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Love NOLA: It’s a jungle out there

Brett Will Taylor (photo by Jason Kruppa)

This past Saturday, while doing some chores around the house, I opened my utility closet to get the broom.

And found it wrapped in a very healthy, happy … and growing … vine of ivy.

Now, while I admit it had been awhile since I’d swept my house, it had only been 48 hours since I’d last been in that closet. And on that last visit there was no ivy.

I gave a tug to pull the ivy off, but it tugged back.

I was curious, so I bent down to unravel the vine.  Following it, first,  down the broom, then, across the lower shelf, down the wall and … then … through a tiny hole made when my security system was installed.    That’s right, this ivy had been making its way outside down my alley, spotted an opening in my house, thought “you know it’s going to get hot out here soon,” and booked it through that hole and into my air-conditioned utility closet.

Now, if I lived anywhere other than New Orleans, this discovery would have given me pause. But seeing as I do live here, I just shrugged and said, “Ahhh, spring!” (and told the ivy it would have to pay rent if it wanted to take up residence in my closet).

You see, in most cities, spring is a cause for celebration. And, of course, here in New Orleans, we indeed do celebrate the spring (as we do the winter, the fall, and, OK, we don’t celebrate the summer). But we also get a little nervous at the annual reminder of what it means to live in a subtropical climate. With pushy plants.

I remember my first spring here, walking down Claiborne. I pointed to the foliage that had started growing under I-10. It had made its way up the concrete wall and was in the process of overtaking the Orleans Ave./Vieux Carre exit sign.

“That’s beautiful,” I said to a friend of mine. “No, it’s not,” he replied. “It’s an act of aggression. The cars are next.”

My mother concurred when she first visited NOLA a few months later. While walking down St. Philip,  Mom stopped at an abandoned church across from Armstrong Park. I assumed she was stopping to marvel at the long-dormant neon cross that used to flicker above its doors (placed there, I had always imagined, by parishioners who wanted to make sure Christ knew exactly where to go when he came back).

But, as often happens when sons try to figure out their mothers, I was wrong.

“Good lord,” she said (with not a hint of irony), “look at these vines. They’re taking over.”

She was right.  The vines had formed a thick carpet on the church’s wall and roof that even Moses could not have parted. As Mom and I stood there, you could almost hear them making their way toward the cross.

Finally, Mom broke the silence by saying, “Well, I wouldn’t leave Grandma out here on the stoop. These vines will take her, too.”  (It was the one time I thought my mother’s oh-so-Southern flair for overstatement was, quite possibly, an understatement.)

The truth is, things just grow fast around here this time of year.

Leave your bike unattended for two days and it’ll be entangled in morning glories when you go for it. My snapdragons have shot up from 8 inches to 3 feet in a matter of weeks (I swear I caught one of them reading the Sunday Times when I went out the other morning).

In a scene right out of Alien, my dog, Tyra Banks, ran out the back door the other day to chase an errant squirrel. As she ran, she jumped into a rather deep mass of this sticky mutant thing that is a cross between a Venus flytrap, ivy and a weed. My heart stopped as Miss Banks disappeared for what seemed like an eternity. Then the mutant mass spit her out with what sounded like a belch, and she came scurrying back to the porch, tail between her legs, ears down, forever scarred by the unspeakable horrors she had witnessed in the underbelly of the vines.

Why do I tell you this?

Because I think there’s a really awesome lesson to learn in the way that Spring really does bust out all over around here. The lesson is this: We live in a time when man actually thinks he is the master of Mother Earth. And, when it’s spring in New Orleans, you can actually hear Mother Earth laugh at the foolishness of that notion!

I also think you might want to check on your broom.  And Grandma!

Today’s column is dedicated to Wendell Allen, the New Orleans resident who was killed by an NOPD officer last week. The overnight crime report lists the incident as “Officer Life in Danger.”  Mr. Allen was unarmed.  

Brett Will Taylor writes Love: NOLA weekly for NolaVie. Visit his blog at  


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