THE BLOG

A New Orleans Diary, part 2

I was going to have an exclusive two-hour interview with Angelina Jolie, but Anderson Cooper scooped me. So I'll just have to confine myself to what's going on in New Orleans, which won't get either me or Coop half-page ads in the NYT.

Walking or driving down the streets of the less-damaged parts of town means an inevitable visitation by memories of the past. I can't walk down Royal or Chartres streets in the Fauboug Marigny, the largely gay neighborhood just downriver from the French Quarter, without being inundated by images, sounds, feelings of the special Tuesdays--Fat ones--when that street was filled with benign craziness, as my fellow members, real or imagined, of the Society of St. Anne march up the streets in one of the dozens of Mardi Gras morning parades not covered by any TV station. I can't drive down any of the streets right now, during this sultry, summer-like June, without thinking about this place before air conditioning. Houston, Atlanta, the bustling cities of the New South have only enjoyed their population and economic booms since AC (and I don't mean Angelina's new best friend) came into vogue. New Orleans was cooking, socially and economically as well as culinarily, at a time when only smart architecture--high ceilings, breezeways, the right materials--could protect you from the moist blast furnace of this season. Thinking of people making it through those summers, not to mention the yellow fever epidemics, makes me think this city can once again surmount all its obstacles.

At dinner tonight, I met a young man from the State Police, just summoned to town along with the National Guard to--to help the police department in tamping down the recent upsurge in murders. Even though Gov. Blanco was on the radio at 3:15 yesterday afternoon announcing the deployment, this State Policeman didn't hear from his commanding officer that he and a contingent of men were redeploying to New Orleans until a couple of hours later. Never too late to actually issue the orders.
I've re-calibrated my shopping habits. New, independently-owned groceries--bigger than convenience stores, smaller than Whole Foods megaplexes--have sprouted in neighborhoods from Bywater to Mid-city. In fact, the Mid-city Whole Foods--New Orleans' first, and a landmark on the way to or from Jazzfest, closed down early last year despite widespread community protest. Hell, I even wrote a letter. In its stead, post-floods, has risen a new, locally owned largely organic market with exotic specialties too niche for WF. On the other side of town, an anonymously named "Grocery" is open late, with local artisan breads among its eclectic fare. Most of them were labeled as to variety, but one set of loaves, interesting inside its cellophane, was unlabeled. I took it to the manager-cashier, and asked him, "what kind of bread is this?" He gave me the perfect New Orleans, post-K answer: "What kind would you like it to be?"