With each new reopening of a business in my neighborhood, Mid-City, I have been anxious to be a customer again, with one exception – Schoen Funeral Home.
Schoen is a beautiful building and in its restored state it’s grander than ever. Though its business is not one that elicits joy it’s, at least, part of the neighborhood culinary equation.
A long time tradition among many New Orleanians who had to attend a wake at Schoen was, after paying proper respects, to cross Canal Street in respect of a proper poor boy. Mandina’s after a wake was the Mid-City equivalent of “cutting loose” during a jazz funeral when the music switched from dirge to up-tempo. A Sazerac or a Dixie with the poor boy upped the temp even more.
Since Schoen reopened before Mandina’s that presented a quandary – grief without gravy.
Now Mandina’s is back and the proper mourning can begin – only now there’s something new, or is it old? The scene has gone retro.
Running along the neutral ground that separates the funeral home from the restaurant are the old, green, Perley-Thomas streetcars. The last time green trolleys ran between Schoen and Mandina’s was 1964, when the service was stopped for what would be 40 years. Before Katrina there were shiny new red streetcars on the Canal line, but in the wacky way that Katrina has rearranged our universe, along Canal Street the past is now in the present.
One day after all the proper repairs are made, nature will fix itself and the green streetcars will go back to St. Charles as the red trolleys return to Canal. The scene speaks for New Orleans as we continue to cross between grief and joy, while the streetcars, like our spirit, move in both directions.