After Hurricane Katrina, Matt Bell worked in the U.S Forest Service, setting up temporary camps for rescue organizations. He was also busking, playing guitar in the streets for tips. His band members did not want the forestry service to transfer him anywhere else, and believed he’d stay in New Orleans if he fell in love. So, they arranged a blind date at a Klezmer show with Joy Patterson. Now Matt and Joy make music together.
Before moving to New Orleans, Joy had been a professional chef in New York City. Recruited to cook for first-responders at Ground Zero after 9/11, she developed lung disease. Friends who’d moved to New Orleans encouraged her to follow. After meeting Matt, she quit cooking and started singing.
Four years ago, they moved to a bungalow in Holy Cross a block from the Industrial Canal. The canal geographically separates Holy Cross from Bywater, so their lives have become much quieter. Lately, there’s been a big influx of younger people to the neighborhood, particularly Country and Americana musicians, Joy said, so the “green crescent” near the Industrial Canal has taken on the moniker, “Little Nashville.”
“I love that I know all of my neighbors, and that we’re friends,” Joy said, noting that the majority on her block are single ladies who keep an eye out for one another.
From their house, they continually hear the sound of horns from trains, ships, and the St. Claude Avenue Bridge. The bell clangs whenever the 1919 drawbridge is raised, allowing tall ships to pass from the Mississippi to Lake Borgne multiple times a day. Living so close has helped her grasp the “enormous” importance of the Industrial Canal. “It’s thrilling,” she said.
“Water is a huge reason to live here. Walking on the levee is a lifesaver,” said Joy who as a child spent a lot of time on Cape Cod with her grandmother. “It makes city living possible.”
As she and Matt walked their dogs, Ladybird and Ferdinand, along the levee at dusk Saturday night, a shrimp boat slid out from under the bridge to go night fishing.
“Have you noticed that amazing Blue Heron that’s been hanging out here at sunset?”