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Oh, Crescent City how I longed to love thee. How I romanticized your elegantly decayed Creole townhomes trimmed in wrought iron lace and your majestic, antebellum, Baroque estates, draped in French and Spanish influence, if not affluence. What I found, instead, was a shit hole. If Detroit be the armpit of our nation you, Land of Dixie, are anatomically accurate in your geographical location.

I am set ill at ease by your contradictions and equally by your ambivalence towards them. You are a European city held hostage in a tropical climate and very much suffering from Stockholm syndrome. Banana trees are juxtaposed with roses. Delicately scrolled marble mantles sit atop fireplaces in homes in a city that rarely drops below 50 degrees. Oil burning street lamps provide dots of heat along already sweltering streets that are filled with rejoicing and celebration as your natives feed their deceased loved ones into the gaping, open mouths of your cemetery cities.

My creative muses were suffocated by the smell of stale urine and fresh vomit on the early Sunday morning that I set out with the high hopes of capturing photos of the fog rolling in to the French Quarter and masking your grungy apathy. Admittedly, I planned to shoot in black and white and do a fair amount of photo editing, as I now know that is from where all of your beautiful pictures have come.

What I could not figure out is why. What makes a photographer opt not to document you as you are, but instead as how you might look if the next levee breach happens to coincide with an explosion at a nearby soap factory? Why do the throngs of talented artists in Jackson Square sit and meticulously paint the city behind them, but not the city behind them? And why do the passing tourists “ooooh” and “aahhh” at their delicate brush strokes, when they can plainly see the only resemblance to reality is that water color mules, not horses are pulling the passenger carriages? Why?

But while I found your Garden District to be a disappointing visit to the homogenous unspecialness of Any City, USA, my street car ride is one of the highlights of my trip. And I fondly remember my accidental, after midnight navigation of Bourbon Street, who dons night time like a mask; darkness hiding flaws while bright streamers of colorful light averted my attention. I giggle at the thought of my stroll down Ste. Anne Street, with a belly full of beignets, a Styrofoam cup of café au lait in my sticky hand, and powdered sugar staining my navy blue T-shirt in a very Lewinsky-esque way. I could never forget the witch doctor in the voodoo museum who eyed me suspiciously and asked, “Are you,” and then looking left and right to see who might be listening and lowering his voice finished the sentence with, “a librarian?” In the days since returning home, I’ve come to miss the immutable sound track of horns and strings and sultry, gravely voices that wafted through your streets as I drifted in and out of open buildings. I feel strangely at conflict with myself, having stood on your river banks feeling protected by its embrace while fully aware of the carnage it creates when it decides to return to its original path, before man decided to scootch it over to make room for you to grow.

I believe that I have come to understand just what the men reeking of liquor and cigarettes must feel as they are lured into the darkened doorways by women in crotchless negligees or hot pink police tape. While I longed to love thee, it did not happen. Still, I cannot deny the growing pull back to your bosom.