Often times, when people are asked the question ďwhat do you think of when you think of New Orleans,Ē you expect to hear a few routine answers.† Something about the great food, the French Quarter, or Mardi Gras is usually a pretty safe bet.† However, as a delivery driver and lifelong resident of the Crescent City, one of the things that I often think about is the traffic problems that are associated with any number of reasons, from poor street layout to bad drivers.†
One intersection that particularly catches my eye is one that I drive through at least twice every day, on my way to and from work, and it is at the corner of City Park Avenue and Canal Street/Boulevard.† Known as a site for many wrecks and breakdowns over the years, this one always stands out to me as one of the worst.† In a way, I guess it is kind of indicative of the kind of city that we live in, and Iíd like to explain why, so I invite you the reader to come along with me as I attempt to explain why.
††††††††††† I suppose that one of the most vivid pictures that I have of the intersection is the scene of it at early morning, as Iím going to work.† Traffic being held up by cumbersome RTA busses that canít figure out how to make the turn, along with agitated adults and teen-agers, desperately trying to make it to work and school before being late.† I sit back in my 1992 Ford Probe and try to relax, wondering that maybe if our people didnít have such a laizze-le-bon-temps-roule attitude about things and didnít wait until the last minute to rush to their destination, then the traffic jam may not be so bad.† Anyway, my prior knowledge of the condition of this intersection has made me know to prepare for it by leaving for work early every day.† So while yuppies in Lexuses and expensive SUVís honk their horns and beat their steering wheels in frustration trying to make it into the CBD for work, I ease my seat back, pop in my favorite Al Jarreau CD, and relax because itís all good.†
††††††††††† The afternoon brings about a quite different view of the intersection than the terminal gridlock that reigned supreme in the morning.† Now the intersection is relatively peaceful, with traffic flowing freely.† As my boss and I pass through the light and onto City Park Avenue, I begin to look at the cemeteries that lie on all corners of the intersection.† Although I see them every day, I always think about them, and how fitting it is to have them in this area.† At this time, they seem to fit the mood because traffic is peaceful and undisturbed, much like the tenants of the cemetery.† However, other times it fits because of the many traffic accidents that I have witnessed over the years.† All the times that I have seen banged-up vehicles, with people gathered around them, and the sights and sounds of ambulance and NOPD sirens as they rush to assist the victims as I drive by and quietly mouth a prayer that no one has been badly hurt or killed rush back to my head.† Surely it is a place where one must be careful when one drives through Lakeview.† Almost as quickly as these memories come back to me they suddenly leave.† I look at the clock in my bossesí Explorer and it reads 3:30, just another hour and a half or so before knock-off time.† Besides, David Tyree has just interrupted yet another caller on his WWL talk show, an occurrence which never fails to make my boss and I laugh, so we ride on to our next destination without another thought on the intersection.†††
††††††††††† Now it is 5:30 P.M., time to go home.† My boss has just dropped my off, so I hop into my Probe, put in a little Bruce Hornesby for the ride home, and head down South Bernodotte Street.† As I turn left onto Canal Boulevard, it is almost as if the scene from the morning has been re-created.† Only this time, rather than heading into town, the cars are logjammed heading westbound.† Inevitably, someone who wants to get on the interstate ends up in the wrong lane and holds everyone else up while they sit there with their blinker on, thinking that someone will actually let them in.† This day is no different, but I tell myself that I am almost home anyway, so it really doesnít bother me too much.† People are going crazy in front of me, blowing their horns and shouting, but I really donít understand why.† It isnít going to help them get home to Metairie any sooner, and why would anyone want to get back to Kenner anytime soon.† Are they really dying to get home so that they can hear airplanes fly over their heads?† Ah well, Bruce has just hit his piano solo in his smash hit ďEvery Little Kiss,Ē and my heart immediately jumps to thoughts of my girlfriend Jen, who is in San Francisco at the time.† Just the thought of her makes me smile, despite the madness that surrounds me.† It is enough to keep my mind off all of the previous headaches that I may have experienced as I slowly plod through the intersection, creeping ever so slowly back home.†
††††††††††† Itís 8:30 AM. on a chilly Friday morning.† As Iím walking toward the intersection to catch the bus, Iím filled with mixed emotions.† On the one hand, Iím happy because Iím not in class today.† On the other hand, however, the thought of having to wait for the bus at the corner of Canal and City Park early in the morning to get to work does not exactly thrill me.† As I approach the bus stop near Par 4ís and Parkway Tavern, the pungent odor of stale beer and puke being cleaned off of the sidewalk nearly bowls me over.† As I move past, I begin to think about all of the people who must have been there for ladiesí night, getting drunk and spilling beer all over one another.† It is a scene that I have seen many times over, whether it be at a Saints game or the Endymion Extravaganza.† I realize now just how important the consumption of alcohol is to the lives of a typical New Orlenian.† No matter what the occasion, be it a sporting event, parade, or even an evening out with the guys, alcohol is seemingly never in short supply.† Through all of these thoughts I suddenly realize why kids from Tulane University go so crazy when the come down here.† I guess when you come from places where liquor is tightly controlled, sending a teen-ager from Greenwich, Connecticut down to New Orleans for college is like turning a kid loose in a candy store.† Itís amazing the images one conjures up when taking in this intersection.
††††††††††† After several minutes of walking and thinking, I finally get to the bus stop near the corner of Canal Boulevard and City Park Avenue.† There are three buses there when I arrive, two Canal buses and an Esplanade bus.† As usual, there is not a bus driver to be found when I show up, and I start a conversation with an elderly woman who, like me, is a little put out at having to wait to get on.† We talk about the inefficiency of the bus system, and she rants and raves about having to wait all the time for buses and about how incompetent the drivers are.† I agree with her and tell her in reply about all of my problems with the streetcars on St. Charles Avenue.† Although it may be considered sacrilege to talk bad about such a proud New Orleans icon, to be fair I must bring up the bad side of taking the streetcar.† Actually, the streetcar is not that bad, and can actually be quite pleasant if you are a tourist who has no set time schedule to follow and just wants a relaxing ride through what is, for the most part, a beautiful part of town.† However, if you are an employee running late for work or, as I once was, a student at Tulane University with no other means of getting to class, the slow crawl of the streetcar can be an annoying, lingering pain in the neck.† She agrees with me on this fact, and, just as I am about to strengthen my argument by telling her about the time that I outran a streetcar (which is probably not too terrible difficult), a bus driver appears from around the other side of the bus, smiles, and lets us in.† Almost instantly, the woman and I smile, say ďhello,Ē and board the bus.† As I sit down, I ponder what has just happened and it leads me to one of the many qualities that I love about our city.† Only a few minutes earlier, I had been venting my frustrations about the RTA with a woman whom I had never even met.† However, as soon as the driver shows up, it is as if all has been forgiven.† The driver seems pleasant, and the woman and I are just happy to be moving.† The laid-back attitude and ability to easily forgive are qualities that I have long admired about the residents on New Orleans, and is certainly something Iíd miss if I ever moved away.† As we pull off from the bus stop and start down Canal Street, I take one last look back at the intersection, and sit amazed at the spectrum of emotions about the Crescent City that it stirs up.
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