Of the various accoutrements available to the pedestrian, one reigns high in the ranking for its replacement of the unwieldy sword. Many elements of discomfort bear upon those set afoot in the Crescent City, and thus the selection of tools and weapons is myriad.
Yet one seems the best fit of the lot.
I recall observing a gentleman walking across Jackson Square in front of St. Louis Cathedral. The striding one was nattily attired in seersucker with an appropriate straw hat, moving briskly under the cloudless sky. The grasp of his right hand held a device of multiple purpose — one that elegantly appointed his dress while affording a degree of protection from threats of weather, fatigue, and miscreants.
Carried like a swagger stick, reminiscent of General Patton, the bumbershoot marks the bearer as one of proper carriage and refinement. By whatever name, umbrella also gives the carrier portable protection from sun and rain, tagging along like a faithful pup. In times of inactivity, a hooked handle allows convenient repose over the arm, streetcar seat, or bar’s edge.
The utility of the umbrella extends beyond weather and style. In lieu of the aforementioned sword, should true peril befall the holder, a fencing thrust can repel a brigand. Another common hazard in New Orleans, the condition of tipsiness, is known to cause unsteadiness, and the augmenting support of the umbrella-cum-walking cane is most propitious. When form and fashion supplant function, the decorative parasol is the perfect prop for strutting the second line. Slapped across the buttocks of a mischievous child, the versatile device can temporarily enhance control of the errant youth.
In the realm mechanical, only the Swiss army knife has more varied uses, but none of which afford weather protection.
Cell phones are, no doubt, the most common of all portable devices. They provide communication, information, and entertainment, among their many features. What they cannot provide, though, is what the umbrella can.
The open wearing of a pistol can effectively dissuade criminal threat. Bulky and clumsy, however, a holstered gun will get you neither image space in GQ, nor belly space at a bar. As with the cell phone, sun and rain pour down upon the bearer with unfettered intensity.
A purse or shoulder bag can hold a lot of stuff, and that purpose cannot be diminished. The same can be round-housed to fend off an attack, but a swat or poke with the umbrella might do better. But again, sun and rain will bypass the storage appurtenance to the detriment of the dependent toter.
Once I left my umbrella in a bar, and as I walked out onto Frenchmen Street, the winsome hostess came running to return my forgotten bumbershoot. Hence another use, where one more clever than I might feign such absent-mindedness as a ruse to occasion social opportunity.
As essential as it is diverse, the umbrella is a must-have.
One might conclude that the humble umbrella is the closest friend a perambulator might have. Shown stylishly on the promenade, or forced into indispensable service, the venerable bumbershoot is as much a part of New Orleans as the bronzed Jackson on his rearing horse.