Reverse Hibernation May 22, 2011Posted by Mark Folse in New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
Last week was all shrieks of backing vehicles and the clang of metal skeletons disassembled. The last vestiges of Jazz Fest lie on the ground, bundles of tent cover line up as neat as duffels of a unit shipping out. The circus has left town, taking its rock-star trapeze and trumpeting elephants elsewhere, leaving us to settle in to our own tropical extravagance, our early blossoming sub-tropical summer. It has been unseasonably cool a few days, as if to remind us that somewhere the last shady remnants of dirty snow have only just vanished and back-yard tomatoes are still seen only on seed packets impaled on stakes.
Other days we stood on the levees as the temperature crested ninety, the water lapping at our feet as we watched the winter melt and the spring thunderstorms rushing past, tugs struggling upriver at barely a baby’s crawl while bellowing diesel exhaust, rooster rails pluming up behind the madly spinning propellers. They opened the Morganza Spillway and drowned a dozen small towns nestled on the flood banks of Atchafalaya bayous and I imagine somewhere people living on the fertile bottoms of prehistoric lakes again wonder why we live here, forgetting the fertile bottom land and easy seafood of a life on the tenuous edge of the continent.
The calendar and almanac say Spring but already the flower crowns are wilting on the Virgin’s head in parochial school yards in the early swelter. Soon the last of the seasonal crawfish and oysters will be gone, leaving us to months of catfish dressed on french while dreaming of spearmint snowballs, My oldest friend Eric, who I remember splashing with in vinyl pools on brown lawns when we were four or five, has left for the mountains as he always does. In spite of a life spent in New Orleans, he can’t stand the heat and has structured his life to hike the high meadows in search of mountain wildflowers, wrapped up evenings in fleece against the alpine chill. The couple who sold us the house on Toulouse are probably off to Maine. The rest of us hose off the condensers and clean the filters, anxious to be readywhen humid Gulf air inundates us and leaves us dripping wet. While the lucky few slip into the pine-scented dream of far coasts and mountains, the rest of us will be left to scrape the sticky sap off our flip-flops, wishing the wasps in our yard would consider summering in Minnesota.
There are compensations. As our northern cousins longingly study the first yellow flowers on their vines we will bite into fat Creole tomatoes like apples, with a sprinkle of salt and a sweating Abita, listening to the trumpeter up the street rehearsing and dreaming of Satchmo Fest. While somewhere people start their weekends on Lake Mow The Lawn sweating for hours over a growling Briggs and Stratton, we will let the grass that went to seed a month ago take a summer afternoon nap underneath our hammocks. We will burn foul incense coils to appease Brother Mosquito and relish the lukewarm breeze of twilight with friends over cold drinks, enter into the reverse hibernation of Gulf Coast summer. Yes, we will schlepp into work sweating out coffee into our oxford cloth shirts, the car’s air conditioning howling like a jet at takeoff but we will take the nights and weekends easy, a life as still and as lush as an August bayou,