Weekend in New Orleans Part 2: City views and Scultpure Garden
My second excursion focused on walking, art and photography. I began by heading downtown from the hotel along St. Charles Avenue, following the inactive streetcar route. The hotel clerk later advised me that this may not have been the wisest action because of some rather sketchy blocks along the way. Personally, I don't think there was much of issue during the day – a lot of times such concerns are exaggerated. In addition to the “stately mansions” of the Garden district and the occasional boarded-up business, the walk along St Charles affording an opportunity to sample some of the local politics. Something called “Amendment 7”, which I gather has something to do with assessors, seems to be a big deal in this neighborhood. And of course, there are reminders that depite some of New Orlean's reputation, we are still deep in the south and “red America”:
Apparently “fundamental values” don't include keeping the streets free of litter. These flyers were scattered all over the sidewalk, and probably made a nice paste in the rains on Monday.
St. Charles passes under Highway 90 and empties out onto Robert E. Lee square. I'm guessing this was a significant central point in the past, but it seems to be a rather seedy area on the edge of downtown. I kinda like the irony of that. One notable landmark is the Circle Bar, which I hope to visit before the end of the trip. Moving west, one enters the “arts-warehouse” district that attempts to be the downtown of art galleries and clubs one finds in other cities. Not a lot seemed to open early on Sunday, it is good to see alternatives to tourist center of French Quarter getting built up. Here we see a Cat Noir, a cabaret-style club compete with one of my favorite of the old Toulouse Lautrec posters.
I did finally locate not only a source for the transit day-passes, but also a working streetcar on Canal Street. Here zip and I catch a ride:
Actually, these are the historic cars from the non-functional St. Charles line, but moved over to the new Canal Street line because its cars were flooded.
Heading up Canal street, more of the damaged and closed businesses can be seen. On one block will be luxury hotels or appartments, on the next a boarded up department store or theatre:
As the streetcar continues north past the I-10 overpass, more severe physical and social damange becomes apparent, with shuttered businesses and entire blocks empty or in ruins:
Click on the lower photos to view them in more detail. Notable on the lower right are the ubiquitous spray-paint symbols indicating that the house was checked after the storm, and the first roaming kitty cat of the trip.
Our ultimate destination was the city park, home to the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) and the city sculpture garden. The city park is close to Lake Pontchartrain and the Lakeview neighborhood, and suffered extensive damage, from which it is still recovering. However, the museum weathered the storm with little damage, and reopened in February.
One scultpure in the garden was topped during the hurricane, is is currently being repaired by the artist. Otherwise, it faired well and reopened last December. They have an impressive collection of modernist and contemporary figurative works. I have included a few of my photos here. (A few of the best photos from the garden and the trip in general will be included in my photography section when I get a chance to update it). Again, you can click on any of the photos below for a more detailed view:
I think the wedding photo session on the bridge adds a nice contrast to the tower of violins in the lower right.
In addition to finding good art within the city, I also sought and found good music outside the main tourist destinates. My brief experiences with music and nightlife will be explored in part 3…
Webs on an autumn afternoon
It's been a rather pleasant October afternoon, warm, breezy, with a clear sky. The mobile sculpture Airborne catches both the wind and the waning October sun:
The garden plants are doing about as well as they have all year. Admist a recent burst of flowers, I noticed this rather impressive spider web:
…not to mention the rather impressive spider that inhabits it:
The peace of the backyard was briefly interrupted by the sound of cats fighting. More worrisome was the sound of an angry dog barking in response. After peeking over the fence to investigate, I was assured by a neighbor that it was “just some crazy cats.” One of the “crazy cats” wandered into view and I immediately recognized him as the friendly grey tabby that often visits my yard (I jokingly refer to him for a while as Luna's “boyfriend”). Foruntately, he seemed to be none the worse for wear.
Cats, or more specifically, cat allergies, have been much in the news this weekend. The New York Times featured an article on a California biotech company that is breeding hyperallergenic “no sneeze” kitties, two of which are pictured to the right. The market for the hypoallergenic cats, which the company says will cost about $4000 USD each, is people who love cats in spite of their allergies. It is certainly a high price tag, but I gather so are the medications for the most severe allergies. Those who seek a more affordable feline companion and want to continue to adopt shelter cats can take heart in a study supporting the theory that having pets cuts allergy risks. Finally, there is this story from Wales about a hospital fighting to keep their cat Tibs, who has chearing up patients for years. While I do my best to avoid hospitals, I know having a cat around would help me during a health crisis.
I had an opportunity last night to jam with some friends and acquaintances I have not seen in a while. I played keyboard, with primarily piano, electric piano and organ sounds, though I did add a Moogerfooger pedal to the mix. Musically, we did a mixture of jazz standards, some 12-bar and 16-bar “headless” jams, and several trippy free-jazz experiments with keyboard, guitar, bass and drums. The latter reminded me of how I would like to get together a standard “quartet” at some point that freely moves back and forther between jazz/funk and experimental improvisation. It would be quite a contrast to my recent performances, but still consistent with my musical vision and sensibilities…
…in another example of slipping back and forth between disparate musical styles, I was listening earlier to alternating tracks from Ethiopiques, which I described in an earlier article, and the rather dark, political, and vaguely Middle-Eastern electronic music of Muslimgauze. The two albums could not be more different in geography, style, production and social context, yet they seemed to work well together. The dark electronica of Muslimgauze worked for me, dispite an implicit political view I probably don't share, and the gritty funk of Ethiopiques brought me back to reality. Perhaps here is the seed of another musical project…
…or just idle thoughts on a warn autumn day…
A black cat that looks and sounds a lot like Luna has taken up residence in my neighborhood – a bit shy, but he(she?) wandered over to the patio this morning, walking around me and mewing, then going over to the fountain for some water – I've seen cats do that before, lick the water of the sides of the fountain. Unfortunately, i don't have a camera handy at the moment, not even my cell phone. Just use your imagination for now…