The Dose: An exploration of the Big Easy
On the French Quarter in Louisiana, creole townhouses and cottages line up, painting the neighborhood with colors ranging from navy blues and vivid purples to mixed teals and raging reds. Yellows make the streets pop like the Louisiana music that harmonizes the community.
Tourists click heartbeats of photos on their cameras while wandering the streets. Professional photographers can blend in like a tourist just by entering the Quarter. Segways make a gentle hum across the hot pavement as tourists ride by.
The French Quarter is a large area with much to explore. Very commercialized, the area has several vendors, ferries on the Mississippi River and much to offer for those with an eye for food. The Louisiana love is not lost in this commercialization, however. On a gate near Algiers Ferry is a message that seems to be recurring when traveling throughout the community – love wins.
The message is written in bold black on a pink board on a gated fence, where the colors of the sky fill the empty holes. Traveling through New Orleans, the motifs of hearts and peace are ever present. Beads stream several fences in the community. Festivals occur on several occasions.
Maude Caillat sits on a somewhat rusted bench, playing a trumpet with a tip jar by her side. She started playing around eight years ago in Paris. As Caillat sits and plays, she attracts a small crowd. The love for music is big in New Orleans, as several of the shops sell shirts with harmonious messages.
A little boy comes over to talk to Caillat. She pauses from her jazz music and talks to him. Another little boy around the same age runs over quickly to her side, lifts her tip jar and dashes down the road with all of her money. Both boys are gone. The small crowd didn’t even fully realize what happened.
“That was all my money from playing today,” Caillat said. “But I mean, what am I going to do? They are little boys.”
Caillat’s favorite music to play is jazz, but she also likes to play the blues.
It really applies to moments like these.
“Bad things happen,” Caillat said. “But it is good to have bad experiences to play the blues.”
Mrs. Mary’s Stories
There is emotion to the music people in Louisiana. The community is very friendly and the people living in the community have many stories to tell. Marion “Mrs. Mary” Corborot, 88, is one of those people.
Mrs. Mary sits outside across the street from her St. Claude house on a bench by the banana trees. She either sits there or on her porch every day. She loves jazz and loves Orleans.
Many people know Mrs. Mary as queen of the banana trees because she always sits by them, and always with a smile.
“I smile all the time, that’s how I meet the strangers,” Mrs. Mary said. “You don’t need a million dollars to be happy.”
She sits all day, passing time until someone walks by on the other side of the street, yelling, “Hello, Mrs. Mary!”
“Now watch this,” Mrs. Mary said, pointing to the road.
Bicyclists pass by, a whole string of thin tires on the cement road. Mrs. Mary waves as each of the individuals passes and says, “Hello, have a nice day.” Several of them wave back, returning the hellos.
Mrs. Mary smiles and says again, “Now watch this.”
Sure enough, another string of bicyclists pass as she repeats the hellos and kind words. They wave back, and many return the sentiments.
Mrs. Mary has arthritis, diabetes and cataract. She has lived in Orleans almost all her life except the nine years she lived in Chicago.
Mrs. Mary said that asking questions is how you get an education. To her, you learn from the people around you. Communicating is what it is all about.
“I met people from all over the world,” Mrs. Mary said, “I ask questions, they ask questions.”
The spunky 88-year-old used to work at Brennan’s Restaurant in New Orleans before it closed. Now, she mainly stays at home and walks across the street to her bench to meet new people.
To Mrs. Mary, it is important to go outside and meet people, don’t just sit inside and feel bad. Especially in Orleans.
Hear that jazz
Mrs. Mary described New Orleans as a place with a southern hospitality that you can’t get anywhere else. When music plays, often times she can hear it from her home, as she can’t walk that far anymore.
“People come here from all up north to hear that jazz,” Mrs. Mary said.
At Louis Armstrong Park, just outside the French Quarter, tourists wander around, looking at the multiple statues. There is a small body of water with ducks and a small bridge to walk.
Walking the park is Caleb Wilford, a 23-year-old non-profit construction worker.
“I think one thing kids don’t realize [is that] jazz is unique here,” Wilford said.
Jazz is big in Orleans. There are several clubs, such as the Blue Nile, which host many jazz musicians. Most jazz is found on Frenchman Street or Bourbon Street.
New Orleans is often referred to as “the Big Easy” for the easy going life of music, food and drinks. The other saying, aside from “who dat,” is the French phrase laissez les bon temps rouler, let the good times roll.
Music and community are strong in Orleans, especially when it means coming together in times of struggle. Most locals say that after Katrina, people will react sooner if anything like that ever happens again.
They also said they wouldn’t leave Orleans because they love it.
“Now let me tell you something,” Mrs. Mary said. “Every time I talk to someone about New Orleans, they come back and live.”
Featured Image: Buildings in the New Orleans area convey many messages for visitors and citizens. Robert Warren.
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