The Bywater

The Joint.
The Joint.

The Bywater.

Or, the 9th Ward. As you prefer.

The Bywater was the industrial neighborhood and port  in which most of the coffee and South American fruit that we consume in North America passed through. That’s all changed. Much of the neighborhood has become gentrified. And, dare I say it, hipsterfied. The neighborhood has expanded across St. Claude Avenue. Some people don’t like that. The think the neighborhood borders should not change. Of course, they are forgetting that even though this place existed since the 1800s, it wasn’t called The Bywater until the early 1950s. Apparently, the telephone exchange was something like BW0-1234. Or, maybe even a shorter number. Prior to that additional local name, people who lived in this location just said that they lived in the 9th Ward. Maybe they said the Upper 9th Ward to distinguish themselves from the people who lived on the other side of The Industrial Canal in the Lower 9th Ward.

Freight trains and big skies.
Freight trains and big skies.

The pictures. Ah. So much to discuss.  First, these pictures were taken within 20 feet of each other. I didn’t walk far. There is a good reason for that.

I wanted to re-photograph The Joint — which became a signature picture when I when I first took it. Before the storm. So, maybe 12 years ago. I photographed it back then for Lonely Planet’s trade book division. The BBQ place was so successful that it moved from Poland Street to a much bigger building on Royal Street, where it is still successful. Today, there are all sorts of BBQ places in the city. But back then, a dozen years ago, New Orleans was not a BBQ city. The Joint is sort of the grandfather to them all.

I didn’t want my car to be in the picture of the Joint, so I parked across the street next to this covered stop sign. Easy pickings.

Then I turned around as the freight train was rolling through. Click. Click. Click. I thought the picture with the diesel engines in it was the one. But, after further curating, I liked the repeated shapes of the tanks cars better.

Note, the street. That’s a New Orleans street for you. It looks like a country road. And, that empty lot on the left side of the picture. It used to be run down apartment buildings. Pre-storm they had eroded into a bunch of drug and prostitution houses. An empty field is better than it was back then. There are City of New Orleans signs all over that field. They all say, “No trespassing.” Do you think anybody listens? There are swings and children’s gymnastic equipment all over the field.

And, that’s the story. For today.

One more thing. Good luck and Godspeed to all the folks who are facing Hurricane Matthew’s wrath as it heads toward Florida and the rest of the Mid-Atlantic coast. And, to those in Haiti and Cuba who are already suffering. We, in New Orleans, are your brothers and sisters.


Stop. Don't stop.
Stop. Don’t stop.


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