Spirits of Place: New Orleans

In honor of our Breaking Waves launch this week, I thought I’d post my story about New Orleans on the Spirits of Place day here at BVC blog central.

Leaving the Land of Allegory
by Sue Lange

“Above all else,” the man had said, “remember that cajun is white and zydeco is black.” Keep that in mind for a full enjoyment of what follows.

“If I can’t build it with my own hands, using technology I understand, I don’t like it,” she said.

So they left for the land of Alleghories1 where balconies of filigree surround the second floors.

Down in the yards, the trees grew tall like giant pineapples and water fountains were everywhere even in the poor neighborhoods. Every restaurant had a patio garden and its flock of sparrows.

Store windows with 50 dollar posters of Ella and Miles sold homemade six inch dolls—you know what those are for—and ten dollar boxes of two cent praline pecans.

They dutifully visited Congo Square, roped off in the manner of national monuments that attest to the American free spirit. Next to Louis Armstrong Park grew a huge tree, shaped like a Bhodi, but this isn’t India, it’s the land of Alleghories so it wasn’t a Bhodi. However, at its base, just outside Congo Square, somebody had left oranges, bananas and other fruits as if saying we will do as we please because this is the heart of it all, after all. And this may not be a Bhodi tree, but it looks like one so we’ll leave a little something for Siddharta as he’s looking a little peaked these days. Well he was when he sat under the Bhodi anyway. Nowadays he’s all fat and jolly.

Classic rock does not exist in the land of Alleghory. You walk through the shops to the back yard with the music of the masters in the air. They follow you everywhere like guardian angels.

At Mardi Gras World, the locals explain the difference between Cajun and Zydeco. On stage a white band plays Cajun, because if you learn nothing else here, it is that race is of the utmost importance and nobody cares.

They mistakenly stepped onto Bourbon Street with its fragrance of piss and beer and it’s topless women. “Times Square before Disneyfication,” he said.

She agreed.

They turned down St. Anne Street with its remnants of brothels now gentrifying with promise of good return on investment in the wake of multiple disasters. The charm of mold and decay cannot be overstated. And humidity? My god, what an aphrodisiac.

I’m staying,” she announced.

“It’s just the vacation talking,” he said.

“Oh no, this is real. True love,” she insisted.

Because a tale has a plot, he left. Went back to the Zone.

She moved through the days in true alleghorical style, which is to say, she followed a second line to a cauldron of shrimp gumbo and drank herself to sleep, dreaming of food and music. Overpriced art, colorful and demonic, attracted and at the same time repelled, but was too expensive to sample. Beads grew on trees. Panhandle parks were cleaner than Thompkins Square back in the land of the dictionary. Also: the musicians here included tuba and bone. Somehow with only a single drum, the beat went on forever. That is so not Thompkins Square where they need at least 15 congas, 29 bongos and one Didgeridoo before a nascent groove sets in. Of course nobody does Dylan on Sunday afternoons. But that was Washington Square anyways.

Because a tale must have an ending, the intoxicants proved too much for her and she returned to him, teary-eyed and sentimental. In other words, broke.

“It was too much for me,” she said. “All that alleghory.”

“It was just the vacation talking,” he said, enfolding her in his arms. “Stay with me here in the land of twilight.”

She smiled and the smile froze. Her joints solidified and she returned to her mannequin self.2


Sue Lange’s short story, “Shark Attack” is available in the BREAKING WAVES anthology in the Book View Cafe bookstore.


1“Allegory” in this instance is a cheap ripoff of Mrs. Malaprop’s line “…she’s as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of Nile.” Here as there, “allegory” means “alligator.”

2Oblique reference to the “The After Hours” episode of the Twilight Zone where Marsha White turns back into a mannequin after her month’s vacation out in the real world.



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