The Shipping List April 26, 2011Posted by The Typist in 504, New Orleans, Toulouse Street.
Monteleone, Marriot, Sheraton: perhaps it’s working more from home, less frequent trips down Orleans and Basin but the hotel-top signs keeping jumping into the foreground of my mornings lately. These are the smokestacks of our industry, channel markers for the rivers of tourists and conventioneers bearing away a stevedore’s load of hangover and t-shirts.
Our docks are converting into riverfront park, the better for investors in second homes to see the vanishing smokestacks of the distant, passing ships from their new Bywater condos. Already we do not bow under coffee and bananas to scrape by but learn to step and fetch more coffee for the visitors, wearing animatronic Disney smiles. It’s au lait, m’am, like in a bullfight. Ole!
I pull into my parking lot between the decrepit remains of the Eagle Saloon and the giant painting of a Selmer clarinet that adornes the side of the Holiday Inn and sit listening to WWOZ on the radio, the daily Live Wire list of dozens of music venues and I remind myself that this is not a dying city, just one trying to find its way down from Ararat, a parable of survival for a country on the wrong side of the History Channel.
This is what I think about as I drive toward a job that in some months will be gone, relocated by Moloch to another city. I was offered a position there, but for months no one pressed me for an answer.
I think they knew.
We’ll survive if we must on tourist scraps, sandwiched between Vegas and Atlanta on the conventioneer’s itinerary. The port may go the way of indigo and cotton but we’ve outlasted three hundred years. We wear the smell of creosote like armor. Like plaster we outlast any flood; just air us out and we’re good for another century. We’ve swallowed boatloads of French and Spanish and Yankees, Haitians planters and enslaved Africans, dark Sicilians and pale Irish like so many beans, all cooked down in our subtropical pot to a smooth, creamy consistency the color of home. Come on down and let us feed you some. You’ll want an Abita with that.
Sure you can take our picture.
We love it when you do that, because we’ve turned that trick inside out a long time ago.
We’ll steal your soul.
And when you’ve gone back home we can invade your dreams and make you want to come back–all those songs from Pops to the Doobies playing in your head, the moss covered vines, the tall sugar pines–until you can’t imagine a world without New Orleans.
Because neither can we.