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Love this city, sometimes unexpectedly

“I’m going to try to say this without using any French,” I told my dad, who was on the other end of the line. “I frickin love this city!” There! I did it, no French.

Laughing, he replied, “Yeah, it sure does have a lot of charm.”

“Even the cracks in the sidewalks have charm,” I told him.

zach - love this cityThe truth is, there isn’t much about this city I don’t find captivating. At this particular moment, my surge of New Orleans fandom was inspired by the eclectic architecture of the Bywater — rows of vibrant shotgun houses and businesses in every color you can imagine.

Though I work near the Bywater, I’ve seldom taken the time to explore its nooks and crannies. I was reminded of this the other week when an errand I’d left work for derailed into a late afternoon adventure.

Despite my painful ineptitude on six strings, I popped a guitar string a few nights before, while attempting to serenade my girlfriend. How awful would I now sound with only five? I desperately needed to get another set, and after a little Google searching at work, I discovered there was a local music store only five miles back from the direction I travel each morning. The sun attempting to penetrate the tinted glass at my back was beckoning me. I needed to be outside, and this was the perfect excuse.

I passed Maurepas Foods on my way. My girlfriend’s brother was in town, so I was looking for a unique place to grab dinner later. I perused the menu for a couple minutes until a neighboring building caught my eye.

I snapped a few images of the beautiful two-story double, lemon meringue yellow with bright pink and green trim work. As I hear my own description, I envision a devastating collision of colors, one that belongs only in a nursery — a Palm Beach nursery to be precise. Strangely, the odd combination of colors created a beautiful harmony that worked out its own idiosyncratic imbalance.

A man peddled by on a bicycle as he adeptly balanced several long pieces of lumber on his shoulder. His khaki fedora rested motionless atop his head, like a cherry wedged in a thick slab of ganache coating a cupcake — that thing wasn’t going anywhere. I opted to enjoy the mobile balancing act sans camera. Some images are best left as memories.

As he turned the corner, I remembered what I’d originally left work for.

I headed towards Orleans down St. Claude in search of Webb’s Bywater Music, hoping to recover (or rather, replace) my broken string. I crossed the borderline between this world and the next: Jackson Barracks. This military installment sits like a solider at attention, allowing the rest of us to pass safely between what seems like two radically different countries, much less two cities in the same state.

Adam, the owner of Webb’s, was on his way out for afternoon coffee but kindly reopened his store so I could purchase a pack of guitar strings. After, I took my time heading back to work. I snapped a few more photos of the candy-colored shotguns. Embracing the first tolerable weather we’ve had since spring, I reveled in the afternoon serenity that blanketed the neighborhood.

Still relatively new to this city, I realized how much there was still to explore. Every inch maintains its secrets — shapes and hums and characters; all waiting to be found.

On the phone with my father, I took a breath to avoid using his favorite French word and said, “I frickin love this city!”


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