Saturday, March 21, 2009

Life in the French Quarter

Dear Family and Friends,

Our sidewalks are brick and a parrot two doors away squawks when people pass her.

I've been in the French Quarter a short time now, surely not enough to call myself a part of the neighborhood, but long enough to have come home to random people on my stoop, my car rifled through by a homeless man and a next door neighbor who will sign for my packages.

Our house was built in 1830 and has 14-feet ceilings. My roommate Andrew and I, we bought a basketball hoop. It's nine-feet high; most shots are accessible and the toughest one makes you navigate a once-was-dining-a-room chandelier.

In the morning, sunlight comes through three bedroom windows. I wonder often who lived here when way back when was an era of horse-drawn carriages and dirt streets. Every time I hear people say that New Orleans shouldn't be rebuilt, I touch my keys and think someone has been opening a door to this place for 179 years.

The parking is atrocious. I have a lemon tree in my backyard. These two things cancel each other out. During the big events, Mardi Gras most recently, police sirens and drunken sidewalk singing sessions both invade my thin second-floor bedroom windows. On nights like these, I've found, it's better to be out with the people than trying to sleep through them.

When I look back and say "When I was 25..." I hope living in America's most notable neighborhood will make me smile.

But there are those nights when people seem to lurk too closely in the shadows. Recently, the news extensively covered the murder of a bartender by a 15-year-old in a stick-up gone bad. The intersection where it happened is about eight blocks from my house.

The news was clear to state that our police district is the smallest, yet has the most patrol units. Crime, although not acceptable anywhere, certainly isn't acceptable here. It is the French Quarter, our tourist livelihood.

"Walk on the side of the street without the cars," people say. "Muggers hide behind cars."

During my first conversation about moving in with Andrew, after he said how great living here is, he did, almost like slipping in an earmark into a piece of legislation, say that a man fired a gun from our doorstep his first night.

"Nothing has happened since then," he said.

I've said that we're urban soldiers. I hope this joke remains funny. The alternative is scary, of course, but not enough to not love living in New Orleans. Sure this place has its black eyes, bad roads and everything else that comes along with the fabric of a poor American city recovering from a major disaster.

But, today the temperature is 70 degrees. And I have a parrot for a neighbor.



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