Friday, April 18, 2008

Toasting the Triangle

Posted By on Fri, Apr 18, 2008 at 10:19 PM

“I got po-tay-toes and to-may-toes.”

The curiously cadenced voice rings out every Sunday morning, sometimes waking me up, sometimes accompanying my Rose Nicaud coffee and quiche, depending on the hour of last call the previous Saturday night.

“Corn on da cob. Apples and ba-nan-as.”

Blaring from a megaphone attached to a beat-up old pickup, the crackling advertisements to bleary-eyed Frenchmen Street denizens issue forth from Mr. Okra, a sort of one-man food co-op on wheels. Okra, in actuality a genial, elderly gentleman, traverses the Marigny Triangle each week loudly peddling grocery wares from the back of his truck bed: root vegetables, farm-fresh fruits and, naturally, his namesake gumbo ingredient.

Having lived in the area for less than four months, I’m already convinced there’s no other neighborhood in the city that’s as consistently entertaining as the Marigny — and nowhere else I’d rather rise every morning, voluntarily or otherwise. The one-bedroom sublet above Bicycle Michael’s that I rented in January runs its course this Sunday, and it’s gotten me to thinking of all the things I’ve come to love about the wholly bizarre faubourg: the mash-up of horns from Snug Harbor, Spotted Cat and d.b.a. that creates a soothing, white-noise background din at all times, or the way the corner of Frenchmen and Royal — with its outdoor tables luring passersby to pause for a bite or pint, while the setting sun splashes watercolor oranges and reds over the tangled shotgun cottages of the Triangle — more than a little resembles a European urban center.

And then there’s Cecil, the effortlessly kind panhandler who sits at the door to my alley, with whom I sometimes share takeout orders and bottles of beer at odd hours, until my presence begins to dissuade generous tourists from fishing in their pockets for change. When I recently was relegated to crutches for a month, I noticed Cecil (who has only one leg) eyeing my shiny new metal braces; they have since replaced his rickety old wooden ones. Once, short on cab fare, he hopped on the back of my Vespa for a ride to eastern New Orleans. “I could get used to this,” he said with a smile, the cool spring wind in his face.

To the every-day-is-different life in the Marigny, it seems I already have.


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