It’s late in the day and I find myself walking around the narrow streets of the French Quarter. Looking up, I see the late afternoon light spray across a house of ocean blue. A partial balcony railing sits untethered and alone next to a ruined window full of cloudy glass and the gaping hole left by a missing pane.
The house looks lonely and forgotten. The latest layer of paint on a nearby door is peeling away, just like the previous twenty before it. In places the wood underneath is exposed to the light. Its rich caramel color seems more married to the old brick than to what’s left of the green paint. A perfect reflection of the Quarter – new and old, living in harmony.
Glancing around at other balconies above, I see flowers overflowing from baskets perched precariously on thin strands of wrought iron. Obviously tended by someone despite the closed and shuttered windows.
In front of the house is a small fenced garden. I peek through to see a cat lazily stretching in a sliver of fading light allowed through by the green plants that flood the garden.
Night is coming to the French Quarter as another day ends, much like thousands of nights before. Soon this old lady will put on her rouge to play hostess to the nightly revelry that descends as the sun sets. The Quarter was always the haunt of pirates, smugglers, and thieves – then as is now. After all, why change after several hundred years?
Night is when the Quarter splits her attention between those that retire into their homes above and those that crawl the streets below. Privilege has always liked to have a fine view of debauchery – close enough to smell the perfume, but far enough away so as to not be touched.
A woman sits on her balcony, seemingly working a crossword. She seems unconcerned with the happenings below, almost as if the sound doesn’t quite reach her and she is left in a bubble of serenity. I pass a cafe that opens to the sidewalk. Tables spill through open doorways that are designed to allow any measurable breeze to sift through – harkening back to the days before air conditioning. A man and woman site nearly back to back, each in their own world, oblivious to each other or anything else.
Here and there are street artists, some standing still, stuck in a pose…
…others draw your attention because of their movement. I watch a tattered clown wrestle with his book prop. The idea is that he keeps trying to pick up the book, but it, seemingly upon its own accord, repeatedly flips just out of his reach. He is successful in his performance just once while I watch. It was worth the wait though as it was as if a cartoon had come to life. I walked on wondering how long it would take him to complete a follow up performance.
Soon, I could hear the faint sound of music. As I walked it got closer and closer. I rounded a corner and came upon a marching band…
A little girl dances with joy, moving her arms and legs in time with the beat of the passing drums. Soon others join in and its a party – pure joy was never so sweet as it is reflected in the face of a child with not a care in the world. It was simple – she danced because she was happy and it felt good – a good enough reason for anyone.
The trumpets begin to fade as the band moved along. Joining them was an old man with a cane, dancing along. The old and the young seem to remember what the rest of us so often forget – it’s the simple things that matter in life.
I notice the darkness is rapidly approaching now, so I head on my way, but not before a few more pictures of the details that make the Quarter unique.
A one of a kind pirate town, full of the unexpected and unusual, all just waiting to be discovered. No two visits to this place are alike as it is constantly changing – a rare feat considering its buildings are crumbling from age. It somehow is able to stay relevant without sacrificing its history and past. Despite setbacks, the French Quarter is still standing…and hopefully it always will be…
All photos by the author.