For the past year (YEAR!), since J and I moved into our place and I commenced my commute to and from work via foot and streetcar, I’ve been keeping up a pretty stalwart gallery on Facebook called, “On the Way Home – a gallery for things I see on the way home from work.” A way of relaxing after a long day, I just shoot things on my phone and then upload them over a glass of wine on my porch when I get home. Since I have yet to acknowledge, via this page, our 1-year NOLAversary here in our New Orleans home (the date came on Mardi Gras day), I’d like to share my favorites here. It’s photo-intensive so I’ll try to keep the verbage short.
So, I walk from my house to my streetcar stop in the morning, roll downtown to the CBD, and then walk to work. In the afternoons, though, after long days, I perpetually rediscover myself and my Eye through the simple act of slowing down and Noticing Things. So, the commute goes in reverse. I walk to my streetcar stop in the CBD (which varies depending on the season), I roll uptown to the LGD, and then I walk home. There are a lot of things to Notice in this city, mundane or no. So, here’s a year of Afternoon Noticing:
This is my very first On the Way Home shot, taken just after we’d moved into the City. Still new at my job and not used to those long days yet (they don’t happen unless they need to), I staggered out of our building and began to hoof to the stop. This had to be the first week of my new commute, everything was new and kind of overwhelming. Less than a block away, out the gate, I hit Carondelet and ran into a second-line parade coming down the street. It was a corporate event, I could tell by the badges everyone was wearing. I crossed the street and leaned against a post and watched, in awe that I was finally truly Here. Got some beads. Went home. It really was quite the welcome.
Shortly after that, I captured many an image of my ride home. Truly, I have enough Streetcar photos to create a coffee-table novel. This particular moment was special though. Somehow (and nowadays, with how packed they are I feel like it will never be this way again) I managed to board a completely empty streetcar. It stayed that way almost all of the way home. This car wasn’t supposed to pick anyone up because it was hauling up the street to get Uptown to switch around. But, since my street was pretty close by, she took me in. She snagged a couple other folks a few blocks up, all of us pre-Jackson Ave., but for a minute there, I had a streetcar. All. To. Myself. Ah, those were the days.
When we first moved in, I ambled home perpetually with a deer-in-headlights stare. I couldn’t believe I was here. Simple things like the house up the street captured my attention all the way past. If big blooming trees were also involved, I was completely lost in sensory-overload.
The Neighborhood Cats
For a few weeks, I was obsessed with the neighborhood cats. They’re everywhere. It’s quite the issue down here, lots of strays and ferals running around. The ones in my immediate vicinity, though, on my own block, actually do have homes. They just like to act like they don’t. Get more out of folks that way, you see. As the neighborhood Catwoman, I get this.
A year later, pulling this photo out of the archives, I realize I actually know this one’s name. It’s Spike. Spike has an affinity for boots. And prowling. And other cat things. He also has an affinity for making our neighbors’ cat grumpy on a regular basis.
Time passed and, at least on the roads I cut a path through every day, the houses became completely normal to me and, while I never stopped appreciating them, I figured I could only photograph them so many times before they wore out. And then, one day, despite having passed by this every. Single. Day. I managed to pass it from the other side of the street for a change, and I Noticed it. The reflection. This is the Subway sandwich place at St. Charles and St. Andrew. It’s mirrored and, reflected thereupon, one sees the church on the other side of the street. The Holy Subway, complete with Yours Truly.
The one house I couldn’t quit staring at, just up the road from my place, is this one. To this day, when I pass it, I smile. It’s the overgrown balconies and the general vibe of the place. When we first moved to this street, I kept staring and staring. I took this photo last summer, deciding to finally capture it. Not too long after that, I took a time-trip perusing photos from 2008, when J and I first came here together. And wouldn’t you know…I had a photo of the same house, five years prior. Upon reflection I realized that, on our first trek together into this neighborhood, we’d disembarked the streetcar in this exact area and then walked up the street on which we would eventually live. Fate, fate, FATE! Happily, by now, I’m on daily Good Morning terms with the guy who lives in the overgrown portion. I’d always wondered who lived there.
The Obstacle Course
It’s not all fun and games walking around here, kiddies. Just a couple weeks ago, after one of our first big spring rains, I found myself slipping and sliding up the block on the way to work because they were doing pipe work at one of the houses. They dug a trench and left that good old New Orleans dirt spread across the driveway and sidewalk. When it rained, it turned into a slick of Woodstock proportions. Having developed an excellent sense of balance from Standing Up on Streetcars, I managed not to fall and wallow, which would have resulted in a turnaround-go-home-and-change scenario. Rather, I skated across it, half forward, half sliding downhill, and made it across. That wasn’t the first road-block I’ve encountered this past year. They happen regularly around these parts. Like this one. Anyone lose a bumper??
Or these. Two separate stretches of sidewalk on the same day, sometime last late-summer. I used to wonder why people walk in the middle of the street here. I’m sure this isn’t the complete reason, but it’s one. Of course, one must be careful walking in the street as well, lest one encounter one of our famous sink-holes. Har har.
Not quite a road obstruction, but a distraction to be sure. This toilet suddenly appeared of a morn, acting like it had always been there. It may have been on to something, because it’s still there. Taken about a month ago, I hardly notice the poor thing in my daily passings now.
I’m not nearly bold enough to capture all the cool stuff I see. I just feel weird, snapping photos of people’s houses. It just feels like an activity reserved for tourists, fascinated by all the architecture and cool stuff that people do. Wait a minute. I, myself, am fascinated by all the cool stuff people do. I’ve actually had folks stop in front of my own house to take photos before and was quite flattered. So maybe I shouldn’t worry about it so much. Okay – so, thus resolved to start photographing people’s yards, here are a couple from the past year.
This last Halloween was a fun time to walk around. I love it here at Halloween, and living in it was glorious. We had a pretty good Halloween spread going ourselves, although most of it got stolen over time. Tip to the new residents: get the cheap stuff, it disappears. Although Christmas décor was sacred, apparently, as that stayed put. Crazy place, this. This was a great place over on Jackson, I think.
Never forget, though, that you don’t need a Reason to decorate around here. This house, over on St. Mary, is one of my ultimate favorites. It looks like this year ’round. I keep trying to capture the rest of the house but, by the time I’m coming around here in the evening, the light is always wrong. I’ll have to make a special weekend trek over there. I would kill to know the folks who live here.
This falls more into my Street Art/Graffiti category, so I’ve only got one. One day, last fall, I got off the Car at Jackson to hit the grocery there, and walked up past Trinity and cut over on a street I’d never been on. And ran into this one. Indeed.
It hasn’t all been sunny days, I can tell you. As we amble into another spring, and hence another summer, I know Big Bad Rainy Season is coming upon us. This year, I’m more aware of what is coming and when, and will thereby let it dictate which shoes I wear to work. Because sometimes it rains, y’all. I mean, RAINS.
When that happens, I hover at my streetcar stop downtown under the ledge of shelter at the Hibernia Bank because it’s easier than dragging a dripping-wet umbrella onto the car. I hate adding moisture to the streetcar on a rainy day. Picture it: a sardine can full of people. Windows closed tight against the wet. Humidity I swear above 100. Don’t add more water, I tell ya!
Back to shoes. One day, last summer, I got caught in a frog-strangler on the way home, wearing Little Tiny Sandals. Little Tiny Sandals are no good in the rain. They get drenched immediately, and when you try to walk like a normal human being, you slip and slide and risk breaking an ankle. The image below captures a couple of instances that sum up last summer. This time, it was fascinating: I was almost at Prytania, and it was completely dry. I stood there, and the rain came to me. In a wall. Of water. I’d never stood in one place and had the rain approach me. It was a unique experience. Nevertheless, BAM, there it was, and I was in my Little Tiny Sandals and I made it half a block before I realized that the only way I was going to get home without eventually needing medical assistance was to Remove the Shoes. Walking barefoot in New Orleans is a vulnerable feeling. Nine times out of ten, you couldn’t pay me to do so. But, on my own street, for three blocks that I’d come to know so well by then, I went for it. I don’t doubt, despite my newfound weather awareness, that I’ll have to do it again this year. Rule of the season: remove shoes ONLY after crossing Prytania.
Just stop. Just stop sometimes and, literally, smell the roses. This was about two weeks ago, when spring finally starting springing. This rose, part of a larger tribe, was blooming out on the wrong side of its fence. Incidentally, this rosebush grows at the house mentioned above that I’ve been enthralled by since 2008. It was a particularly stressful day. And it was one of the first warm days. And I met this rose. She’s gone now, run her course. But here she is, forever.
Off the Beaten Path
Now, to the point. Everything you’ve just seen, I’ve seen every day for the last year. It’s easy to get into a rut, walk the same path every day. Granted, if I have to pick up something from Walgreens, or from the corner store farther up, I get to walk a variance of my path. But it doesn’t vary much and, no matter how delighted I am here, a well-trod road just gets…familiar. I won’t say boring. NEVER boring, here. Just familiar.
Things changed, this past week. The construction they’re doing on the Neutral Ground has caught up with us, and it’s our turn. Now, I have to catch a bus at my corner. It drops us off five blocks away to connect to the streetcar which carries me the rest of the way to work. As a side note, after waiting 40 minutes for one of these busses the other day, I’ve decided to leave the house earlier to just walk the five durn blocks to the streetcar. More walking, more outside time. Mo bettah. Anyway, in reverse, on the Way Home, the streetcar drops me off five blocks early and, instead of waiting an eternity, I use my feet and just walk home.
It’s opened up a whole new world. It’s shaken me out of the rut of the familiar. I have whole new streets to explore now. Even coming up on something from a different angle can open your eyes all over again. I hadn’t taken a single shot, On the Way Home, since the rose a few weeks ago. Thus, these last images are just from this past week, when I came around corners and Noticed, all over again.
The first day, last week, that I got dropped off in a new place, I started hoofing home like any other day, and then came around a corner, and literally gasped. It wasn’t that I saw anything particularly new and astounding. Rather, I simply turned a corner and saw some classic New Orleans homes that aren’t the ones on my street, and immediately felt again that sensation of, “I can’t believe I live here.” That sense of awe has not gone away. I don’t think it ever will.
The Mayfair. I’d never seen this place before. It’s just an apartment building. It actually reminds me of most apartment complexes in the Cap Hill neighborhood in Denver. But, any Anne Rice fan will understand why I had to take pause and capture it. While everyone else is over on Jackson Ave. snapping shots outside the American Horror Story: Coven house (with which I am also delighted), I had to pay some homage to the Mayfair witches. I know, I know, this apartment has nothing to do with that. But STILL.
I then crossed paths with a Methodist church of fairly simple-yet-impressive architecture, which I couldn’t quite capture in the light given to me. But, walking past it, I saw this sign. If ever I saw something that completely summed up the fortitude of New Orleans spirit, this is it.
I get House Envy a lot around here. As in, I want this one, and that one, and and and. This one was cute enough that I overcame my weirdness about photographing people’s homes.
There are mysterious gates all over this City. It’s always a pleasure to see a new one.
And then, at last, that day, I made my way Home. The direction I arrived from allowed me close proximity to the Head in the Trees that I can barely see (if I squint) from my own porch. This lives in the house across the street and across the empty lot, which is not so empty now. They’re building houses in the lot now, and my time is limited. Before too long, capturing the Head in the Trees would involve trespassing someone’s back yard, so the time was nigh. And all it took was coming from it at a different angle.
Okay, okay. I promised less verbage and I totally lied. I can’t help it- I love talking about the things I see here. It’s a good place to see things, it really is. Despite the annoyance, I’m glad they shut my streetcar down early so that I could realize that again.
Eyes wide open.
Featured Image: Me, Noticing.