Notes from Atlantis

Random Thoughts from the Crescent City

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Notes from Atlantis 1

October 30, 2005

Dear Folks,

Okay, herewith begins a sporadic (when I get around to it) series of reports from the Crescent City, and Parks/Bowman Productions’ adventures there.

First of all, we drove down from Rumson NJ on Tuesday, 10/25, and arrived here in New Orleans three days later with two cats, two computers, and all our worldly possessions that aren’t still in storage crammed into two cars. Just picture the Joads driving to California, or maybe the Beverley Hillbillies, and you get the general idea.

Our house in the Garden District is basically FINE. In fact, it’s so far beyond fine, I continue to wander around inside it going, "Wowwee wow wow wow-wow-wow!" Three stories of solid cypress, it survived Katrina/Rita with barely a scratch: a couple of roof tiles missing, and one boxwood bush has seen better days. The two-story stained glass windows are intact, as are the second- and third-floor galleries (balconies to those not N’Awlins born). It’s so beautiful, I can’t wait for you all to see it. We’ve decided it really deserves the name "the Bowmansion", although of course, like the Ridgewood house, it will also be known as the House of Love.

Okay, so enough about us, how about New Orleans? Well, right off the top, the city is certainly NOT Atlantis, nor is it Pompeii.. It did take a direct hit, don’t get me wrong. Lots of debris is everywhere still, lots of blue roof-tarps, and some places look to have been fairly well demolished...and remember, so far we’ve just seen Uptown and the French Quarter. I haven’t had the guts to go into the really badly hit sections yet, and maybe I won’t for a few more days.

But there are signs of life everywhere. Driving along St. Charles Avenue (one of the weirdest things is the live oaks have lost almost all their leaves, but there’s lots of new growth) you see small signs sprouting up all along the neutral ground. Businesses are announcing their re-openings, restaurants are doing the same, roofers (lots of roofers!) are advertising for business, along with general contractors, plasterers, carpenters, and plumbers, and also nail salons, beauty parlors, psycho-therapists and pet stores are all trumpeting their wares. It’s actually kind of an eye-sore (and whoever’s got the print-while-you-wait sign concession in this city is doing a land-office business) but it’s as lively as a field of crocuses coming up through the snow. Truly "grass-roots" communication! And more and more businesses are opening up every day, along with hotels, stores, bars, and everything else you can imagine. In short, reports of New Orleans’ demise were indeed premature!

Another wonderful thing is, if you can believe it, the abandoned refrigerators. Not that their contents are anything but awful (fortunately all the remaining ones are carefully taped shut) but people have started spray-painting graffiti all over them. Some of the ones I noted yesterday were, "Bon Appetit", "Cajun Tomb", and my current favorite, "I Looted New Orleans And All I Got Was This Stinking Refrigerator". Also signs saying, "Thanks, FEMA," and lots of political commentary, all of it as pungent as the aforementioned contents.

Give New Orleanians a chance, and they’ll do two things: they’ll bitch, and they’ll make it into an art form. Someone in the French Quarter has even started collecting the graffitied doors and is now displaying them on their balcony as an improvised art installation.

We checked up on several good friends, finding them in some cases shaken but all generally unscathed, and dropped by the New Orleans Book Fair (alternative and small presses) which was going as strong as ever at Barrister’s Gallery. Other events in town yesterday included a jazz funeral for the city (complete with a horse-drawn hearse and top-hatted driver, brass band and city ambulances) which of course then evolved into a joyous second-line parade. The Rebirth Brass Band performed at the re-opened Cabildo last night, and this afternoon there’s a block party outside of Louis Sahuc’s gallery to launch a new cookbook from Galatoire’s.

All in all, we can feel our souls expanding like helium balloons here, as we watch this beautiful, gallant, wounded but indomitable city crawl back up from the swamp and begin to dance as it has so many times before. Truly, this may be the best of times as well as the worst of times. I’ll keep you posted on what happens next.

Love and XXX,