Afternoons in New Orleans

Don’t you just love those long rainy afternoons in New Orleans when an hour isn’t just an hour—but a little piece of eternity dropped into your hands—and who knows what to do with it?

Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire

I found this quote painted on the wall in the entrance to Gallier House, a restored nineteenth century home on Royal Street in the French Quarter. My circumstances and mindset were different from those of Blanche Dubois—I spent a month in New Orleans caring for my daughter after her knee surgery—but Blanche’s words resonated with me.

I spent long afternoons sitting next to a wheezing window air conditioner during my daughter’s recovery. Bells from the schoolyard across the street and nearby St. Anthony of Padua Church marked the slow hours. Streetcars rumbled by on Canal Street, bound for the end of the line at three cemeteries. I wrote a short story, and outlined another. Binge-reading Ann Cleeves’s Shetland mysteries, I vicariously experienced life on an isolated group of islands with a cold and foggy climate.

To avoid the heat and thunderstorms, I took a daily early morning hour-long walk in City Park. I photographed the intense southern sun filtered by Spanish moss hanging from venerable live oak trees and dodged tour groups in the Sculpture Garden. Stalking egrets, heron, and ibis on the shore of the lake, I stole some quick snapshots.

In New Orleans, it’s customary to say hello to everyone you encounter, even Percy the black Juliana pig, clopping on dainty hooves down the sidewalk, drooling in anticipation of a powdered sugar donut hole at the Blue Dot donut bakery. Most dogs are some mix of pit bull, all friendly. The homeless people gathered at the local gas station helped me heave dripping bags of ice from the outside freezer. Sales associates in the local stores called me “Sugar,” “Hon,” or “Baby.”

Time goes slowly. Afternoons are endless. We were in the middle of two of the four New Orleans seasons—hurricane and football, with the other seasons, Mardi Gras and crawfish, not till spring. I embraced the heat, the mounds of gulf shrimp at the grocery store, the last of the crepe myrtle blooms scattering petals on the sidewalks. And some rainy Ohio afternoon, I’ll write about it.

Readers, what do you do on a rainy afternoon?

TW NOLA quotecity park flowerscity park birds