Category Archives: New Orleans Writing Marathon

I am in New Orleans, but it makes me sad #NOWM

Somehow, I missed the posts about joining the New Orleans Writing Marathon virtually, as I have done the past couple years. NOWM starts this week, and I am, coincendentally in New Orleans. It’s my 25th wedding anniversary; we honeymooned here and thought it would be romantic to return.

We have successfully eaten our way though to traditional creole/Cajun fare and tried to do so at local places having learned years ago that neighborhood “holes-in-the-wall” are usually tastier than the typical tourist joint.

I was here with a group of teachers from my high school eight or nine years ago, just a few years after Katrina. We took a bus tour of the Ninth Ward, learned what those Xs and numbers meant on every house (sobering information), and saw destruction that looked as thought it had occurred a few months prior not two or three years earlier. And we were warned to not walk around alone, but I did and I felt safe. I was about 40 and a mother, so I don’t think I was ¬†full of youthful hubris and acting recklessly.

But this time, I look around, and I am saddened by what I see. The paint is peeling; the iron railings are rusting; the city looks how I picture Miss Havisham or Miss Emily Grierson–an old woman past her prime trying uncomfortably to look young and fresh.

And, for the first time, I don’t feel safe. Graffiti is everywhere even landmark historic sites. Who exactly doesn’t care that it’s there? The taggers? Are they gang members? The city? Is it too difficult to remove? Does the graffiti reappear as soon as it is cleaned off?

And the homeless. Oh my. The panhandlers on Bourbon Street asking for $1 to give you an insult seem to be part of the local flavor. I mean the homeless sleeping outside across the street from Harrah’s on every available bench and step. I mean the homeless obviously living under the overpasses so that I didn’t feel safe walking from my hotel in the arts district to the garden district. I will walk in any city; I think as a nation we have become used to having the freedom to feel secure to walk places. But New Orleans does not tout itself as a walking city, and now I see why.

I want to be clear–in the three days that we have been here, we have not been accosted or approached. But it makes me sad to feel this way. I cannot understand being homeless, but I also cannot understand a city/state/government ignoring the situation. I don’t want these people shuffled out of downtown to a different location so that tourists like me feel safer. I want these people helped. In a city flooded with tourist dollars, certainly some of those could be set aside to help the citizens who so obviously need it.

Sights, Sounds, & Smells around EIU’s Woody Panther Trail #SOL #NOWM #EIU

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The perfectly blue sky after a midnight thunderstorm.

The sound of a gentle rain–not from clouds but rather from the two fountains in the pond.

A small tanker truck pumping maybe water out of the baseball dugout–EW! Nope, it’s pumping out the porta-potties behind the dugout.

The standing water on the low sides of the trail trying to escape into the already swampy grass; the footprints that I am following sunken into muddy middle.

The whistle blowing to start the football players on their down and back runs.

The metronome clucking the beat for the hundred drum majors learning a new cadence.

The encouraging high five from a friend and fellow jogger; the smile and “Good morning!” From a fellow walker who I only see during summer laps around the trail.

The pin pricks of pain on my calves from the sunny dry gravel that I kick up after walking through the shady wet gravel.

The buzzing chirps of the summer locusts, and my relief that it isn’t the din of the thirteen-year cicadas.

The startled caws of the crows as the grounds crew attempts to mow the swampy grass.

The drum majors practicing high steps and precise 90 degree turns.

The friendly wave from another groundskeeper making me feel welcomed and safe.

The gentle rain of the fountains framed by the perfectly blue sky.

How humid is it? Let me tell you! #NOWM

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Last week, I wore jeans. Twice. Early July in the Midwest, and I wore jeans TWICE. Those of you in the Midwest and the Mississippi River valley understand how astounding this was. And, tongue-in-cheek, we’ve had 100% humidity most of June and the first weeks of July because it has rained most days. But yesterday, summer arrived. Mother Nature whipped her head 180 degrees to switch off the Seattle-like weather and body slam us with a stereotypical Midwest summer. Honestly, you open the door and walk into a curtain of thick heat. One does not do a ladylike glow; one does a very manly dripping sweat within moments.

So how humid is it? The picture of my kitchen window is not of dirt streaks. That’s condensation between the fifty-year-old storm window and untempered-glass window. My entire back wall, kitchen to family room (my fifty-year-old house was built as an open concept long before it was trendy), is nearly floor-to-ceiling windows that face into the woods behind my house. It’s a wonderful view that’s easy to take for granted until we see a deer, or a fox, or a turkey, or our cat hunting voles. Or until I walk downstairs on a very humid day and cannot see clearly out the window. That window is my barometer to the humidity.

Here’s hoping to clear views very soon!