There Goes the Neighborhood


Mural at the office

New Orleans        I don’t know why I continue to be surprised at the changes in my own neighborhood, Bywater in New Orleans.  I’ve seen the joggers, dog walkers, and strollers in the streets.  I’ve noticed the porkpie hipster hats and the bicycles rolling by at all hours of the day and night.  I’ve read the statistics, before and after Katrina, when my neighborhood went from 70/% nonwhite to 70% white, and of course I’ve read and paid our property tax bill and the rising numbers that are testimonies to the fact that we didn’t flood and once were a lower rent, working class area.  Nonetheless, I was still surprised when the multi-venue art exhibit called Prospect 3 opened in New Orleans this year.

            I read in the paper that on opening night there was going to be food, music, and free shows all over the St. Claude Arts District, and for a change I was in town.  I asked my companera, “Where exactly is that district?”  “Maybe we should go?”   She told me it ran from our office building down more than a mile and a half to past our blocks that had the same numbers as our house and our street running parallel and two blocks over.  “Really,” I said, naively, “maybe people will notice the work on our political mural on the wall next to our building?”


            Without going anywhere other than walking two blocks away to the same St. Claude that I drive by several times a day, it turned out there were four Prospect 3 “events,” right there under our noses, two or three of which were in art galleries or display areas that had not really registered to me as even being art galleries, as opposed to repainted houses on the street.  Largely young people were everywhere.  Food trucks were parked on a nearby corner and they were selling Cajun boudin and something called a German sandwich out of grills right on the street.  There were people dancing and singing at a pocket park on the same corner a nonprofit had recently developed which was normally unoccupied except for a couple of regular wine drinking old timers.  Everyone seemed to be strutting on the avenue after their own fashion.  Not having a beer or glass of wine in our hands made us stand out.


            And, no fooling it might also be a great thing for the avenue.  A local hustler had set up a table in front of a neighborhood convenience store with two delivery pizzas, so that he could hawk by the slice.  Walking up the block between these venues were two schools, one former elementary and one former high school, now part of the multi-billion dollar refurbishment of such facilities, which can’t be a bad thing given how dilapidated both facilities had been, as we know from using each of them as our own 9th Ward voting polls, even if they were destined to be charter-ized.


            Waking up in the pre-dawn and walking my Australian shepherd, Lucha, I noticed a big, new SUV down my block was missing its back tire with the rim resting virtually on the street.  Later my longtime New York Times paper man, and I took a closer look and all four tires were gone from this Georgia wedding guest at the neighbor’s bed-and-breakfast.

            Who knows where all of this gentrifying is going for us in Bywater, but it still seems like they can try and take Bywater out of New Orleans and relocate it to Portland or Brooklyn, but they really can’t take New Orleans out of  Bywater.  At least not yet, thank goodness!

            Laissez les bon temps roulez!  Let the good times roll!