Monday, September 06, 2004

New Orleans (I)

I'm in New Orleans for a conference and the blogging will be a bit disrupted (after all, I'm here to work...).
This is my first time in Louisiana, a part of the world I knew about even when I was a kid because of its links to France. As the song goes: "Ils sont americains et elles sont americaines. La faute à qui donc? La faute à Napoleon!" (The men are Americans and the women are Americans. And who's to blame? The blame belongs to Napoleon!").
The French quarter does remind me a bit of France. Its narrow streets, its cafés, restaurants, the gardens and the houses. But the resemblance stops here. New Orleans' French Quarter is hot and noisy. It is also smelly. A smell of rotten food, garbage and vomit. I am not sure this is always the case, or it is just the mark of the long weekend that just closed. I will see that tonight as I plan to go around the neighborhood again.
At the small supermarket around the corner from the hotel, the woman is clearly used to tourists. She has a broad smile and I can see only 2 teeth left on her upper jaw. They are circled with gold and sparkle in the neon light above her head. I ask her the business hours for the store. "Until 3 AM", she says. "We open back at 4:15 AM". I smile. "You guys surely don't sleep much". She looks at me incredulous. "We work in shift" she starts, unsure of what to think of my remark. I laugh. "Yeah. I figured that one out..."
The night is sticky and humid. Right outside the supermarket, an ambulance is loading an old man onto a stretcher. He has an haggard look and unruly hair. He does not seem to realize what is happening to him. Onlookers are few and far between. People mostly keep walking toward the loud music one can hear coming from a nearby street. The night is young.


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