Scenes from a Balcony

Nestled behind giant clay pots of draping Boston fern and pink and blue petunias, I savor my second cup of dark-roast café au lait and the last few minutes before I leave for work. It's springtime in New Orleans, when the humidity's set in but not yet the heat, where life is vivid, vibrant, abundant-and whenever possible-lived outdoors.

From my balcony perch, through the Spanish wrought iron railing, I watch a white-aproned busboy sweep the banquette at a Mediterranean style sidewalk café before the late breakfast crowd arrives. A different busboy, same chore-carried out daily since the early 1800s when Bernard Xavier Philippe de Marigny de Mandeville divided his plantation into lots, paving the way for this café in Faubourg Marigny and the working-class families who settled the neighborhood in their Victorian shotguns, Creole cottages, and Georgian and Greek Revival homes.