Friday was an almost perfect day.
The first day of Jazz Fest is always wonderful. Groups of foodies and former journalist colleagues gather on the Fair Grounds for our tradition of food tasting; sit at picnic tables easily striking up interesting conversations with out-of-towners we have never met and likely will never meet again; or catch up with friends and acquaintances we serendipitously run into while wandering around the grounds.
When the day is done and it’s time to find the car and drag on home, my little crowd usually leaves near the DeSaix Avenue area. But this year, things were different. We had parked the car at a friend’s house near Bayou St. John, and left through the back exit that spills into a residential sliver tucked between the Fair Grounds and Esplanade Avenue.
This perfect little village with its lovingly restored cottages, some with sensitive additions to their original historic architecture, is one of New Orleans’ many special, secret neighborhoods, more Caribbean than European. One front yard boasts a 5-foot cactus in full bloom, another a stand of bamboo worthy of an arboretum. There are front porches adorned with butterflies and front yards filled with chickens. And everywhere rose bushes, brilliant bougainvillea, even a tree stump filled with flowers.
It was around 5 p.m. and the streets were filled with people. Some were leaving Jazz Fest, as we were. Others were welcoming guests to their homes. Still others were setting up little tables of panama hats, or hand-made jewelry or food for sale, in anticipation of the first day’s closing around 7 p.m.
We exchanged random conversations and pleasantries with outgoing fellow pedestrians, incoming visitors, and the emerging, soon-to-be small-time entrepreneurs, one setting up his modest wares from a mechanized wheelchair. Because the one thing we know about our courteous city is that we all say good day, or how are you, or beautiful day, to one and all we encounter.
The vibe was wonderful. No hard sell along these neat, architecturally stunning, sweet streets. No big-time commerce. Just a little creative industry.
Some folk go home after a day like that, take a shower and go party til the wee hours. I have to admit, that’s not my style, never really was. I just fixed a light supper, had a beer and turned on the television.
I flipped through some news channels to encounter the ongoing story of the terrible Boston bombings, an update on the condition of the 8-year-old New Orleans boy caught in the crossfire of yet another local shooting, the paralysis of a 1-year-old baby when a gang shot up her family’s Harvey apartment.
That’s when I was reminded by one station’s anchoring couple that our city wished it to be known that all non-permitted street sales activity of any kind is illegal and subject to fines.
So, like I said, the first day of Jazz Fest was an almost perfect day.
Sharon Litwin is president of NolaVie.