DAY 4 – 23rd MARCH
I mean, who does a party like New Orleans on a Tuesday, or was it Wednesday? No, that was Tuesday. Anyway, it’s my final day in town and I think I’ve finally worked out the layout. I take the streetcar back down St Charles Street and walk four blocks to Magazine Street, a lovely mix of neighbourhood bars – and shops.
This is a real local neighbourhood, and it gets you thinking about how things must have been in the aftermath of Hurrican Katrina. On the roads are signs saying “Evacuation Route”. The problem was, in the days – and weeks – that followed Katrina, many residents of New Orleans couldn’t get out of town. It wasn’t just the fact that the place was flooded out, police blocked the roads in to neighbouring Jefferson Parish because it couldn’t cope.
Parts of New Orleans are still cleaning up after Katrina, but there’s still an ever ending sense of friendliness from people here – some joining in efforts to help Japan following its recent troubles.
In the evening I head back to Mollie’s at the Market. The drinking cat isn’t there, but one of the locals pulls up a chair and asks me how I’m doing. He’s imaybe 30, wearing shorts, a vest and has managed to get even more sunburned than I have.
“They call me Crash,” he says – and proceeds to tell me how he’s renovating a 120-year old house, using only original materials. “I got this wood that hasn’t been painted in thirty years, but I got to put it back. I love it. Still, it’s the only thing I’m good at – apart from shooting people and blowing things up.”
Crash served in the US Marine Corps, until he was “shot in the head in Fallujah” – said in such a casual way that he’s got to be telling the truth. I feel privileged to share a beer with him and I’d like to find out more. But it’s 400 miles to Memphis tomorrow – early night.