Tuesday, April 15, 2008

New Orleans: Loving memories of a place distroyed

New Orleans: loving memories of a place destroyed

By: Ken LaRive

My travels back to New Orleans since Katrina shows only fragile skeletal remains in my old Gentilly neighborhood, and the people who were the heart and soul of that city are gone.

Running through the center of our world was Elysian Fields Avenue, and it was truly the perfect name. Laced on every side by massive live oaks, I drove my 66’ Mustang with the love of my life as co-pilot, and she still is. Her face was lit by the moment as we laughed and sang the tunes of WTIX and WNOE. They are memories deeply buried, and my most cherished possessions.

Ponchartrain Beach was kicking full swing in the 60’s, and as I lived just 10 blocks away, I knew every midway crack. Twice a night, at 19:00 and 22:00 there was a live show from the roof of the beach concession stand. Everything from diving donkeys, popular singers, Magicians, and dancers in colorful costume, created a true variety show. Men would direct high powered lights from long polls on the stage, amazing a thousand spellbound kids.

On the brackish breeze that blew over the seawall and beach were the sounds of children’s laughter. The tic-tic-tic of the Zephyr going up its wooden frame, turnstiles clinking coins, and the glass encased fortune teller who moved and spoke magically for a nickel, still lingers in my memory. The electric shock on the penny arcade’s hand-lever determined if we were man enough, and the air spray from the floor of the haunted house blew up summer dresses all in fun. There are, at least, a million smaller recollections, and all are still alive in our collective dimension of memory. On the now barren tarmac, lovers still stroll arm and arm, and in my minds eye I can still see my sister Cindy running with a great fluff of pink cotton candy, almost as large as she was.

I’m not alone in my memories, and though we are all displaced by both time and tragedy, those moments still live on in our minds. There is an eco blowing in the few palm trees to have survived there, at the base of Elysian Fields: “At the beach, at the beach, at Ponchartrain Beach, you’ll have fun; you’ll have fun; every day of the week!” You see, the old days are still alive, and they fad in and out of our daily lives no matter where we find ourselves. New Orleans is gone but not forgotten.

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