On a lumpy residential street in the 7th Ward, Amanda Pumilia and I pull over in the toaster-shaped fiberglass van and mobile kennel driven by humane law enforcement officers in New Orleans. A chicken saunters across the street as Pumilia peers into the rugged laptop mounted beside the driver’s seat and frowns.
We’re here to investigate an alleged dog bite case, and Pumilia rattles off the details to me: a blue house, two dogs, a man walking on the sidewalk, a bite to the face. In the picture she shows me, there’s a shallow laceration on the man’s chin.
“Bite cases get a little hinky,” she tells me, on our way to the scene. “Every time an animal bites a person, there’s a rabies quarantine that’s supposed to happen … even though the threat of rabies is minor, it’s still there.”
As Pumilia looks around, a problem becomes apparent: there’s no blue house. But nearby, we can hear the telltale woof-woof of several dogs.
At 12:45 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon, Rodney Thomas is dealing roulette. Three men — one with a Budweiser, one with a brown cocktail in a plastic cup — are saddled up in the chairs surrounding the felt-covered table, clearly having a far better time than anyone is generally entitled to on weekdays. Though Thomas just stepped up to the table a few minutes ago, relieving another dealer who was on duty, he’s already formed a bond with the guys. He says something that makes them break up in guffawing, backslapping laughter, before they turn their attention to the table's grid of worn-in numbers, ready to stack their chips in enigmatic patterns.
Like Prince once said, there’s joy in repetition. Think of a chef, working the line in his restaurant night after night; a chess master, reaching to select a pawn for her first move; a basketball player shooting free throw after free throw on an empty court. Repetition is the key to mastery, “flow,” the elusive art of moving without thinking.
That’s what I think about, sitting with pilot Troy Delaney in the glass-windowed pilot house of the steamboat Natchez, little wavelets crumpling the river’s surface way below us. Delaney has been steering the Natchez for 12 years, working five days a week, making three voyages a day. Even considering the month or so the boat spends in “lay-up,” when it stops service for painting and other maintenance, that’s as many as 720 trips over the course of a year, making the run downriver toward Chalmette Battlefield, where the Natchez turns around, and back.
Delaney knows everything about the boat and almost as much about the glassy bends of the river. Together, they form a tranquil kingdom he takes pride in leading.
As chatter about Airbnb, gentrification and volatile rental markets flies fast and thick, a new exhibit at the Tulane School of Architecture's Tulane City Center/Small City Center (1725 Baronne St.) examines affordable housing issues in New Orleans.
Rather than focusing on what makes the city unusual or exceptional, this exhibit places local housing challenges in a broader national and international context.
“There are many ways New Orleans suffers from, and rises to, the same challenges as many other cities,” center public programs manager Sue Mobley says. “(Calling it exceptional creates) a write-off of learning from others.”
Waymon Morris and I sit on the bench-style conductor’s seat as the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park train pulls out of the station, into the dappled lawns and mossy shade of New Orlean City Park. The engine rattles crazily underneath us, like a piece of high-powered farm equipment or someone’s fixer-upper car that hasn’t yet been blessed with a muffler. Morris points to the timer on the rudimentary dashboard, which helps drivers know if they’re keeping pace with the train’s typical runtime, and pulls the shrill whistle, warning any wandering toddlers, errant ducks or distracted drivers of our approach on the 2-mile track. From the conductor’s perch, the whistle is so loud it could pop an eardrum, but literally everyone we pass — infants in Baby Bjorns, picnickers, a grandma out for a stroll with her Shih Tzus — smiles and waves.
“I don’t care how old you are,” Morris half-confides, over the chuff and rumble of the engine. “Everyone loves the train.”
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