Thursday, March 31, 2016
Bywater spring morning
Mornings right now are full of birds; their songs and cries fill the air. This morning dawned clear and washed clean by last night’s rains. The streets were still wet, with standing water in the gutters. The wide spread of grass in the vacant lot at Mazant Street was wet with dew. I walked the dog beyond the tracks toward Poland Avenue; it gets a little strange back there, with odd structures and houses cluttered with eccentricities.
The dog completed his Prime Directive on Royal Street just past Poland Avenue; I picked it up with a plastic bag and slipped it into the black garbage bin.
There’s mystery and oddity here. Houses sport signs warning against parking in front of driveways. Cats congregate like street toughs. On Royal, just past the tracks, there’s a low structure, completely covered with vines. You could walk past it a hundred times and never notice it. But there’s a door, and a mailbox, and a street number. There are two planters flanking the door, painted with fleur de lys and planted with elegant dwarf Italian cypress trees. Someone lives there. The door is painted red. It’s dark and mysterious.
There’s a warehouse attached to a shotgun house, a kind of weird, irregular amalgam shaped by the triangulation of the railroad tracks that bisect this neighborhood. Though it appears unoccupied now, the back yard of the place indicates some former enterprise having to do with plants – there are black plastic six-packs and 5 gallon pots piled neatly but lazily around. A closer look at the house itself, and you get a shock of recognition. The brackets beneath the roof – the gingerbread brackets so ubiquitous to New Orleans shotgun houses – are carved in the shape of a gun. Truly, a shotgun house.
Walking back home, past the grass-grown site where, just months ago, a brick apartment house stood abandoned, I see in the morning air a moving puff of white vapor on the corner of France and Royal; like a wraith it circles, rises, twists in the air. Then it dissolves. A woman comes out from a nearby house and opens the door of the Chevy idling at the curb. She puts it in gear and drives off, trailing another ghost from the tailpipe.