Notes from December:
It’s always sunny in New Orleans. At least for the months since I’ve lived here it has been unseasonably warm and humid. The days carry out for long hours and you can fit in many activities, and still it’s no more than five in the afternoon, but that doesn’t mean you’re not tired and ready for a nap by mid-day.
During one Saturday there was a book fair in the small park with the picnic tables. I went to meet the few local presses and literary magazines before heading out to buy a desk. Books to 2 Prisoners was giving out free books and coffee. I knelt down and rummaged through several boxes until I decided to adopt Ralph Emerson’s Essays and Marguerite Duras’ The War. I grew tired of searching for more books and left the rest for crowds still lingering. After going around talking to people and picking up some literature, I joined the line for food, being served by Community Kitchen, and talked to a stranger about how it felt to live here until I had to leave to find my friend, who was sitting in the middle of the park listening to poetry.
We left for the yard sale happening at the Wonderland house, the one with airy white curtains. I always daydream of wandering inside beneath the tall ceilings. Who lives there? I bet fairies, nymphs and goddesses. I looked over at the items sitting above the tables; they were all so pretty, but I reminded myself I was here for a desk. My friend singled out a wooden desk at the end of the yard. The lady in charge told us it was made by a tramp who must have paid for room and board by making furniture. “You can see the work in the details,” she said. How grueling I imagined the days were– to spend making these angular carvings. It was a beautiful heavy desk but I noticed the deep cuts and nicks which took some of the beauty away. Inside a small draw, I found a fat pencil and a card with the name of a construction company. This was a desk for someone willing to restore it back to its greatness. I later found a desk in a Mid-City thrift shop, a small piece that I imagine could easily floating away.
During one weekend in December, a friend visited from New York. We went to the French Quarter only to find a random Hare Krishna parade unfolding on N Peter St. with music and dancing. It was mostly composed of women dressed in bright yellow, green, orange saris, and men who wore cream caftans and orange robes. Behind the long crowds of people was a large float being carried by several men. They held the bottom of the float on their shoulder. A top the float was a holy man decorated with flower necklaces. My friend was sure it was a real guy but he was no more than a sitting statue, a replica of their spiritual leader. The people repeated the chant “Hare Krishna” coming from a microphone that was carried by a white jeep in front. We drew closer to take photos. A man sitting on the float gave us bags of oranges, and later a boy handed us an informational booklet. The sun mixed with the bells, and the chanting carried it forward into the universe. I tried to stay in the sidelines, watching the colors unfold and the feeling of warmth, yet not wanting to be over taken. My friend was lost somewhere in the crowd, capturing profiles of the followers with his camera.
A sunny winter day always turned into a cold, breezy night. It wasn’t like the cold in the Northeast; rather it gave off, a cold wet feeling that reached your bones. On one of those nights, I chose to spend it near a fireplace, drinking absinthe in Pirate’s Alley next to the church. “I can’t believe the year is almost over,” I said to a friend, as I sipped my green drink slowly, and looked at the orange fire and the warmth surrounding the barely lit establishment.