Of course, the other reason this time of year is difficult is because of the anniversary or Katrina. Last night, my husband and I walked a few blocks to pick up some barbecue at The Joint on Poland Avenue. It's right next to the Naval Support Activities building. It had rained all the day -- dreary and steady, more suitable to the Northwest than here -- and to the west, the sky was a sliver of brilliant blue, and clouds just above that golden and pink, and then gray covering the rest of the heavens. A breeze blew down Royal Street, and the temperature was just such that I considered needing a sweater. Odd for a late August evening. It definitely hinted at fall.
In short, the beauty of it had me smiling as I walked, thinking nothing could be more beautiful than Bywater right then. Katrina changed a lot of things, but probably the thing it sparked most, for me, was the pride and contentment I feel just being here. Katrina became my sort of near-death experience. Coming back after, I realized how precious this place was.
Precious, yes. Perfect, no.
Here are six things that still need fixing -- five years later -- in Bywater.
- I have to drive a minimum of twenty minutes to get groceries. We still have no nearby, full-service grocery store. Sav-a-lot works most of the time, but they sell neither booze, nor artichoke hearts -- frozen, canned, or marinated.
- Restaurant Mandich never came back, and we don't have our own, old-school New Orleans restaurant anymore. God, I miss their oysters bordelaise.
- Brown-outs still happen more than they ought to.
- My backyard is still filled with cut-up wood from trees that fell during the storm.
- No pecan tree within the united space of my block's backyards has grown to fruiting age. We had a massive one that had nuts on it every year before.
- More people decided they wanted to move into my neighborhood because it doesn't flood. It's losing that small-town feel, little by little, that I loved so much. People worry less about crime and more about condos.
Regardless of the above... When I drive home from work each afternoon, I have to cross railroad tracks right before coming back into the Bywater. Crossing those tracks is like a switch. When my tires thump-thump over them, I remember why I live here, I relax, and the outside world -- that which exists north of St. Claude Avenue and south of the river, east of the Industrial Canal and west of the tracks -- fades away. I hope everyone has the same feeling in their own neighborhood. I wouldn't trade it for anything.