The poetic city: “Where the Sidewalk Ends – Your Life”

The sidewalks of New Orleans. (Photo by: Folwell Dunbar)









Editor’s Note: The following series “Car-free Commute” is a week-long series curated by Erica Casareno as part of the Digital Research Internship Program in partnership with ViaNolaVie. The DRI Program is a Newcomb Insitute technology initiative for undergraduate students combining technology skillsets, feminist leadership, and the digital humanities.

Car-free transportation in the Big Easy is hardly ever care-free. For the New Orleanian without a car, figuring out the best mode of transit from home to to the grocery can feel as challenging as choosing what recipe to make. Amid time-shortages, potholes, frequent showers, and Louisiana heat, choosing the best form of car-less transit can be tricky. This grouping of articles explores and appreciates the different forms of transit in New Orleans, no driver’s license or car necessary.

For those of us who choose to walk, strolling through New Orleans can sometimes feel like an obstacle course. Folwell Dunbar’s “Where The Sidewalk Ends-Your Life,” originally published on NolaVie on May 6, 2019, lightheartedly jabs at the city’s less than perfect sidewalks. 

Where the Sidewalk Ends Your Life

With potholes the size of great crater lakes

And debris as varied as Mardi Gras king cakes,

New Orleans streets are infamously cruel

They make axles weep and chiropractors drool.

But their adjacent sidewalks are equally perilous;

They make pedestrians cautious and woefully querulous.

Pockmarked, bowed, broken and cracked,

They too are accessories after the fact.

With fissures deeper than the Marianna Trench,

They’re mean and nasty like a Christmas Grinch.

They twist ankles, fracture skulls and stub big toes;

They cause locals and tourists the most dreadful woes.

NOLA sidewalks are really cement bastinados

Obviously designed by X-Game aficionados,

Or Galloping Gertie’s inept engineers

After a night on Bourbon Street drinking Huge Ass Beers.

Pushed up by the roots of ancient live oak trees

Or the sprouting towers of bald cypress knees,

The shoddy cement quakes, quivers and cracks

Like the twisting path of BMX tracks.

Missing sewer lids form Burmese tiger traps,

Resulting in the most unfortunate mishaps.

Entire families have been know to disappear

Only the brave (and bendy) can persevere!

Littered with brickbats from some old broken stoop,

Vagrants, tree limbs, and K9 poop,

Carnival beads, go-cups, and half-eaten beignets

Our sidewalks invoke the most awful malaise.

With Evel Knievel ramps next to every tree

And curbs anointed with bad gris-gris,

Our walkways are better suited for ATV’s

Or perhaps an intrepid Lindsey Vonn on skis.

It takes Bear Grylls’ skills to traverse our asphalt,

Carabiners, rope and a long pole-vault,

A surefooted Sherpa from old Kathmandu,

And the prehensile tail of a kinkajou.

In that famous poem by Shel Silverstein,

The sidewalk’s end cannot be seen;

But here in New Orleans, there’s no need to wonder,

It ends in a cemetery six feet under!

Folwell Dunbar is an educator, writer and NOLA sidewalk survivor. He can be reached at


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