I’ve been derelict in my duties as a blogger, and took a week off! Between moving home, going to an oil and gas conference, buying a new car, and catching up on work, life got in the way. Never fear – I’m not done with New Orleans! I am going to experiment with adding more pictures to the blog, which are, after all, worth a thousand words. If you read my posts regularly, this may be a nice break! I can be quite loquacious when I’m on a roll. I won’t always photo blast the blog this way – only at the end of trips when I’m compiling my experiences and looking back on the event as a whole.
There was a smattering of topics I wanted to address which were important to me during my stay in New Orleans. What was it like to live in a different city for the span of a month? Did I like the city? Which experiences stood out to me the most? Going back to my mission statement (see my first post: The beginning, a/k/a happy birthday, baby), what did I love, and what did I not care for as much? Did I learn as much as I could, but want to go back for more?
And the cliff hanger: what’s next for Huckleberry?
To answer all these question, I’m preparing a multi-part post. Enjoy part 1!
The drive: oh, Magnolia
Maggie traveled in the back seat all the way from Houston to New Orleans. She stayed under the hanging clothes virtually the entire time. It wasn’t until I was spot checking and cleaning up dog vomit from my clothes and the back seat of the car, that I realized that I had a false sense of security. Should I be surprised? No, this is not Maggie’s first rodeo in car trips, and when she rides that bull, she upchucks. Not every time. But often enough. Lesson learned: my little girl gets car sick sometimes, and I need to add Oxyclean to the packing list.
People say that moving is very traumatic for dogs, and I wanted her to be a happy girl. She stuck close to me for the first few days and practically slept in my armpit for a while. But we made it through the transition. Eating random things off the street while we went on walks led to some upset tummies, and I was in constant fear that she would accidentally eat a piece of glass. There are a lot of small bits of broken glass on and by the roads, and I can be a very nervous dog mom. Fortunately, this did not occur, and she found many other disgusting morsels.
Settling in: our new home
Magnolia and I lived in the Irish Channel in a Queen Anne-style house which was divided into a duplex. It had two bedrooms, one and a half bathrooms and a huge kitchen. It was 2 blocks from Rum House on Magazine Street, and about a mile from St. Charles Ave. The landlord originally said he lived in the other half of the duplex, but it turned out that he’d moved to another part of town with his fiancé. This meant that I had a much quieter experience than in similar duplexes. The dividing walls in these old houses were paper thin.
All in all, I loved the house. It had all the charms and problems of an old house, from a front door that might be more heavy and sturdy than me, to overly steep stairs climbing up to a loft, to slightly flickering lights and low water pressure in the kitchen. The only thing I truly disliked was the dirt: I don’t think the landlord had swept or dusted in over a month. It was gross (because it’s a short-term rental situation and a few people (strangers!) likely contributed to the debris), but not insurmountable. I swept the whole place, got most of the cleaning fee back, and moved on with life.
I chose to stay in the downstairs bedroom because it featured the full bath. I also didn’t want to carry all of my stuff up the stairs, and I was worried about Maggie going up and down the steep staircase on a regular basis. I wasn’t sure if it would eventually hurt her back, or if she would slip on the wood in her excitement. She still had excited puppy zoom moments, which never failed to make me smile.
Turns out, she loved the stairs. She would go to the loft and lay on the bed sometimes while I was working. Then, she would cry because she wanted me to come upstairs and play with her. Sigh.
What I loved most about my house was my neighbors. On both sides of my house were other renovated duplexes, and dog owners around my age lived in the house next door. Score. After we met, we would see each other often on dog walks and when they smoked on the front steps of their house. We would meet sometimes in early or late evening, and share wine/beer on the patio steps while chatting and making sure all the dogs stayed on or in front of the stoops. They told me to fold in the street-side mirror on my car (or it might get knocked off), and that our street was safer because the cops patrolled near the adjacent school more often than the rest of the neighborhood.
We talked about the neighborhood and the way it had developed in the past few years. Many of the houses, including the one I lived in, were bought at tax sales and renovated. One house across the street was still boarded up and uninhabitable, and there were several renovations occurring nearby. My neighbor told me that a few years ago, before my house was renovated, they used to shoot the rats at my place with a BB gun from their stoop. It was not the most comforting discussion we shared.
A very sweet older man lived catty corner across the street and was often working on his car, which was parked at the side of road. Everybody parked on the street – garages were not common. Maggie liked him, and we always said hi when we walked by. Usually the car didn’t have wheels on it, but one time he put wheels back on to move it closer to the road – he’d gotten a ticket for parking it on the sidewalk, and he was rather appalled because the car had been there for years. Also, the sidewalk, if it was ever paved or graveled, had eroded and was indistinguishable from the grass alongside his house. My next-door neighbors told me that sometimes he brought his guitar outside and played. It was not often, and was mostly during big festival times. They said he was an amazing guitar player and many of the neighbors would come to his front yard to listen when he did it. They also said he’d been working on that car for at least 4 years. I’d be annoyed about the ticket too.
Life: for a month
What happens when a person lives in a place, rather than just visits? The person relaxes and nests. From cooking dinner, to enjoying wine with a friend in the backyard at night, to eating po-boys on the stoop and watching the sunset, to finding a neighbor’s wine glass on their front steps in the morning and wondering if the fly ever stood a chance.
I value that I was able to stay a month because I got to really live in New Orleans. I didn’t wait until I got home to do anything – I was home. I didn’t feel the need to go out and rock Bourbon Street and Frenchman’s every weekend night, because I lived there. And anyway, that’s too exhausting to do on a regular basis. If I wanted to stay home, I didn’t feel pressure to go out and make the most of my time there, because in my estimation that’s exactly what I was doing.
My experience was admittedly different because I made a point to explore and learn about the city. People take their home towns for granted and don’t sightsee as much as visitors do – I am just as guilty of this in my home base!! So I knew my approach was not precisely genuine to a local perspective. But I got as close as I could to being a local, while learning as much as I could.
Living in the Irish Channel gave me a strong sense of neighborhood. People looked out for each other, and helped where they could. If something broke in front of our houses, or was littered, we’d clean it up. If we saw someone walking alone, we’d stay out on our stoop until they went by, and maybe even start up a conversation. If a neighbor or a neighbor’s friend was acting strange, we’d talk to each other about it. When the ReNEW School Band practiced for Mardi Gras parades, and marched around the block playing the same damn song every day after school, we went out on our stoops and supported them.
This sense of community made New Orleans home more than anything else that occurred during my trip.
Did I like New Orleans? I loved it.
– Your huckleberry