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South Lakeview Safari July 29, 2012

Posted by The Typist in Fortin Street, New Orleans, The Narrative, Toulouse Street.
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I tried to leave a friend’s house the other night, following Woodlawn Place south toward the tracks and confronted what is possibly the worst stretch of road in New Orleans. To call Mound Street where it turns at tracks a road is generous. There are places in this world it might be considered a road. Any semblance to what is considered a street in the developed world is gone. Track might be a better word. I stopped just short of this stretch and turned on my pothole lights (known as fog lights in the developed world) and considered my options. Anything resembling pavement had crumbled into dust which apparently reset itself like a cooling lava flow every time it rained. The way was crisscrossed by transverse ruts and pot holes where I suspect fragments of meteorites might be found.

My car is a Saturn VUE, a sort of mini SUV I bought to pull my boat out of the water. (Hint: if you try to pull a boat of any size out of the water with a front wheel drive station wagon the weight of the trailer’s lever action reduces your traction on a wet and slimy boat launch so much you have to recruit a couple of standers by to sit on the hood and a couple more to push). When I was looking for a car I discovered that there is an Off Road Club for the VUE, but I decided I wasn’t going to try Mound Street in anything less than a Toyota Land Cruiser with a bumper winch. I grew up watching Wild Kingdom, and during some despondent moments found myself addicted to the Discovery Channel (the equivalent in my world of standing on a ledge throwing pigeons at the fire department. If you ever call or email me and ask me what I’m doing and I reply watching Ice Road Truckers, an immediate intervention is required. Bring The Medicine and a bag of limes.) I actually enjoyed the show about the desperate people from the lower 48 who hock everything they own and buy an old gold claim in Alaska. Yes, it is an opiate for the long-term unemployed masses but there is something just too Jack London about that show. I don’t think young boys read Jack London anymore except under English class duress and with no pleasure. I just read a book of poems by an older gentleman, and one ends “the boy disappeared into the map on his wall.” I am that boy.

I am fairly certain I am going back to Mound Street. Orleanians are a proud people, and it is not just a culture of music and food and art but our triumph over kiddie roller coaster streets, sub-tropical weather and incessant insects. I am cursed with a Pandora curiosity about what lies at the other end of the aptly named Mound Street. It is the same curiosity that led me past the Road Closed for Season sign in the Everglades, a glimpse of dark, mangrove swamp just visible. I wanted a picture. I doused myself in enough Deet to probably take a year or two off my life, grabbed the camera and discovered that Everglades bugs are weaned on Deet, that there is a species of Stukka-diving, biting flies who come at you to fast to even notice the nasty chemical you have doused your body with. The pictures were rather blurry.

I can’t afford a new axle or drive shaft any more than I can replace the duct tape that substitutes for a working gasket on my sunroof. A strike plate bolted to the bottom of the car would be advisable. In the absence of a bumper winch when you get stuck you just jack yourself up and drive off. I did this once not long ago when, in a hurry, I drove over an abutment in a multi-level outdoor parking lot. Thankfully screw jacks just tip over and don’t go flying like an old GM bumper jack when you drive off.

Mound Street taunts those of us who daily traverse streets logging trucks would avoid and ford fast-running streams like Palmyra Street without having to leave the comfort of the city. I am fairly sure at the other end of Mound Street is just more backwater, post-war suburbia, the sort of small wood frame houses you find in the corner of a neighborhood crowded up against a tall railroad embankment, homes comfortable with the rumbling of late night locomotives. Then again, I’ve never seen an actual wildebeest.

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