I used to give walking tours in the French Quarter and now I don’t. I go down there these days and see some of my colleagues (competitors?) out on the streets, masked up, telling to stories to small clusters of other masked up folks all keeping their anti-social distance from each other and it makes me nervous.
As unsettling as anything is wondering just who the hell comes to visit New Orleans when all the bars and restaurants are closed – in August?
You really gotta love this town to do that. And I guess you can still get a drive-through daiquiri for the ride home.
But who has the time, the money and the courage to roam across this great land right now? Who are these out-of-town folks that are paying local folks to walk them around the French Quarter and tell stories about ghosts, murders, vampires, voodoo and pirates? Will they themselves be a ghost or vampire in a couple weeks?
Will the contact tracing lead back to Marie Laveau?
Someone asked if I could give a “virtual” walking tour and – although I could use the income – I just couldn’t oblige. Literally, I couldn’t. I don’t know how to use Zoom.
I used to sell paintings in Pirates Alley and now I don’t. I drive by there occasionally and there’s only one of my colleagues (competitors?) out there from time to time, selling prints of his black-and-white sketches of Prince, Jimi Hendrix and Fats Domino.
He looks lonely, sitting there in the alley all alone.
The artist, that is. Not Prince.
I cross Bourbon Street these days and, while it’s not quite its old self, teeming with unwashed masses, it’s pretty damn crowded for a street with no business, no music, no booze, nobody asking where you got your shoes.
The Boulevard of Broken Dreams. BYOB.
Then again, the most interesting thing about Bourbon Street has always been all the other people. So there’s that. A world gone mad – even before a pandemic.
Where is everybody else? All the people who used to live off the grid like me have seemingly vanished. Self-employed and under-employed folks living by the hustle and the grift for tips, cash only if you please. We don’t get stimulus checks. We don’t exist.
As July rolled into August, I packed up to move out of my apartment. Downsizing, I believe is the euphemism these days. I went to the U-Haul on Tulane Avenue to get a truck and they said come back in a week.
Why, what’s going on, I asked. Everyone is moving, they told me. They’re getting evicted. Leases are expiring and the hammer is coming down. The closest available truck, they told me, was in Mississippi.
But don’t despair. Remember those words of inspiration: The virus will magically disappear one day.
U-Haul didn’t tell me that. That was somebody else, on TV.
Let’s just hope they’re right. And that it’s not before the rest of us do. For the rewards of living are other people. Even when you can’t see them.
It’s the sound of one hand clapping.