You know what the French say: “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” The more things change, the more they stay the same. Times change in New Orleans. Let’s take a look at how Western Union is promoting its services at the bus stop up the street from our inn, at the corner of N. Broad Avenue and Esplanade Avenue:
There is something new in store at Winn Dixie. Winn Dixie is a supermarket chain based in the southern U.S. They have two outlets in New Orleans. I don’t shop there, myself, and I know a lot of people who won’t shop there. It isn’t Schwegmann’s, which was the local New Orleans supermarket for years. Schwegmann’s is gone now. Most of the people I know shop at Rouses, which is the closest to a large airy local supermarket as we can get.
All of this discussion of New Orleans supermarket market share is fascinating, isn’t it?
You can read the dry description of Western Union’s history on Wikipedia if you choose to. You can also read about it’s fictional incarnation in books written by Henry Miller. He always referred to Western Union, a company for which he worked for awhile, as “The Cosmodemonic Telegraph Company.” I’ve never either received nor sent a telegram. I tried once but by that time Western Union had gotten out of the telegram business. Who wouldn’t want to receive a telegram? It would be like getting extra special mail, even if was bad news (a telegram always contained bad news according to popular wisdom) it would be important news. Of course, you would feel obligated to tip the messenger, even if he was delivering bad news, and people don’t like to tip. That’s one reason people tell us they like Uber so much: no tips expected even for exemplary service.
I saw the ad on the side of the bus stop the other day and it reminded me that Western Union used to own a big building down in the city’s Central Business District (CBD). The company should have owned it, they built it and they occupied it for a number of decades.
I don’t go to the CBD often, but when I’m on Carondolet Street I always stop to look at the Western Union Building because it’s impressive, if squat, and it represents a different day in age when a telegram was the fastest way to transmit information from one person to another. Those days are gone. Email didn’t kill the telegram, that was the telephone, but email buried the telegram.
Times change in New Orleans. You can’t go to Schwegmann’s, which had a bar in every market, you can’t get a telegram, and you can’t go to a K&B Pharmacy anymore. Instead of K&B (famous for it’s K&B purple), you have to go to Rite Aid, or Walgreens, or CVS. I get my prescriptions filled at Broadview Pharmacy, three blocks away from our house, but that’s another story for another day.
This is what the old Western Union Building looks like today:
Amazingly, the building is not being turned into a hotel. Nowadays, it seems like every project in the CBD is turning an old building into an upscale “lifestyle” hotel. The Western Union Building is being turned into condominiums. That’s nice. More people should live in the CBD.
There’s no dearth of new apartment projects in the CBD, or in the rest of New Orleans, for that matter. More and more people are living, and visiting, the city’s former commercial office building core. I hope the renovation they’re doing on the Western Union Building will include replacing the H in ‘Telegraph” that fell off years ago.
Times change in New Orleans. If you listen to the mayor, things are getting better every day. Many things are. That noted, a lot of the old buildings and the old traditions in the city are staying the same, at least on the outside.
You have never visited a city like New Orleans. It really is magical here. We live here and we love where we live. You’ll love New Orleans, too. It’s an easy city to love. When you love New Orleans, the city will treat you the same right back, like being dealt a Royal Flush with all aces. Trust me when I say this. I’ve seen it happen over and over, day after day, night after night, all year round.
If you want to learn more about New Orleans, about what is the same as before and what is better than before, and even about what is questionably worse, stay with us. We talk about New Orleans every day over breakfast.
À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade
…where every morning is a curated salon of fresh local foods and fresh local conversations.
Monday, July 25, 2016: Not much going on today by New Orleans standards, which means there is plenty going on.