Its been 10 days since New Orleans shut down restaurants and bars and 6 days since our mayor issued an early stay-at-home order. On March 23, the state followed suit. Since then, watching the wheels of commercial life slowly grind to almost a complete halt here in the French Quarter has been absorbing and sobering. At first, most places tried to stay open even though the bulk of their business had always been visitors, both those visiting from other places as well as the daily visitors who work in shops, in offices and have so many lunch meetings. Some places did their best to drum up local take-out business via social media and word of mouth, but one by one, almost all in my quadrant have closed. Boards across windows and doors started going up at shops and galleries first, and then hotels and bars and cafes followed. It’s startling the first time you see the dark lobbies and gated and locked parking lots 24 hours a day of a hotel normally lit up and staffed. You think about those workers that you saw 5 or 6 times a day for months or years and wonder if they will be back. (The bell captain at the little hotel down the street told me he had 120 days of PTO to use, but was still angry that he had to go home.) Yet even when the businesses began to shutter, some street traffic continued, albeit lighter than normal for a few more days. Then one day this week, I walked to Jackson Square and there was not a single person there. At 2 in the afternoon. You’ll still see people walk a few times a day with their happy dogs, (saw a guy with his leashed ferret a few days ago), a few tourists, and always some street people. The Mayor is slowly moving the homeless into hotels; the guy who lives in the window recess of the Presbytere told me today that he had just missed the cut off to get in the Hilton Garden Inn by 6 people. (I’d say the best way to describe his reaction was slightly stung. I told him they’ll find a place for him soon; he seemed to brighten at that.) I think he looks forward to that mostly because he misses talking to people, he misses the hustle. Even the silver guy’s paint is almost entirely worn off. The musicians who are staying in the apartment across the street come out to the balcony in the afternoon and play music quietly but seem to have little of the animation and long jams that they offered in the first days. I run into neighbors and we talk for a few minutes but then move on more quickly than previously. You make eye contact with strangers, but there is a bit of a hesitation in being too chummy; you don’t want to encourage them to slow down and stay around here. Some neighbors have chalked “Go Home; Be Safe” on the sidewalks; but those who get it are already home, and those who don’t get it, won’t. It’s odd to see the energy seep out of these entertaining streets, but at least we have a strong reason to believe much of it will return. In the meantime, we can save ourselves, our friends, and our neighbors by killing as much as of it as we can.
Apr 6- Apr 7
What: an art event featuring exciting artwork by regional artists ,plus an opening parade, food and beverages for purchase, and painting demonstrations by some members of the association.
Visit noartassoc.org, or contact Wanda at firstname.lastname@example.org for a prospectus, if you want to be an artist- participant.
Today, I ran across two old friends, both working in the Quarter. The great photographer and musician Zack Smith was doing a shoot for Dirty Coast on Royal. His photography spans all of the different cultures that Southeastern Louisiana encompasses, and his work with the indie rock band, Rotary Downs is worth a deep listen. It’s on my regular rotation.
Sam Mee is someone I have known since I was a teen, when I used to run with his old employer, Roger Simonson. (Sam worked at Roger’s Royal Street store, A Better Mousetrap which had its heyday in the early 1970s.) Sam has been a working artist for decades, and shows up on the Square from time to time. As these things usually go, I had just been thinking about him recently, realizing I had not seen him in some time. And then, there he was.
I even bought an original of his today:
I talked to both of them about how they are doing with the “job, gig, hustle” lifestyle we have here in town. Zack is doing well, but still takes the cycle of business very seriously; Sam is a little less sanguine about sales, but still very good at keeping it going after all of these years.
Eleven million visitors and less than half a million residents — and most still struggle. Since the levee breaks, the cost of everything has been doubled, tripled and the number of opportunists arriving has easily quadrupled.
It is in everyone’s interest to see our creative community succeed, yet the very infrastructure works against it.
Botton line: if you see an honest hustler or gigger, pay your respects in some way.
For more information about the St. Louis Cathedral Holiday Concerts call 504-522-5730 or go to www.fqfi.org.