Saturday, September 1, 2007

Labor Day Weekend

Wandered around 'my' neighborhood in New Orleans last night, which is oddly surreal on a few levels, all of which are by definition are below the surface of reality. Firstly, it's the fact that two years ago this was all under water, at least a few feet deep. It's an odd notion, that of having once been able to swim where one now walks. Another is that this part of the city is, in places, supremely beautiful. The houses are old, with a splendour only befitting of a city that isn't quite imperial, but is a rather wealthy spot in the midst of an empire. It speaks of attainable grandeur, of business success, and not so much of glory as of a life well lived. Walking past these ivy-covered houses, one will occasionally see a church, magnificent as a miniature cathedral and spires that can only ask one to believe something incredible must be there driving force. One gets to this area only a few blocks after walking past overgrown sidewalks and more plebian shotgun house duplexes. The contrast is good, and it has all the feel of a city that is lived in, that is to be lived in, and that has been lived in for a goodly time.

The last point of note was the Jewish Cemetery we stumbled across. It was an old one, full of the above-ground graves that are so startling at first. The fence was open but we were the only people there. At least, the only people who still drew breath. We sang, in a way that sounds trite but managed to encompass hymns and spirituals and then carols, but also had plenty of room for modern pop songs and dancing without spectators. It was again surreal, being in this place of the dead in the city trying to be reborn while being so full of life. It was ripe with transition, the play of early teen-hood opening up room for a transition into another, more quietly respectful, frame of mind.

Upon leaving, we passed by the row of child graves. Many had only pet names, some were unnamed, and one at least died in 1876. It's odd, seeing the tiny bit of land, and knowing that this child would have been too old to be a great grandparent.

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