There is a slight tilt to the room — maybe more than a slight tilt. If you put a marble in the northeast corner of the room it would roll to the southwest corner with alarming rapidity. But as far as Creole cottages go this one is pretty sound. It has stood here on Royal Street since the 1850’s, or so I’m told by our landlady. It had a balcony at one time that has since been removed, no doubt falling into disrepair or maybe falling victim to a storm or fire or just changing tastes. While it is impossible to be bereft of something you’ve never possessed, there is a definite melancholy that washes over me when I think about that balcony overlooking Royal Street — it would have been my perch.
Royal Street has a rhythm that appeals to me, a port in a storm sensibility in the monsoon that is the French Quarter. It’s refined, but doesn’t feel stuffy, and almost everything I enjoy about New Orleans can be found in its one mile expanse, from Canal to Esplanade. On my day off, I often walk up and down Royal, taking photos of what I’ve already seen a thousand times but always appears differently at different times of day. That you can look at something and always find something new is an appealing idea to me. It imbues the common with mystery, and shrouds the quotidian in the abstruse.
Everything is a little off kilter here. I live here because it’s off kilter. I’m never the strangest person in any room I’m in — at least not visibly. There are places to get lost here. Places to unfind yourself. Courtyards that are overgrown and only partially visible from the street, if at all. The amazing thing about the French Quarter is not the things you see but the things you don’t see. The interstitial spaces created for the world-weary. The courtyards, from couer, the French word for heart, but designed mainly by the Spanish to avoid the insouciant French, are like small private parks for the fortunate.
Time feels more fluid here, but not necessarily in the forward direction. The sound of mule drawn carriages, of soaking midday rains on our slate roof, of slow conversations about the weather, seem to exist from another era. There is a languid pace, one that is fanning itself from the heat and humidity and doesn’t really pick up until after dark. New Orleans, it seems to me, is a nighttime city out of necessity. It’s just too damn hot to do too damn much during the day. It’s an almost forced indolence. And all the best things happen after dark anyway.
Like a spoon that has been bent, I find myself a little stooped, hunched to fit the space of my small kitchen and my small apartment. I sometimes feel like an overgrown goldfish in too small a bowl. It’s only right though, like water, that I fit the vessel into which I am poured. I’m surrounded by encroaching water, and although I can swim, I would rather let it wash over me, and carry me home.