Braille in New Orleans

You’ll find writing in Braille in some surprising places in New Orleans, not just on ATM machines.  Braille script is those dots next to the numbers on an ATM’s keyboard, if you’ve ever wondered.  Braille is a tactile script, meaning it is meant to be read by being felt by the fingertips rather than seen, though there is no reason a person cannot sight-read Braille.  It isn’t a language like Esperanto.  Braille can be written in any language, but it is an invented typeface, one designed to enable the vision-impaired to read books.  Howzit working in the internet age?  I don’t know, but I assume there’s an audio component workaround.

All that I know about Braille I learned from Little House on the Prairie, not the book version by Laura Ingalls Wilder, but the TV version.

If you are more than a bit younger than your humble narrator, that clip probably doesn’t mean much to you.  Little House on the Prairie was a television show broadcast (!) between 1974 and 1983.  That’s quite a run.  If my faulty memory is correct, and my memory leaves a lot out the older I get, every episode involved a tragedy of some sort.  The clip above encapsulates the general tenor of the show.  There weren’t any sexy vampires.

Little House on the Prairie was set in the town of Walnut Grove, Minnesota.  Walnut Grove, Minnesota is the opposite of New Orleans, Louisiana.

This isn’t to say nothing tragic happens in New Orleans.  Google what happened in New Orleans in 2005 for a big tragedy if you don’t know about that one already.  Small tragedies happen all the time in New Orleans, too, every day and every night.  These small tragedies tend not to disrupt the regular flow of contentedness that courses through the streets.  If I could pick one word to define New Orleans, this would be it: “Celebratory.”  New Orleans celebrates itself, its people, and its culture, every day in every way.  New Orleans celebrates life.  It is truly an amazing blessing to be able to live here.

It’s also a blessing to be able to share what it is like to live here.

We don’t live in a little house on the prairie.  We live in a big house right smack in the middle of the length of Esplanade Avenue in New Orleans.  2216 Esplanade Avenue, to be exact.  Our boutique inn’s address is an equal distance between the French Quarter and Frenchmen Street in one direction, and City Park and the New Orleans Museum of Art, in the other direction.

La Belle Esplanade
La Belle Esplanade is the orange house in the middle

What does any of this have to do with Braille?  I’m glad you asked.  See the mounds in our featured image at the start of today’s installment?  At the end of our street is City Park.  Esplanade Avenue turns into Lelong Drive after the gateway at the park’s entrance.  Lelong Drive has a neutral ground, as most important and scenic streets in New Orleans do.  In the middle of Lelong Drive’s neutral ground is a sequence of rounded grassy mounds.  The mounds just gently rise out of the surrounding turf without explanation.  A blind person in an airplane could tell what they mean.

The mounds are arranged in Braille so that they spell out: C-I-T-Y P-A-R-K.

I answer this question a few times a week: “What are those mounds in front of the art museum?”

A:  “They spell out City Park in Braille”

Q:  “Why?  Blind people can’t read them.”

A:  “I don’t think they’re there to inform the visually impaired that they are suddenly in City Park.  I dunno why they’re there.”

I suppose I could ask the docents who man the admission desk at the museum.  I’m sure this is some public environmental art masterpiece.  What could the docents tell me about them?  The artist got a grant?  My opinions on most public sculpture are well documented in the archives of La Belle Esplanade’s previous blog.  There is no need for me to belabor them in this new format (yet—there’s a new sculpture installation on Poydras Street that’s got me scratching my noggin every time I pass it on my motor scooter).

I rarely listen to the kind of music that played during that Little House on the Prairie montage above.  Let’s listen to a little New Orleans music before we conclude today’s episode.

While you’re listening to that, here is a picture of the Braille mounds as they are usually paid attention to:

Bicyclist on Lelong Drive
Bicyclist on Lelong Drive

Most people just pass by them without really minding them.  There’s no real reason to mind them unless you know Braille and you’re crawling on your hands and knees up the neutral ground to the art museum.  Or, you’re in a low-flying airplane.

It’s beautiful in City Park.  I haven’t seen any other signs of Braille up there, not that that would detract from the park’s natural beauty.  I usually go up to City Park twice a day.  Once is before any of our guests are awake so I can walk our dog first thing in the morning. The second time is after breakfast when I take our dog for his second walk of the day.  We go far back in the park, in the wildest part, the part where I saw a skunk ape a few months back.

Most of our guests, whether they read Braille or not, visit City Park at least once during their stay with us.  It’s a real gem of a place.  It’s bigger than Central Park in New York City and it’s much, much less crowded.

If you choose to stay with us, I’ll tell you how to get there.  It’s a short walk.  In fact, I’ll tell you now: Take a left out our front door.

You can’t get lost in New Orleans.

À votre santé,

La Belle Esplanade

where every morning is a curated breakfast salon.

June 30, 2016.  It’s hot and humid today in New Orleans and everything is coming up smelling like magnolias.