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Dec 9, 201312:36 AM
The Editor's Room

Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde

Halls Once Decked: Musings From a Fallen Neighborhood

Christmas at the corner of Bellaire Drive and 37th Street isn't what it used to be.

This was not the way it was supposed to be. My father loved Christmas and he was always quick to decorate his house at the corner of Bellaire Drive and 37th Street. The decorations were not grand, but they were from the heart. Red ribbon would spiral up the white columns on the front porch to give a candy cane effect. A wooden cutout of a snowman was attached to the lamppost in the front yard. A poster of a nativity scene covered one of the front widows. Inside there was always a Christmas tree. He preferred the flocked kind covered with a cotton-like artificial snow that was sort of pretty in the way that it reflected the light but was a mess to clean up.

His Christmas memories were those of growing up poor in rural Central Louisiana where gifts might be no more than oranges and an apple but where the bayou and the woods provided lots of boyish adventures. His thoughts also included Christmas 1944 and the Battle of the Bulge where the cold was so bitter that his right leg almost had to be amputated.

Maybe that Christmas made him appreciate all subsequent Christmases even more.

After he died, my Mom did not want to decorate anymore. Gradually the snowman reappeared and so did the nativity scene and then a simple artificial tree inside, just enough to make a statement, but it was never the same.

My Dad was very proud of the house, frequently reminding me that it was built with double the required lumber so that it could easily withstand hurricane winds.

Located only three blocks from what would be the epicenter of Katrina’s 17th Street Canal break, the building, as predicted, withstood the winds valiantly, but not the water.

This Christmas the lot where the house once stood is empty. There is no more lamppost; no remains of the magnolia trees and the pines that once stood at the edge. The neighbors, who once swapped greetings with each other, are gone, their homes too having disappeared. A neighborhood, once so passive, vibrates only from the rumble of the trucks negotiating the holes in the street.

What will happen to the lot is uncertain, but it cannot remain as it is now. Whether the neighborhood is to survive or not, I hope that by one Christmas soon there will be a home on the lot with a turkey in the oven, a tree in the corner and joy throughout. And if the porch has columns, I hope someone decorates them with red ribbons.




 BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: Errol’s Laborde’s new book, Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival (Pelican Publishing Company, 2013), has been released. It is now available at local bookstores and online.



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The Editor's Room

Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde


Errol LabordeErrol Laborde holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of New Orleans and is the editor-in-chief of Renaissance Publishing. In that capacity he serves as editor/associate publisher of New Orleans Magazine and editor/publisher of Louisiana Life magazine.

Errol is also a producer and a regular panelist on Informed Sources, a weekly news discussion program broadcast on public television station WYES-TV, Channel 12. Errol is a three-time winner of the Alex Waller Award, the highest award given in print journalism by the Press Club of New Orleans. He also received the National and City Regional Magazine Association Award for Best Column for his New Orleans Magazine column, beating out 76 city magazines across the country. In 2013, Errol received the award for the "Best News Affiliated Blog," awarded by the Press Club of New Orleans.

Errol’s most recent books are Krewe: The Early Carnival from Comus to Zulu and Marched the Day God: A History of the Rex Organization. In his free time he enjoys playing tennis and traveling with his wife, Peggy, to anywhere they can get away to, but some of his favorite spots are the Caribbean and historic locations around Louisiana. You can reach Errol at (504) 830-7235 or errol@myneworleans.com.




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