New Orleans is made up of things both visible and invisible. It takes a certain kind of eye to appreciate all the various threads out of which any day in New Orleans is woven. I know. I live here. So does the ghost of Paul Morphy.
I know an Alaskan who sleeps at the bar. I don’t know his name. I don’t think anyone does.
I was on Paul Morphy Street one night. I’m not going to wax rhapsodic about it. I was walking the dog in the dark. It was a beautiful night full of star shine and serendipity, the way every night in New Orleans unfolds, even when the sky is overcast.
Paul Morphy Street is in the Fairgrounds Triangle, which is the part of New Orleans between Broad Street and the horse track, between Faubourg St. John and Gentilly and DeSaix. The Fairgrounds Triangle ends at Desaix Circle, where Desaix Avenue branches off St. Bernard Avenue.
Good old St. Bernard Avenue. It is the spine of the 7th Ward and a whole lot more. Like every street in New Orleans, like every story in New Orleans, St. Bernard Avenue is longer than the parts you know anything about. We live in a city as layered as an onion that will like likewise make you cry whether you feel sad or not. Sometimes, a person just has to cry when they are confronted with something beautiful. It is called the gift of tears.
I don’t know how much time Paul Morphy spent in the Fairgrounds Triangle or how much time he spent on St. Bernard Avenue. Probably very little. He was busy playing chess. The ghost of Paul Morphy is everywhere in New Orleans. It is like his ghost is forever out on patrol in the city. If you know what I mean, you know what I mean.
If you knew the ghost of Paul Morphy the way I know the ghost of Paul Morphy, you would know what I am talking about.
I had lunch with Serra, the masseuse, this afternoon. It was for business. Like every day nothing worked the way it should have so we are planning to meet next week in Bucktown to talk business. There won’t be anyone there to distract us. The Alaskan won’t be there.
The camera loves Serra the masseuse. Myself excluded, I have never met anyone who doesn’t love Serra the masseuse. There is something about the name Sarah, no matter how it is spelled. The sound a thread makes as it comes off the spinning wheel as it goes ’round and ’round sounds like Serra. You can hear it in the syllables.
I photograph as the ugly monster that I am in person. Oh, well. We have to play the hand we are dealt. Boxcars.
I asked Serra if she knows anything about Columbia Parc. She doesn’t. She wouldn’t.
Columbia Parc is on St. Bernard Avenue, just not the part that you know. It’s not in the 7th Ward. It’s in Pilotland.
It used to be called the St. Bernard Projects. Now it’s called Columbia Parc. It’s much prettier now.
I went up there today to get the lay of the land. I am very interested in St. Bernard Avenue recently for some reason. It happens to everyone at least once in their lives.
The sign says that Columbia Parc is “a bayou district community.” I looked around. What the heck does that mean? I’ll tell you. They’re trying to class up the neighborhood.
Bayou St. John is a couple of blocks away from this stretch of St. Bernard Avenue. A little further up, the neighborhood more lakeside up St. Bernard Avenue, is all millionaire’s mansions and waterfront property two blocks uptown from the street. Where Columbia Parc is located, the bayou is also nearby but the Juvenile Justice Intervention Center is in the way, juvie, as we used to say, and the LaFon Home, which is run by the Sisters of the Holy Family. This part of St. Bernard Avenue is nice enough. Spider Meat Market is there, but it wouldn’t exactly call this a bayou district neighborhood. Columbia Parc is as good a name as any.
If you ever meet someone from Colombia, the country, never spell Columbia with a ‘u.’ They hate that. To someone from Colombia, it’s Colombia and it shouldn’t be spelled any other way. They are proud of their heritage, as they should be. We are all New Orleanians. We are all in this together.
It is Columbia Parc. That’s French for St. Bernard Projects. It’s a very nice neighborhood. I’d live there. Nothing is nicer than having good neighbors. I know. I live in New Orleans.
The ghost of Paul Morphy can see what is going on here. Anyone with a pulse can. This is real New Orleans.
Trying to explain New Orleans to you is like trying to explain every tangled strand in a plate of spaghetti. Don’t even get me started on the red gravy!
At first, I was self-conscious about my fingerless hand-warmers. They are too 1980s for my taste and they don’t really fit with my usual Barnum-esque attire. I’ve gotten nothing but compliments, however. Everyone says, “They really suit you, Mr. King.” I think they are tired of hearing me complain about how my hands are always cold. I have to admit I am enjoying them. They are very comfortable and they really do keep my fingers warm, even though they are fingerless. You would know if we ever have the chance to hold hands, which I do not encourage. Be careful what you wish for. I enjoy being standoffish. Life is full of mysteries that cannot always be explained. Formality is underrated.
Paul Morphy knew. Paul Morphy’s ghost haunts my part of New Orleans. His old home is down the street from mine. Louis Gottschalk used to live down the street, too. I currently share my part of Esplanade Avenue with Anthony Mackie. His house is diagonally across the street from La Belle Esplanade. I have never seen Anthony Mackie at The Flagpole but I understand he spends most of his time in Hollywood.
Hollywood for money. Hollygrove for love. Eric lives in Hollygrove but that is a story for another day. Today is dedicated to the ghost of Paul Morphy.
Hollygrove is in the 17th Ward. Anthony Mackie’s house is on the side of Esplanade Avenue that is in the 7th Ward. My side of the street is the 6th Ward. We are all New Orleanians, in this together. The ghost of Paul Morphy haunts us all. Lil Wayne is from Hollygrove. I have yet to meet Lil Wayne. Maybe some day.
This morning, hours before I met up with Serra the masseuse to talk about business over lunch and watch the guy from Alaska sleep in public without any shame over snoring in public, I took a walk around La Belle Esplanade’s block with Buck and D’Lynn. We took that walk with the ghost of Paul Morphy keeping us company. The city of New Orleans is a combination of the visible and the invisible.
Come see for yourself. I know where you should stay. You should Visit New Orleans like you live here. You should stay at La Belle Esplanade. You are on the right website. You should Visit New Orleans like you mean it. Good memories are made on our street every day. You deserve to make some for yourself. We’re here for you.