New Orleans: biking the greenway in misty rain
A bike escape through our old city. We were visiting for a friend's wedding that included a second line and ballroom dancing.
It was an early rainy morning as we rode down Camp Street, making the rookie mistake of going through the French Quarter. In previous years, I would have gone up Poydras, turning right on Loyola (granted this route has it’s own downsides) but it connects to Basin, which takes you to Mid-city, but instead we crossed Canal like a bullet, muddling through the French Quarter, almost crashing into tourists (well, mostly me), my partner seemed fine. Our bikes were electric and every time I peddled forward, it sped quickly, something I’m not used to, since I mostly ride manual. I’ve used electric bikes before, but not in overly congested areas with the fear of street cars and random people crossing the street without looking. The last time was on the way to the cute little town of Eguisheim, France where me and my sister biked on wide roads with vineyards following our view.
We dodged vans parking or blocking the street on Chartres, passing the stores in burgundy, forest green, and brown hues, perceived as blurs below an opaque sky; some were closed since it was early. I had seen the city this way before, but it was almost gone from my memory. “Nothing spectacular to see here folks,” just people on their way to work. In the distance, I saw St. Louis Cathedral facing Jackson Square. I thought of it as our destination flag. But then we realized we biked too far down, stopping in front of the cathedral to check the map. A few buskers sat on benches, with gloomy faces, some talking to friends under the cathedral’s arch; they had surprised faces as they saw us zoom into the plaza, making us feel like lost tourists. It was a thin crowd compared to most sunny mornings. It was Saturday, but it felt like a somber Sunday. We turned back and made a right on St. Peter, crossing pot holes, avoiding cars and people. This seemed like a video game of “avoid the pothole, otherwise your wheels pop off!” as jagged, twisted concrete, appeared under puddles of rain. There was a giant pothole that I couldn’t avoid, because of a car on my right, so my bike dipped low, as I stood up on the petals trying to avoid the impact. The water splashed on my feet. I cringed my teeth when this suddenly became mountain biking in the rain.
In front us, we saw a cleaning crew with a large absorption machine, hosing the sidewalks from last night’s debauchery. I feared he’d splash the remnants of garbage near us. He stopped cleaning the when he saw us, and we were free to pass. I followed my partner as he rode quickly through Rampart, after the light changed, toward Basin through a hidden corner (near Congo Square). I had been here before—biked up Basin so many times. Passing Louis Armstrong Park, seeing the gates, brought back memories of me cutting through the parking lot, on those crowded days. During afternoon rides, I’d cut through Galvez Street, but this time we went through the Lafitte Greenway with Lemann pool on our right (once upon a time we swam there just before a thunderstorm). The path was lined with tall stalks of native hydrophytic plants, that survive in aquatic environments, essential for storm management (reeds galore). Further in, live oaks, bald cypresses, southern magnolias, and pecan trees filled our view. More growth was evident, since last time, even the makeshift farm ahead had expanded. The greenway has been a transportation corridor for the city since 1794, though mostly as a shipping and railroad corridor, until the 1970s when new ideas to repurpose the land began blossoming. We curved up Moss Street to City Park. I saw the tracks for the red train that leaves from Carousel Garden, usually filled with kids and families. There were no trains today.
We parked our bikes, happy to be free of their bulky weight. Electric bikes were no longer fun when there wasn’t much ground to cover; it just became how to avoid obstacles. We walked to The Singing Oak or the big tree with wind chimes. Before we could see it, we spotted our friend sitting under the tree with beach chairs. We hugged, after not seeing each other, since before Covid appeared. We talked about our recent ceremony, living situation, work stuff, future plans, and my she mentioned recent conversations about labor unions; how they're plagued with corruption and disorganization; many not following their original mission to protect workers and remain independent from their corporate overlords, ignoring worker demands for higher wages, decent work hours, and benefits. Unions most often then not are tied to the business they’re supposed to be policing. This made me think about DC passing Initiative 82 that eliminates the city’s “tipped minimum” wage, increasing minimum pay for tipped workers (more cities should follow—ahem, including New Orleans).
We sat there feeling the misty rain sweep over our faces. My rain jacket’s hoodie helped, but after a while, my shoulders were caving and my fingers were cold, so we drove to Morning Call for some beignets and hot chocolate.
Electric bikes are fun and useful when you’re in a rush, especially as how we had to make it back to shower, nap, and get dressed for the nightly festivities. But still, I missed my manual bike, and the slow moments to contemplate, more control maneuvering through traffic, and also oddly enough my thighs weren’t burning from soreness. It was as if I just zoomed by.
Catch me reading some poems in Moco Underground December 15 (register here). My film essay about FRESH is now up on the queer, fem-centric magazine, Slay Away. It's part film analysis and part memoir.
Some cool writing, editing, opportunities:
jmww lit mag is searching for an Associate Flash Editor and Associate CNF Editor
Ploughshares Blog is looking for critical & personal essays
Arc Poetry Mag wants poems, prose, essays, and reviews from writers with disabilities and those have experienced ableism
Thanks for reading sundial/ravine!