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 15 - 21.
- by Ellis Anderson
I hate shooting photos on my phone, preferring my trusty Sony SLR. Now, I don't have a choice.
Most times these days, when I'm out in the neighborhood, my purpose is walking my two dogs; our third-floor apartment doesn't have an outdoor space where they can relieve themselves. Both hounds are hooligans who give me an upper-body workout anytime they're leashed. So my older iPhone has become my new photographic go-to. If any of these shots are a bit out of focus, it's because one of the dogs lunged at a pigeon.
Sunday, March 15
Crowds of partiers were videoed on Bourbon Street Saturday night by NOLA.com and police eventually put an end to the St. Patrick's Day weekend revelry. By the next morning, rumors of a shut-down were already spreading through the neighborhood.
Morning crowds were sparse in Jackson Square, but picked up later in the afternoon. By Sunday evening, the city had imposed the first official restrictions, including early closing hours for restaurants and bars.
My friend Terri has been the "garland girl" on the Square for almost four decades. I've been a fan of that smile the whole time. This morning that smile reaches across the recommended footage.
Hearts the clown has been working on the Square since 1989. Here she's getting a morning shoeshine from Ernie, who's another regular. When I saw her again, mid-afternoon, she said the crowds were somewhat lighter, but more people were out than she expected.
Armand Joseph Goudeau often can be found biking on the Moonwalk by the river, offering bottled water for sale. When I asked about the situation, he said, "One thing I know for sure. When they tell you not to panic, that's when to panic!"
Monday, March 16
On Monday, Mayor Cantrell signed another proclamation, closing bars and restaurants to the public (among other things).
Manager Joesphine Romo at Manolito (509 Dumaine Street) said the restaurant had been preparing for both restrictions and shutdowns. Starting March 17, they began opening at 2pm for customer pick-up of food and cocktails. They also offer delivery.
At the newsstand turned wine cellar, Sidneys was handling a steady stream of customers. J’Von has worked the counter there for two years. When we asked if business was slacking off as the tourist traffic dried up, he laughed. “Hey, we’re a liquor store,” he said. “And it’s end times.”
Dinah, at Suds Dem Duds (1101 Bourbon Street), takes a break outside the laundromat during its last day open for self-service. Wash-and-fold service continued for a bit longer before the laundry closed its doors - for the time being.
Tuesday, March 17
Construction projects are considered essential services, yet social distancing between workers seems to be the norm. Work continues to progress on the Beauregard-Keyes House restoration. To learn more, read a previous French Quarter Journal story about the restoration.
Beauregard-Keyes House facade restoration. When a craftsman's work becomes ballet.
March 18, Wednesday
Crossing Bourbon Street, looking toward Canal while running an errand, I saw no bead buyers in evidence.
I've known Blue and her dog, Minnie, for two years, since Minnie was a rambunctious pup. On this day, Blue asked my help to find someone "good" who would take care of Minnie since she's very ill and needs to go back into the hospital for several weeks of treatment. I asked permission to post this photo on Facebook and she readily gave it. Within hours, several volunteers had come forward.
March 19, Thursday
Driving around the Quarter after an errand, I spotted this pair on Decatur Street. A few minutes later, when a church group came around giving out bagged meals, the sandwich was evenly divided.
The open windows of Cunada (833 Conti Street) seemed ready made for street side service. The restaurant closed for the duration shortly after this.
E.T. was playing the trumpet while waiting for a bus, but stopped to pet my dogs. He told me he'd had a rough day, someone had actually stolen his trumpet case. "But I'm not going to let it get me down," he said. "It's only material. A material thing." The bus pulled up and he jumped aboard.
March 20, Friday
The silver guy on Jackson Square wasn't pleased about his income stream drying up. "I've only made four dollars all day," he said.
An impromptu Jackson Square gathering, keeping their distance from each other.
Blue and I rendezvoused again. New Orleans musician Dave Roe had volunteered to take care of Minnie for as long as was needed. Later that evening after a meal and a shower provided by Dave, Blue entrusted Minnie to his care and headed for the hospital. As of this posting (3/25), Blue's getting treatment. Minnie's getting spoiled and sleeping on Dave's bed.
March 21, Saturday
Neighbors Jonny "O" and Dar Wolnik socializing distantly in the intersection of Chartres and Dumaine. Their conversation went uninterrupted by traffic.
My dogs and I often run into Carl and his pooch Bane up on the Moonwalk.
Painting at the French Market, Dutch Alley.
Amy, patrolling the French Market.
Matthew Condon, manager at Newton's Hot and Cold (509 Dumaine Street). Matthew and his crew hosted one of the only St. Joseph's altars in the French Quarter - accessible to any passerby through their plate glass window. Although the business stayed open for take-out and delivery only, Sunday, March 22 was their last day for a while. "We'll reassess in a few weeks," Matthew said.
Bethany Bultman, co-founder and chair of the New Orleans Musicians Clinic and Assistance Foundation, has been working twelve-hour days. One of their focuses now is getting important COVID information out to people who don't have Internet, the library or cable TV. One project involves creating printed flyers like this one.
Veteran street performer Peter Bennett happened by with his dog. Peter fills up wine glasses, tunes them and then plays this elaborate "water harmonica." He doesn't perform often any more, but is a favorite neighborhood fixture.
My husband Larry and I made the tough decision to "ride out" the storm separately. He's at our Bay St. Louis home, about an hour away, and I'm staying put in the French Quarter. On Sunday, he ferried in a load of summer clothes and dog food.
We visited for a bit on the street, keeping our distance, then bid farewell for the foreseeable future.
In the early evening, I took the dogs for a ride instead of a walk and headed over to the 900 block of Dumaine. I'd heard that friend Kerry Maloney was going to be social distance dancing in the street. On the way there, I spotted many neighborhood residents porch-sitting.
Photographer Kerry Maloney and her "frenemie," writer Jessica Fender created "Traveler Broads," an influencing blog and brand. Now they're confined for a bit, they've put their very creative minds to work conspiring on ways to survive in style.
They're apparently well on their way.
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.
Check out earlier entries on FQJ's Hunkering Down blog.
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Rheta Grimsley Johnson
Social Distance Dining