Monday, December 15, 2008

Nola 2

This exotic-looking egret was hanging out on the shore of the Mississippi with a bunch of disinterested (in him, anyway) seagulls. They were all looking for lunch, that’s all that seemed to matter.

I love the courtyards in New Orleans- alleys that open into courts or yards or simply another alley. They remind me of the architecture in Vienna and Budapest. There’s always the possibility of something mysterious and hidden and maybe even wonderful if you just go through one more gate.

Another thing I love about New Orleans are the bands that pick up the second-line people, as if every day is worthy of a parade. These stalwart souls were marching in the rain the day before we left.

The final full day we were in New Orleans, we took a bus tour (yeah, I know, but what are you going to do without a car?) to Oak Alley. It is one of the restored sugar plantations on the River Road (which runs along the levee), quite far from New Orleans proper. On the way there, we saw Lake Pontchartrain (it goes on and on) on one side of the causeway, and the swamp (people still live there- we saw dwellings) on the other. Like the rest of the country, there is a lot of racial baggage in New Orleans. Oak Alley has a very pretty house, very old oak trees and an overseer’s cottage. There are no slave quarters. Slaves are barely mentioned, though the guide did refer to the house slaves as “servants.” They weren’t servants, they were slaves. It was muggy there in November; Tom and I shuddered to think what it would have been like skimming sugar in August. We wished that there had been some kind of explicit reference to the lives and conditions of the slaves: it took 90 slaves to make the sugar and till the land, and another 20 to run the house. I’m not sorry we went, but it left a bad taste in my mouth. At the gift shop, I did buy a copy of edited slave stories collected during the WPA, which I am working my way through slowly. They’re too sad to read at one sitting.

No comments: