It’s easy to explore when you have a dog and no yard. You are forced to take walks, and (depending on the personality and training level of the dog) strongly encouraged to vary the route.
I utilized our walks to learn the geography of my new area. I have a terrible sense of direction, so this was an essential step of settling in. We wound around the neighborhood and discovered the variety of houses and people around us.
After I had my bearings, I got a little lazy and my go-to route became simply meandering around our block; however, sometimes Magnolia got bored with this path. She would lie down at the corner, and as I retraced my steps to ask what was wrong (yes, of course I talk to my dog), she would jump up and use the extra leash length to try to go across the street rather than our usual turn. Smart girl.
A neighborhood playground was about a block from my house. It was a favorite for both kiddos and dog walkers. Although it was an older playground, without too many bells and whistles, the dogs used their noses and the kids used their imaginations to enjoy it. The only plastic toys were a couple of the small playhouses one can buy at Walmart. These were clearly contributed by nearby parents. Everything else was spartan metal playground equipment, which at one time was brightly painted, but now bore a tinted and chipped semblance. The age and slightly worn condition of the playground didn’t really matter; there was space to run around, swing, slide, and get into trouble.
The residents in the Irish Channel varied by age, race and income level, and the houses also ranged from condemned to brand spanking new. I was told that it was a more gentrified area, but to still be aware of my surroundings. Once the neighbors started recognizing me more, we watched out for each other. The diversity in the area created a feast for the eyes as cultural elements on the homes and in the neighborhood itself were renovated or left to deteriorate.
We enjoyed exploring our own neighborhood, but Magnolia loved longer walks and even jogging. In fact, she often insisted upon it.
There was nothing we liked more than walking a mile up to St. Charles Avenue, and then jogging on the trolley tracks. On the way to St. Charles, we crossed Magazine Street, passed Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, and carefully traversed the busy Prytania Street. We saw so many noteworthy and lovely things on the way to St. Charles. Sometimes I showed my next-door neighbors my pictures, and they would comment that I noticed so much. I would answer: Well, I’m looking.
The sidewalks in New Orleans were often broken, and the jagged slabs were at angles to expanding tree roots. We did not jog in these areas – I’m way too clumsy to take those kinds of chances.
Such damage was prevalent throughout this portion of the city, unless it had been re-paved.
The streets of New Orleans (which were also commonly damaged by tree roots) were given names that were heavily influenced by both the cultural imports and history of the town. When I first moved to New Orleans, an Uber driver told me that I said street names like the lady on the phone (the maps app). It was not a compliment, but it made me chuckle because he was right. After that, I paid more attention when people said street names so I didn’t sound so much like a foreigner. Example: Tchoupitoulas St. and Chartres St.
I got a bit silly about New Orleans architecture. The hitch in my giddy up on this issue (yes, I was looking at the horse head picture when I wrote that) was that I knew little to nothing about architecture or building houses. The little I knew was from HGTV, art history class in college, and walking around and looking at the world. However, I knew that adding extra flourish or decoration could elevate a building from a simple utilitarian structure. I thoroughly enjoyed the effort/artistry to enhance the structure as well as the enhancement itself.
If I owned a house in New Orleans, I would unquestionably plant Japanese Magnolias. Not only do I love pink, but by now I think it’s obvious that I can’t resist anything “Magnolia.”
The closer we got to St. Charles Avenue, the more beads we saw.
Once we got to St. Charles Avenue, we would cross into the neutral zone (median) and jog on the trolley tracks towards oncoming trolley traffic. This might sound dangerous, but locals often ran on the tracks, and the trolleys were notoriously slow (not that I’m advocating this activity for anyone else – we all make choices). The trolleys were scheduled to pass every 15 minutes, and stopped often. Maggie didn’t like the noise and vibrations as they passed, but otherwise loved the jog. People waiting at trolley stops would unabashedly watch her puppyish glee, and the blonde she dragged behind her. I tried not to make it obvious that she was leading the show, but she’s faster than me.
Magnolia and I did not limit our workouts to St. Charles Ave. I also took her to the heavily tree-lined track at Audubon Park. The track was about 2 miles long, and was bordered with ancient live oaks along the entire loop.
The entire city contained giant trees, but the park was replete with them, and the track seemed to be silent even when filled with people. It was as if tree branches larger than my torso swallowed the sound, and created a special, reverent atmosphere. One couldn’t help but feel like a simple scintilla in the scheme of the universe.
The park is on high ground and only lost a few of the large oaks during Hurricane Katrina. It was used as a helicopter pad and encampment for the National Guard after the storm.
Interestingly, Oyster Guy and I had our second (and last) date on the Audubon Park trail (see: Things in shells). It didn’t work out with the guy, but I really liked the park.
Magnolia loved going to the park, but above-all adored encountering all of the different people and dogs who were also using the trail. She licked James Carville’s leg as he jogged past. Girl has good taste.
Last, there was a park where I couldn’t bring Magnolia. City Park had a dog park, but many portions of the grounds were not dog-friendly. While this may seem odd for a public park, I thought it was entirely understandable in the Sculpture Garden which contained more than 60 sculptures valued at approximately $25 million. Yowsa.
My friend and I walked around the City Park trail, through the Sculpture Garden and then down the bayou to a wine garden. Top night!
The gardens contained a myriad of figures, and other expressions which I did not include in the interest of space, time and attention span. It’s worth visiting and discovering the different aspects of the park and the art within.
We didn’t just tour the sculpture gardens; we also walked through a small portion of the park grounds.
City Park was expansive and contained many different attractions for visitors. It is one of the areas of New Orleans to which I want to return, and explore more. The Art Museum is also located in City Park, and I did not find time to visit (I love art museums!).
The park was severely damaged by the winds of Hurricane Katrina and the stagnant 2-4 weeks of flooding thereafter. It suffered losses of an estimated 2000 trees, as well as other impairments, and has been under a redevelopment plan since 2005. When I return, it will be different.
Even though I visited New Orleans during winter, weather in the South constantly changes, and I spent as much time outside as possible. Being outdoors with Magnolia and exploring the area was part of my everyday life in New Orleans. After I left, I missed walking up and down the streets of the city, notwithstanding the fractured sidewalks. Sometimes it was hard to work during the day because the city had so much to offer just beyond my stoop. However, the occasional walks I took with Maggie helped incorporate the city into my workday.
This part 2 of my retrospective photo blast focused on the outdoors because it featured so heavily on my New Orleans experience. I know I did well, but I want to go back for more.
Part 3 will sadly be the last post about New Orleans, and I will reveal the next chapter in my nomadic adventures. My bags are packed, and I’m ready to go…. Excited? Me too.
– Your huckleberry