I love them, but it's nice to be able to choose how much of your dosage of tourists to administer :-)  If I feel like walking to where the action is, it's super easy. New Orleans makes it easy and the French Quarter especially. One block can be crazy active and loud while the next block can be quiet and serene.

2. The Art

Photo by Caroline Carson
I love art and have always been surrounded by it. My walls in home and offices are covered with artwork. My father was an excellent painter and a graphic artist as well as a superb photographer. My brother is a fantastic artist as well and I have some of both their pieces on my walls! I LOVE photography and even though I don't know very much about it, I know I have a decent eye. I feel closer to my father when traveling and taking pictures. On the scale of fantasticness, the palette that the French Quarter provides is beyond description. Everywhere you go, you see visual art and artists: performance art, the architecture, sketches, painters, crafts, scuptures, etc. 

3. The Music

iPhone photo by Caroline Carson
I'm a musician so this one for me is obvious. I don't go out to jazz clubs often, but I truly appreciate living here when I want to do that - or to take visiting friends out. I've been known to show up at Irvin Mayfield's Jazz Playhouse, Snug Harbor, or The Spotted Cat. 
St. Louis Cathedral also hosts plenty of classical concerts as do some of the smaller churches every now and then. Festivals are all over my area all the time. I like hearing live music wherever I am in the Quarter. Being on the edge of the Quarter, one can also hear all sorts of morning birds. I get to hear the steam calliope on the Steamboat Natchez play when the wind is just right, church bells from several places on Sunday mornings, and fog horns from large ships in the middle of a Fall night. I do enjoy a good thunderstorm too - and all areas of New Orleans are great for that. ALL of it is the music of life.

4. The Crazy

Photo by Caroline Carson
Hmmm....this sort of goes without explanation, but where else can you ride home and see a skeleton on a bike with a cat and a boombox in its basket? Perhaps a mime and a statue man having tea on a streetcorner? What about dogs dressed up in costumes for the Mystic Krewe of Barkus parade? People with amazing and in-your-face personality who could care less what you think of it! Folks of similar reputation as Ruthie the Duck Lady. Almost daily on my street, I see a man dressed in tux and tails with top hat and glasses with 3-d crazy eyes. He doesn't ever speak, but he'll nod sometimes. In April I saw a man wearing a bumblebee outfit riding a bike and singing at the top of his lungs. I would have taken a photo, but I was driving and he vanished around the corner. It didn't really faze me. I just assumed it for was for some New Orleans Allergy Festival. Hey, that COULD ACTUALLY BE A THING HERE! Just think of the Benadryl-flavored snoballs, the pollen-fried chicken... I digress.
Bumblebee Man was completely and happily in his own world.
Every. day.
Really though, the people that live here are just people. Also, they'll speak to you. Just about everyone says hello, smiles, or nods in greeting. They also dance....a lot. :-)

5. Feels sort of like Europe and reminds me of my beloved Charleston 

So, this one is a big one. The French Quarter is not the pure essence of New Orleans, but in my opinion, it sure does capture a huge percentage of that.
Cobbled or old brick walkways, small and colorful cottages, the market, the history, the restaurants, the pedestrian nature of the whole area - these things not only remind me of my beloved Charleston, SC., but they remind me of walking in Europe. I am mostly pedestrian when I visit other places and especially when I travel overseas. There is a very European feel to the French Quarter, and not just French and Spanish quality. One can hear any number of languages walking into the Quarter, tourists are everywhere, music is calling you from a seemingly infinite number of places, as are the street performers. There's always food or art being sold all around the area and there's a general air of excited energy. 
I love, love, LOVE the riverfront and watching boats and ships pass along. Sometimes, I've gone to pick up some cafe & beignets on a weekend morning or a daquiri on a weekday evening and just sat on a bench at the river. In addition to my little picnic days or walks in City Park (which I ADORE!), I will also occasionally sit in Woldenburg Park and eat a half sandwich and read a bit.

5 1/2. THE FOG

Photo by Caroline Carson. Christmas morning fog on Esplanade Avenue, 2007.
HA! I'm halfway kidding.....the fog is everywhere in the city, but I have enjoyed photographing it in my neighborhood.

Fog in Washington Square Park. Photo by Caroline Carson
Frenchmen Street Fog at Washington Square Park. Photo by Caroline Carson
So, I'll miss my border-of-the-Quarter residence when I'm gone, but I hope to return many times and maybe even live nearby again!

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