It’s correctly called Snake & Jake’s Christmas Club Lounge: Dimly lit dive bar with very late hours.
It’s located on Oak Street in a straight line from the teacher’s college at Tulane University. I’m not exactly sure what that says… but it is supposed to be the best dive bar in New Orleans. And, that’s in a city of great dive bars. It isn’t located anywhere near the French Quarter. That may be one of the most important things.
George Clooney drank there. Anthony Bourdain drank there. Mick Jagger drank there. Keith Richards drank there. Other people drank there, too. Lots of other people.
It’s supposed to as old as possibly being founded in the 1950s, but Dave who owns it, bought in 1994. The drink of choice is a “Possum Drop,” named when a possum dropped through the ceiling into a beer. It’s a pint of Schlitz with a shot of Jagermeister dropped into it.
I’ve never actually been inside. I don’t drink. I suppose that I could come for the sausage which is supposed to be great. I would photograph in there — nobody would care — but it’s so dark that when Clooney was there, nobody knew it until he left. At least, that’s what they say. You know how that goes.
Once upon a time, Claiborne Avenue stretched all the way from Jefferson Parish, where it began as Jefferson Highway, passed through the heart of New Orleans and into St, Bernard Parish where it becomes E. Judge Perez Drive.
It still does. But, it’s different.
In those days, it passed through some pretty amazing neighborhoods, like Treme and Central City. As it passed through Treme it was pretty wonderful Oak tree covered wide boulevard. Old growth. Huge trees. It looked and felt European. It united a neighborhood that was vibrant and alive with art, music and people.
In the 1960s, some planning commission or another got the bright idea to route Interstate 10 through the City of New Orleans, rather than pass by on the lake side of the city where it runs all the way from Santa Monica, California to Jacksonville, Florida. They did create a direct highway called I-610, but the I-10 passes through the heart of the city. First, they wanted to route it through the river side of the French Quarter. Even though at the time the French Quarter was in a total state of disrepair, just about everybody raised a commotion. So, they put it in the next best place. An elevated portion of I-10 passed through Treme. The beautiful Oaks were torn out. Houses were torn out. Businesses were torn out. The jazz community had its heart torn out. The neighborhood was literally cut in two.
Ya’ heard what I’m saying?
Google the history of Treme. You’ll figure it out.
It became a cement jungle.
Some time after Hurricane Katrina did its thing, a people’s movement sprang up. Those who love the city want to tear out the overpass and take I-10 around the city. Something like this happened in San Francisco and Boston. Other cities too. Doing this would help the city continue to heal. This discussion is on going. It hasn’t been agreed to, but they haven’t said no, either.
This picture. This isn’t exactly Treme. This is where the 7th Ward sort of merges into Treme. This an off ramp from I-10 overpass heading downriver to Claiborne Avenue in the 7th Ward. Presumably, this would be torn out too if the plan goes forward since it would lead from nothing. But you get the idea. That wide grass expanse could be a neutral ground with a park and trees growing in it, instead of some always dark and foreboding place. The buildings on both sides of the avenue could be restored. The neighborhood could heal and grow.
I’m a little late. Flying around in metal tubes will do that to you. I had to catch up on my sleep somewhere. And, somehow. With me, when I’m in the middle of these changes I can never just sleep seven or eight hours and just wake up in the wrong time zone. Oh no. I sleep for a few hours, wake up, and walk around in a stupor from lack of sleep. Then I fall asleep a few hours later and sleep for a few more hours. This goes on for days. Weeks. Sheesh.
But, that’s not the only reason for my tardiness. I’ve read a bit about posting strategy on various social media sites and it seems I’ve been doing it all wrong. There are certain times when viewership is best. For instance, for those of you who friend me on Facebook 1p to 3p is about the right time. So too, with Twitter. Google+ is better at 9am. Of course, that doesn’t take into account that it’s always 5p somewhere. You know, all those of the places in the world that are not the United States. They also don’t say anything at all about the WordPress platform which is what Storyteller is built on. So, we’ll see. I’ll test this a little bit and see what happens.
This picture. The 7th Ward of New Orleans. Once upon a time, this was an interior wall. Then the building next to it was torn down and this wall was replastered and became an exterior wall. Then the storm came and flooded the area with about 12 feet of water. Somehow it made its own art. To me it looks the sea bed with the water and a sunset on the top layer. That’s how my mind works. Maybe, not yours though.
Things have a way of balancing themselves out. Nature seeks stasis. Human beings seek consistency. Safety. Happiness.
We use rituals, touchstones and routine to help us get there. We make stuff. We pile things up. We keep things neat and orderly… even though there is no reason to continue doing that.
This is what I saw on my latest drive through the hardest hit neighborhood in the Lower 9th Ward.
As usual. Captions are below the picture.
I found this little carne near Claiborne Avenue which is one of the main streets that pass through the Lower 9th Ward. It is the remains of pilings that were supposed to keep water from entering the building. If the building was old enough — I doubt that it was — it was also sort of a natural air conditioning. Somebody is still looking after it. For that person, it’s a memorial.
I promise that I didn’t pile these tires into this shape. All the open land and very few people make the Lower 9th Ward a natural dumping ground. In some ways, it mirrors the carne in the first picture. This was once a vibrant neighborhood. Aside from the street, it’s pretty much returned to its natural state.
Seeing mowed lawns among all the natural growth always makes my heart jump into my throat. They are a symbol of hope. Of pride. Of strength and resilience. This lawn was obviously mowed earlier this summer, but the grass is certainly shorter and better kept than the surrounding areas. I’m guessing somebody loved the house that once stood here.
Nine years. We are coming to the ninth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making landfall at Buras, Louisiana. You pretty much know the rest.
Since we’ve returned to New Orleans, I try to get out to the 9th Ward about once a month. Sometimes, travel gets in the way. But, I return as soon as I can. I like to document the rebuilding progress of a neighborhood that will never be the kind of vibrant community it was on August 28, 2005. The day before the storm arrived.
Before you get the impression that the neighborhood is not recovering, let me say that it is… slowly. Very slowly. But, some of the very highly designed “Make It Right” homes are showing their age after only a few years. And, even worse. I just read a story about Habitat for Humanity houses that are not only showing some age, but are falling apart. I think the reason is simple. We had a lot of help rebuilding this city. People came from everywhere. For us. They continue to come. Thank you, all. But, I don’t think they ever really understood our weather. It ages everything quickly. You have to stay on top of it. They did the best that they could.
There are the issues in the Lower 9th Ward that I’ve discussed in the past. Swamp bottom. Far below sea level. Spongy soil.
Even though so many houses were ripped from their foundations and stacked like cord wood close to the Industrial Levee, the further upriver you go, the less total destruction you see. Yes, many buildings were so badly damaged that they had to be torn down. They were under 15 feet of chemical filled water for a long time during a very hot summer. But, today, every here and there, you find an original building that was not torn down. Still standing.
This is one of them. Somewhere during the passing years, the house was remediated in order to stop mold from taking over everything. The walls were ripped out down to the bare wooden studs. They may have even been treated with our own home-brewed anti-mold solution. The experts tell you that bleach is enough. Not down here. The next step would have been to actually start the repairs. Something happened to stop that. So, it sits in the heat, the humidity, the rain and continues to rot.
I took my time in this house. I carefully looked for predators. No. Not the human kind. The animal variety. Snakes and alligators. Feral pigs. Wild dogs. Nobody was home so in I went.
This was the living room. I don’t know if this picture is ironic, symbolic or sad. You tell me. It’s almost nine years after the fact and still this little light fixture is hanging. The rest of the house is abandoned and in shambles, but this remains.
After working for a couple of hours on Algiers Point it was time to go home. I felt photographically fulfilled. That’s pretty much the whole point, isn’t it?
Since the golden light seemed to just crash into the ground, we left the Westbank before darkness actually arrived. As usual, I propped the camera on the dashboard and pushed the button. No, no, no. I don’t raise the camera to my eye. I just set everything on auto-something and let the camera do its thing.
In order to help orient you, the Central Business District and the French Quarter is on the right. We are heading to the left side of the picture toward Uptown once we get off the bridge. In case you are wondering, this is the Crescent City Connection on Sunday evening. Normally, it’s a parking lot around the time we passed over it. That probably would have been better… if you are trying to make pictures. Most people are just trying to go somewhere.
A change is gonna come.
Before we hit the road again, I did a lot of work in The Lower 9th Ward and in a bit of the 7th Ward. One of my favorite abandoned houses in the 7th Ward is starting to be demolished from neglect. The second story fell off. Into the street. The entire second story was laying in the street when I passed by. Of course I stopped and took a few pictures. Well, more than a few pictures. I guess part of a building laying in the street will get the fine folks in city government to actually do something. Or not. What am I thinking? The is New Orleans. Not.
This place reminds me of “The Crunge.” An old Led Zeppelin song.
It closes like this… “Excuse me. Oh will you excuse me. I’m just trying to find the bridge… Has anybody seen the bridge? Have you seen the bridge? I ain’t seen the bridge. Where is the confounded bridge?”
However. It’s not about a bridge like this one. This one is the Crescent City Connection. It spans the Mississippi River. Crunge is British musician slang for the groove and singer Robert Plant is referring to a James Brown song when he asks about the bridge. The whole song is really a studio jam. A sort of musical bridge. At least that’s what people say. People say a lot of things.
That’s the music. Here’s the picture.
It’s one more from that post rainstorm dusk take. It’s probably one of the earliest I made when we arrived at the scene. Since I’m motivated by fear of failure, I generally take a bunch of pictures that I don’t think will make the cut. But, I know that at least I have something. Sometimes the pictures are more than just something. Usually, nobody will ever see them. I don’t like publishing, submitting or distributing a bunch of pictures just for the sake of bloated volume. I’m a less is more kind of guy. Besides, it’s sort of a respect thing for me. It’s about you. You’re busy. I don’t need to bomb you with a bunch of pictures because I don’t have the courage to do my own editing, or curating or culling. Or, whatever you want to call it.
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