Tuesday, June 21, 2016

In The Shadow Of The Superdome

Ok, so I like walked all the way to my friends Tim and Rihanna's house last (Monday) evening.
I had decided to take Monday night off, as I had not replaced the missing string on the guitar and had decided that I would only do that when on my way to the busking spot; in effect killing two birds with one stone.
I had planned upon taking the 94 Broad Avenue bus after acquiring an all day pass, riding it to Tim and Rhianna's and then hopping a bus back to Canal Street where I could use it again to catch a trolley to the apartment.
But, when I got to Broad Avenue, I had just missed the 94, and I started walking. I knew that I was going to get on a bus and get a 24 hour pass eventually, but I just didn't want to sit still and wait for the next bus. I decided to walk the whole way to, as Google had shown it to be a mere 2.9 miles; a distance that I only saw as a 45 minute walk...
I was also a bit morbidly curious about walking through the neighborhoods that Tim and Rihanna's neighborhood is garrisoned by.

The French Quarter, ironically, given it's reputation is a ridiculously safe place. A busking friend of mine once commented to me at the corner of Royal and Orleans streets after a young lady had walked past unaccompanied the essence of which was that you wouldn't see that in Atlanta....Detroit...Charlotte....etc..

Most of the 50 murders per 100,000 (as per last year) take place in places with names like I was observing on street signs along my forray into the "Broadmore" part of New Orleans.

It was very warm and humid and I was wet with sweat, but there was just enough of an evening breeze, as the sun had gone down by the time I arrived at Washington Street.
Another 94 bus had passed me just before I had gotten there and had made the left onto Washington Street.

There was a small group of people standing in front of what could have been a church right by the corner. Amongst them was a girl of about 7 years old who was holding a book about "Amazing Dinosaurs," so I knew that I was still in a "safe" area.

I balked at taking Washington Street, based upon knowledge that I have acquired largely through cab driving and through travelling, which could be boiled down to: When in a strange city avoid streets that are named after Great people.

Martin Luther King Avenue after dark can get you killed in any city that has one, I have found.

Washington, Jefferson, Madison; all great men, but don't walk down their streets along after dark. The little girls holding dinosaur books end after a few blocks.

Happy Trail

The 94 Broadmore bus had turned left onto Washington, and by my continuing on, I was severing my ties with the bus line. I was about a mile and a half into my 3 mile walk, sweating but enjoying the experience; as if I were sweating toxins out of myself; and realizing that any potential mugger was only in the market for 20 dollars, about 5 cigarettes and a lighter, should he corner me. By continuing on Broad Ave, I wouldn't have a bus stop to rely upon every 2,500 feet should I start to feel as if I were entering a skeezy part of town.
Tim, before the giant hand mauling

At one point I pictured myself as a huge hand holding 20 dollars worth of crack and a lighter, on legs.
The next major street that I got to, and which Google had also shown to lead to Tim's neighborhood, I chose to walk down.

It was Napolean Avenue, which appears every once and a while as the location of a murder, but I was at the end that had the wide median and the jogging trail with the doggie poop stations and was nicely landscaped. Eventually the street would meander into parts dangerous and infamous, but I would get to Tim and Rhianna's before I got there. I couldn't tie any homicides that I had read about in the paper to any of the side streets that I was passing, and I was pleased to be walking past a huge hospital.
It used to be that areas around hospitals were high crime; lots of very low income housing; and lots of people under medical care living within walking or wheelchair pushing distance of the place; but that is more true of "downtown" hospitals.

I had a very pleasant visit with Tim and Rhianna in the house that they have just moved in to.
Rhianna was in the process of baking a gluten free cake, as that is a condition of her diet.
"I showed up at just the right time! I'll bet if you knew I was coming, you wouldn't have baked a cake!" I joked.
Rihanna Writing Gluten  Free Lyrics

I left with a little bit of the cake wrapped in tin foil. It was just after midnight.

I was entertaining the notion of walking Clairborne Street all the way to Canal Street, even though its course would take me to within 200 feet of the Superdome (Neighborhoods around huge sports and/or concert venues: D+ for safety).

I changed my mind pretty quickly.

First off, a black lady walking 2 small children; whom I had caught up with on the Broadmore fitness trail jogging path and asked: "Excuse me, is Clairborne Street around here?" Had pointed to the very next street 100 yards ahead of us and answered: "Clairborne Street is right there."

There was something in her tone of voice that said. "It's the next street up there about 100 yards away; now go!"

And then, I began to walk in the direction of the tall buildings of the Central Business District right by the French Quarter.

The first little store that I got to; I went inside and asked the middle eastern employees if the had ever seen the bus *pointing to the stop* "this late" *pointing to the spot on my wrist where a watch would be.*

They hadn't.

Outside, a skeezer looking black guy asked me for change.

I told him that I didn't have any change and shook my back pocket as if to demonstrate such. The keys in my front pocket rattled, which might have been what prompted the guy, who was maybe 10 pounds heavier than me, to yell "What?" rather challengingly.

He wanted me to perhaps "respect" him more by communicating to him in a respectful way whether or not I had any change. He probably didn't understand the rattling of the keys. And by then a younger crack dealer looking black guy was in the vicinity.

Probably, had I wanted to buy crack, I would have given the first guy like some change, maybe even a buck; then he would have asked me if I were looking for anything like crack and might even offer to become the middle man for me, willing to take the risk that I am a cop in exchange for his cut of whatever I want.

I suppose I was rude in treating him like a French Quarter skeezer.

I couldn't take that back, but what I could change was my route.

Using the store on the other side of the street, and down a ways, as a prop, I cut a diagonal across the median towards it; I heard the voices of the two swell as I made the cut. I imagined one of them saying something like: "He goin' to that store; ok, 'cause I 'us gonna say if he goin' down they' he better have a pistol or sumpfin"... Now I'll make it look like the first store was all out of "whatever" and I'm going to the other one; and then I will come out with an Arizona Energy go right back in the direction I came from; towards the nice jogging trail with the doggie poop area; and will find another way back to Canal street without having to traverse neighborhoods in the shadow of the Superdome.


alex carter said...

This post should be in places like "city data" about New Orleans. Most of it is still a shit-hole, apparently.

Daniel McKenna said...

If you're in certain sections late at night, and aren't looking for crack, then it's obvious to the street people that you are not familiar with the area and its stretches lined with nothing but post Katrina-abandoned buildings that have been converted into crack houses, teeming with crackheads that would do anything for just one more hit; etc...
And there are just places like that...had I continued on down the road; there very likely could have been a quick phone call made: "White slice comin' in..." and the possibility of my being relieved of whatever cash I had at the point of at least a knife, as soon as I reached a strategic spot (maybe a street light out)would have been around 50%.
Sure, the police try to be extra vigilant; and they do show up before the body is even cold in most cases; pretty good considering how understaffed they are; but...yeah, maybe I'll do a whole sidebar on "safety for the busker in a strange town" sometime...

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