Few have ever seen the French Quarter except through a thick and ever-present veil of tourists. Now they've all gone home, who remains? We caught these street snaps during the week of March 22 - 28.
- by Ellis Anderson
Sunday, March 22
Quarter residents Ben Noble and Allan Klumpp pause after distributing lunches to homeless people.
The meals are prepared with protective gear and distributed using social distancing guidelines.
Most locals will recognize Jennifer Jones, who dances at the forefront of many of the city's favorite parades. She sees her performances as a type of activism, "dancing for peace."
Writer and historian Frank Perez waves from the balcony of his corner apartment at the intersection of Royal and St. Ann streets.
Frank's a regular columnist for both Ambush magazine and French Quarter Journal. He's also writing "day-in-the-life" pieces for our Hunkering Down blog. Click here to read his entries.
"Don't Stand So Close to Me!" is on the playlist now for Quarter resident and musician Tom Sandars. Tom works as an assistant for two neighborhood shops, but is also a veteran street performer (although one is lucky to catch him playing his hammer dulcimer in recent years). Click here for a YouTube listen.
Monday, March 23
Tim's a regular street performer, usually taking an early morning stint on the square before it gets busy. This Monday morning, the sound calls me from my office about a block away where the French doors open onto Chartres Street. The sound lifted my spirits and pulled me toward the square with my camera.
Jesse was one of the few people on the square while Tim was playing. I introduced myself and asked where he was staying, since he looked on the move. "Here, right now," he said. Jesse told me he'd been working as a bar-back at three different Bourbon Street clubs and living in a hotel, making ends meet. When the bars closed down, he could no longer afford the rent. A few days later when I saw him, he was headed for Denver where he'd been promised a place in an affordable housing program.
Tuesday, March 24
While I passed few people on Royal Street this evening, the display window of this shop hadn't been boarded up. The Trashy Diva mannequins were at play, as usual.
Wednesday, March 25
Morning fog on the river often shifts and moves, like a cloud that's come to ground.
The city rises up out of the mist, which moves in currents, just like the river below.
One lone person sat on the steps, focused on their device.
This couple paused at the top of the Moon Walk steps, watching the flowing mists for a bit before beginning their run. They seemed symbolic of all humanity, peering into the unseeable and the unknown. Yet, the couple's strength and fearless stance somehow gave me hope.
Later on in the evening, Happy Hour: balcony social distancing on Decatur Street.
Thursday, March 26
Dr. Joker reads tarot cards, but Thursday morning there wasn't much of a crowd to pitch on Decatur Street.
I asked to take his picture, which is something that's apparently been done around the country for many years. He brought out a stack of laminated newspaper and magazine stories to show me that I wasn't the first. The caption on this one from 1982 reads "Louis K. Shabareck Jr. turned a broom into a guitar at the Calle Ocho festival." Close up, Dr. Joker looks extremely familiar. I leave wondering if it's Tommy Lee Jones behind the mask.
Raphael, who said he lives Uptown, was enjoying communing with the pigeons and sparrows who are especially appreciative scavengers now the pickings are thin.
Rodney, who lives near the square, out walking with Fin.
Late in the afternoon, Freddie and her dog Big Momma were on their way to Rouse's and stopped in Jackson Square to talk to a friend. Freddie was explaining how she'd jumped through many hoops over the past months trying to get placement in an affordable housing program. She thinks getting off the street is especially important for Big Momma. "She's too old to be walking so much. It's not even summer yet and she's already panting."
"I was this close [to getting housing]," she said. "Then this virus thing hit."
Manolito, on the 500 block of Dumaine, is open from 2pm - 9pm with Cuban food and craft cocktails - all served out the door with social distancing measures in place. Co-owner Konrad Kantor (R), also manages Jewel of the South restaurant (closed for the time being). Manolito is one of several area restaurants working to help local service workers. Read more here.
Friday, March 27
Anthony's been delivering groceries for Matassa's Market on Dauphine and St. Philip streets for nearly forty years. "We're doing a big liquor business this week," he said. "I'm on my way now with three liters of Jim Beam and a quart of milk." Order your own at (504) 412-8700.
Terri lives on Madison Street, just a stone's throw from Jackson Square. She works for Crescent City Tour Booking Agency on St. Ann Street, two blocks away. The office is shut down and boarded over for the time-being, so she's joined the thousands of other hospitality and service workers out of a job. But she's riding over to check the mail every day.
Saturday, March 28
Michael often sets up on Bourbon Street at night, around Orleans Avenue. Last July, when an agitated man began punching random people in the nighttime crowd, Michael chased after the man, attempting to stop the violence. The video replayed repeatedly on the news, so I mentioned the heroics the next time I saw Michael. "You do what you gotta do," he shrugged. When I asked how things were going this particular morning, he told me he'd spent the night on the square - roommate issues had left him homeless.
Ryan, from Baton Rouge, had set up in the empty square to photograph the cathedral in the quiet.
Most evenings on our dog walk, we spot Jeff and Jack Daniels. Unlike my two unruly hooligans, Jack Daniels is obedient off leash. Jeff tosses a well-worn football and the plucky pooch chases after in full-attack mode.
Robert, the One-Man Gospel Band, is a regular in the Quarter and when we saw him Saturday evening (March 28, 2020, during the COVID shutdown) on the Moon Walk, we asked if we could video him singing one of his favorites. He said he was trying to scrape together enough money for a room, but listeners were sparse. He was grateful for our donation, but it wasn't enough for a room.
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Ellis Anderson first came to the French Quarter in 1978, performing as a street musician. By 1984, she'd become a silversmith and eventually represented local artists as owner of Quarter Moon Gallery - with locations on Royal Street and in Bay St. Louis, on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Her book about the Bay's Katrina experience, "Under Surge, Under Siege," was published by University Press of Mississippi and won the Eudora Welty Book Prize in 2010. The French Quarter Journal joins The Shoofly Magazine, Bay St. Louis Living, as a sister digital publication of Ellis Anderson Media, LLC.
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Social Distance Dining