In a few months I’m going to publish an ebook of the diary I kept while I lived in New Orleans. It’s going to be called The Two Months I Was in a Good Mood. This is one of my favorite entries:
I have been taking walks on Bayou St. John early in the mornings, before 8 AM, when it was still cool and not too muggy. But for the past few days I’ve been walking at sunset instead. It has been a revelation.
The walk takes me down Jefferson Davis Parkway, on a wide sidewalk in the center of the roadway, an open terrain of a park that stretches past Canal Street, some playground equipment here, some public art there, until it meets a mass of tall trees gathered right before Lafitte Street. It’s there that the sunset comes into play, playing hide and seek behind the trees. Pass them, and it’s all open sky. Pass them, and the bayou begins.
There’s still a sidewalk for a while, but it’s nice to walk on the grass, too. A few people sit along the water’s edge. I like to look back at the post office when I pass it, the sunset outlining the American flag. Cross Orleans Ave, and Jeff Davis is now Moss Street. The bayou starts to smell like the earth. There are kayaks tied to the side of the bayou. There are more owners and their dogs on the dirt path. All the dogs here turn to look at me, look at everyone, waiting for something, a scratch on the head.
At Dumaine Street, there’s a small beat-up bridge – it’s cement, and painted pink at the base, and there are giant blue squares lining its sides. It looks lovely from afar — it’s just my type of bridge – but it’s not the kind of bridge I’d want to hang out on. The walkway is narrow, the cars feel too close to my back. The bridge where I will stand and look, that’s coming, yet.
A few more blocks until the next bridge. Now there are kayaks tied up on the side of the bayou. Now there are ducks in the water. Now there is pelican swooping for his dinner. A pelican! Sometimes the swans cut loose from the park up at the museum. Once or twice I’ve seen that. But that pelican, he’s my favorite. He’s up high, he swoops down low on the bayou, he owns the space. I give respect to that goddamn pelican.
To the left, suddenly, are my favorite houses on the bayou. There is a crumbly-looking house, long, narrow, and charming. There’s a sweet front porch, a small wrought iron table and chairs behind the front gate. I wish I could have that house for my own. There is a pink flamingo statue on the front porch. I bet nice people live there, with a wry sense of humor. I bet they love the bayou.
Then there’s that bridge, that other one, better than the first. It’s metal, rusted out, with a criss-cross roof. There are Christmas lights wrapped around its beams. The floor is made of slabs of wood. It’s a bridge solely for pedestrians, and on the other side of it is a high school. I like to walk to the middle of that bridge and look back at everything I’ve passed, and the sunset I’ve left behind, the wide sky, the water, the trees, the birds, the cars moving in slow-motion around the bayou, the dogs, the people running and walking, and those dreamy, hazy few moments before the switch is turned on the night in New Orleans.