My friend John is currently searching for a natural indicator to mark the end of summer in order to bookmark the termites swarming at the beginning. If I know him, he’d be pleased if it could be another pest.
I always think the summer season is hard to decipher in New Orleans. Used to be that once JazzFest was over, people began to shut up their apartments and stores and head to other cooler places for a month or two, coming and going throughout August. With the arrival of the casino downtown, that changed. Or maybe it changed with the addition of thousands of hotel rooms downtown through the 1980s and 1990s or maybe it just changed. In any case, visitors come year round now and festivals like Tales of the Cocktail and Essence are big draws in July and there are things in August too that I cannot remember at this moment, but I know I am always surprised when they come-oh yes, just remembered one: Satchmo Summerfest.
Maybe summer is really here when the figs ripen and drop and draw flies and make walking in alleys a distinctly squishy experience, except that fig trees are largely gone from the Quarter, courtesy of part-time residents and non-Sicilians who tore them out at the beginning of their renovations.
Or maybe it’s when the children finish their school year at McDonogh 15 and St. Louis Cathedral School, except that Cathedral is no more; soon to be condos I am sure.
Probably many locals would identify the start of summer with the official beginning of hurricane season, which is today, June 1. That’s as good of a choice as any, since summer is a largely hostile time here, unlike the land of my childhood, the shores of Lake Erie. There it is a glorious and kind season with lightning bugs in jars, sailboats always on the water and cool walks in the dark before bedtime.
Tonight in my adopted hometown, I went for a bike ride around the neighborhood with my hard cider in a koozie cup as I do many evenings before heading in for the night. The Quarter seemed different, slower and more neighborly than I have seen in many recent evenings. Lots of people on stoops with the front door open, dogs pausing on their walks with their people attached (when did huge dogs become a thing in the Quarter? and why usually 2 of them?) The Square is quieter, but will have more overnighters than the spring does. Lack of air conditioning at home will drive many to catch any night breeze they can out there and hopefully pick up a buck or two or make some friends.
The chalkboards in front of restaurants and bars praise their fruity drinks and their cold air conditioning and hope for a few big groups to come in and spend and tip well.
Seeing the row of smokers in chairs in front of Cosimo’s Dauphine Street windows was lovely even though I know they don’t think so, in these new days of no smoking inside. Of course, sitting out there may also just be a leftover experience from their crawfish boil season. In any case, a great bar with the best well drink in the Quarter in my estimation.
The tourists in town this Monday are quiet and mellow. Few whoohooers or Hand Grenaders seen (or heard). These kind of folks are always welcome as they proudly take a photo near architectural details rather than of the silver guy or the drunk passed out woman.
On Royal, I counted 4 tours and 2 more on Saint Ann this evening. I remember once a friend of mine hissed at me as we passed a ghost tour, “You know they make it all up” and I laughed out loud and said, “really? you mean they don’t just stick to the truth about our ghosts?”
Let’s hope the entire summer is as quiet and as sublime as this first June early evening was.
Here is a list of nola.com’s “favorite” summer festivals.