Hot Tamales in St. Bernard Parish
Hot Tamales in St. Bernard Parish.

I should never have posted this picture.

Now I want a tamale. It’s not that I’m hungry. I just want one.

Just so you know, a tamale is Mesoamerican food. They originated in — wait for it — Mesoamerica somewhere around 8,000 to 5,000 BC. They were road food. Usually armies and travelers ate them while they were on the move.

Think about that.

There was something like a 10,000 year old 7-Eleven store out there. Before Jesus Christ was born.  Before there was motorized transportation. Before the dawn of politicians for life.

Armies — or travelers — pulled up and bought some food to go. Maybe they even drank something like a Big Gulp. Nah. Probably not. They were healthier than we are. However, if you buy some of that 7-Eleven food today — like a Twinkie — it might be 10,000 years old.

Depending on where you buy tamales down here you can get two different base foods. South and Central Americans use masa, a kind of starchy dough. Or, something very kin to that. However, in the Mississippi Delta, African-Americans use cornmeal. They can be filled with other things, but masa or cornmeal is where a tamale starts. Usually.

There’s a lot more to the history of a tamale. How could there not be? It’s 10,000 year old food. But, I’ll leave that to you.

The picture. I just photographed what I saw. I did brighten the red up a bit to draw your eye to that building, which by the way, looks like an old railroad building. Repurposed.

Storm and sugar.
Storm and sugar.

It’s spring.

For just about everywhere in the country that means wildly changing weather, often in the passing of an hour or less. Further north that means tornadoes and hail. Down here in the south that means bright and sunny one minute, darkness the next, and sideways rain just behind. For about ten minutes.

Yep. People see, feel and hear the hard rain. They seek shelter. Ten minutes later they stick their hands out to feel the strength of the rain and usually just go back about their business.

This place is Arabi. In St. Bernard Parish. For the most part, the neighborhood looks about like many places in New Orleans. 1800s houses. Victorian gingerbread. Shotgun houses. Doubles. Camelbacks. Smallish mansion-looking houses.

There is also some heavy industry. See that bright blue building and the brick building behind it?  That’s Domino Sugar Corporation. At least the plant the processes sugar almost directly from freighters. There’s one in the background on the right. And, that concrete fence that forms a nice leading line? That’s the levee. On the other side is the Mississippi River.

But, for me, those are just objects the help to establish the picture.The real picture is those layered storm clouds. And, the ominously colored yellow light. I didn’t make that light to suit the mood. It was the mood.

One of these days, I’ll have to walk the neighborhood. And, take pictures of whatever I see. Although it sits on the border of The Lower 9th ward and a completely different parish, it is fairly safe. That’s something these days.

A little French Quarter light.
A little French Quarter light.

French Quarter traffic. As the sun sets.

Luckily, for me, I got jammed up behind two pedicabs. And, a taxi. That allowed me to do my drive by shooting thing, stop in pretty heavy traffic and not get honked at for creating problems. Normally, I wouldn’t care about honking horns, but in New Orleans you could get shot. No. We aren’t quite the “wild west,” yet. But, we are something kin to the “wild south.” The mayor made a big speech about that, just yesterday. I like the mayor. But, I think he’s in denial on this one. He’s trying to protect our tourism business during Jazzfest. But…


The picture. You know me. I have no problem making a picture through the windshield of a car. I also have no problem shooting into the sun. These are things that you aren’t supposed to do. This is a picture in which I broke both rules. At the same time. How cool for me.

I suppose I might not have done it if there weren’t people riding in pedicabs in front of me. They kind of made the picture. They sort of appeared at the right time. The sun was setting right where I wanted it, but there was no subject in the picture. Or, even a hint of one. Then car in front of me dropped out of the lane because the driver parked it. And, there they were. Pedicabs impeding the flow of traffic. Heh, heh!

Photographer’s luck. Or, making my own luck. I don’t know which one.

This is why the houses are raised.
This is why the houses are raised.

A last look at the place in which the three lakes come together. And, a little look at how the houses are really raised above the water level. And, why.

The why is the most important part.

On the day that I made these pictures there was a slight storm surge which was mostly caused by wind. You can see where the water went. The storm was minor. Just a little rain. Imagine what it could be like with a really big storm. Or, a hurricane.

The idea is that the high surging lake or gulf water will just run underneath these houses. For the most part it probably will. For a big hurricane — Category 3 — or larger, these houses still might not be raised high enough. For an almost direct hit, like Hurricane Katrina, raising these houses won’t matter. In fact, it might make their odds of survival even worse. With 120 – 150 mph hour winds, pretty much all structures are destroyed. Being built on stilts just means the winds could blow parts of these houses into Mississippi. The state. Not the river.

This is probably it for this series of pictures. I’ve explored the end of the world. Or, at least, the end of New Orleans world enough for now. I could go north of New Orleans. Upriver. But, for the most part that just sort of peters out. After you cross for Orleans into Jefferson Parish, you are just back in the Deep South. You make a different kind of picture. I did a little of that yesterday.

These pictures were all made at blue hour and pretty much look that way. For me, the deal with blue hour is that the light is blue. It should look that way. Even if you have to help it in post production. After all, why miss your dinner and aggravate your companions if you aren’t going to use the light nature gave you?

I did some experimental post production on the bottom picture. I wanted to make the clouds look like cotton balls. I may have done that. Or, I may have made a mess. Oh well. I’m like that. Sometimes. No. Most times.

Slight water surge.
Slight water surge.
Study in Blue.
Study in Blue.

The place where three lakes come together.
The place where three lakes come together.

This is it.

This about as far as you can go east and still be in New Orleans. It is in a place where three lakes come together. Lake Ponchartrain. Lake Borgne. And, Lake Catherine. For those who have been following my last few posts, this is just a bit further east than the picture of the house on stilts.

There are a few more images that I culled from the original take. None is quite so dramatic as this one, at least in their RAW form. I’ll show them to you tomorrow.

The picture. Originally, it wasn’t quite as dramatic as what you are seeing. When I first started my post production I had this image in my mind. But not in the data. So, I went for it. That’s a big benefit of working with RAW files as opposed to Jpegs. It took a while to get there in post. I stumbled around a bit. When I finally arrived I knew it. As you know, I’m not really a nature photographer so I’m never really comfortable presenting work like this. I hope it works for you. Just a little.

Swampy New Orleans.
Swampy New Orleans.

One thing leads to another.

Yesterday, I posted about swamps and bayous. A friend of mine who lives in New Mexico commented on Facebook that she would like to see more of my swampy pictures because, well, she never gets to see much of that kind of greenery living in the high desert near Albuquerque.

So. Okay. Here’s one. Sorta. Kinda.

One of the cool things about living in New Orleans is that you don’t have to go far to see swamps or subtropical greenery. I made this picture in The Lower Garden District about a mile or so away from where we live. When I pushed the button I was thinking this particular place looked like Singapore before it was completely rebuilt and even the funky places were gentrified. To some people — little toddler people — that big tree looks like something Dr. Seuss would dream up. I can see that too. Of course I always thought that, “Green Eggs and Ham” would have been better titled as “Green Eggs and Spam.” Then it would have a little Hawaiian flavor. No pun intended. Okay. Every pun intended.

Spanish Moss.
Spanish Moss.

The bayou. The swamp.

How did I come to publish these pictures today? Well, that’s an interesting story. A young woman, fairly new to WordPress, stopped by to “like” one of my New Orleans pages. As I usually do, when somebody new passes through, I visited their blog to thank them and have a look around. I never know what I might learn.

Seems that she spent a couple of days in New Orleans. Maybe four or five. She is really sincere about liking the city.  And, she managed to figure out “Ray’s Rule for Visiting New Orleans.” You’ve heard it t least a 100 times before. Get out of The French Quarter. She and her companion did that. They found Superior Seafood on St. Charles Avenue. It’s not far from our house, so we eat there. They also found Kenner Seafood. Now that’s a local’s deal. It’s out near the airport. The seafood is super fresh and the prices are very low. It’s where people go when they want to buy a lot of crawfish during the season for a boil at their house. By a lot, I’m talking about 20 to 100 pounds, or more.


You knew this was coming. There’s always a but. She and her companion managed to get out of the city even further. They took a tour. They went to THE BAYOU. In an exchange of messages, I told her that I bayou was just a slow-moving backwater stream. They are usually found in a swampy area. That there was nothing actually called The Bayou in capital letters. For instance, there’s Bayou St. John in the heart of New Orleans. In Mid-City. You’ve seen pictures of it on Storyteller. It’s a pretty wide open stream that flows from Lake Ponchartrain until it comes to an end at Lafitte Avenue. It’s a pretty place. People paddle kayaks there. Walk their dogs there. The Mardi Gras Indians assemble there on Downtown Super Sunday. There are also very swampy looking places just about everywhere once you get outside of New Orleans. After all, most of the city was built on some kind of reclaimed swamp land. The city was originally just located in the French Quarter. Much beyond that was known as “back of town.”

She asked me what she should call where she was. She’d have to tell me roughly where she went — what town, for instance — before I could do that. A lot of bayous that are located away from the city have regional names and are likely spelled in some version of French, or Cajun-French. Just to complicate things further, there are even bayous located near Houston. Texas.


Here’s a couple of swampy, bayouish-like pictures.  For your Sunday enjoyment.

Nature's Way.
Nature’s Way.

Stormy skies near Rigolets Pass.
Stormy skies near Rigolets Pass.

Stormy skies. For a stormy week.

Believe it or not, this is New Orleans. Admittedly, it’s way out there.

On one side, there is Lake Ponchartrain. On the other side is Lake Catherine. Straight ahead is the Rigolets Pass, which eventually leads to the Gulf of Mexico. This view is from Highway 90, the old way to travel east or west from New Orleans. Highway 90 is also called Chef Mentor Highway.

That big building is actually a house. Built on stills. The owner hopes it will help the next time a hurricane blows through. It might, if all that hits this area is a storm surge of about 15 feet. But, last time… Hurricane Katrina blew through almost at this exact spot. Nothing was left.

Let me just say this. About that. These people really, really want to live there. Imagine carrying everything — like your groceries — up a 15 or 20 foot tall staircase just to get to the first floor of your house. Historically, most of these houses were called camp houses, as in fishing camp houses. They were fairly small and inexpensively built. Often the owners did not live there all year round. These were weekend homes.


Like everything, it seems, the newly rebuilt houses are bigger and better. I took this picture from some distance away. It’s a McMansion. You don’t need a house “in town.” You can just live here. Aside from nature’s whims, this is a pretty safe place to live. No gangs. No drugs. No murders. No violent crime. On the other hand, the closest grocery story is about 15 miles away. Medical care is even further away. And, whatever you do, don’t run out of gas. But, if your car runs out of gas, you probably have a boat. That’s something.


Mid  City Spring
Mid City Spring

In a few words. Yesterday just sucked.

This is a musical household. So, you know what I’m talking about it. He lived for 57 years. He was one of a handful of musicians who changed music. And, who lived at the same time that I did.

If you’ve read Storyteller for long enough you know what I think. The work is the prayer. I haven’t been very good at the work lately. But, I had to work yesterday. This picture is about the best that I could do. If all art is autobiographical than this picture just about nails it.

Thanks, Prince. RIP.