I’ve always been a walker, though I’ve had periods where impatience with its slowness as a form of transportation has cut into my level of enjoyment. The bike is a fine substitute; I would be on my bike right now if someone hadn’t stolen the rear wheel off it. Off my front porch.
Consequently I ride the streetcar and walk a fair amount. I have one firmly held conviction about catching the streetcar: if you feel compelled to walk instead of simply picking a streetcar stop and sticking with it, always walk in the opposite direction you want to go. That is, you want to go right? Go left. Walk at your streetcar. All those people you’ll pass at streetcar stops, you’re cutting in line in front of them. You’re going to get a damn seat. They may even have to wait for another streetcar. Plus, if you walk in the direction of your destination, that only means you’ll be paying for the streetcar to take you a shorter distance, and you won’t save any time in the process.
I must concede that sticking with your streetcar stop has one distinct advantage: more time to read.
But walking. I’ve had two walks this year that have stood out, both to the French Quarter, about a mile and a half away.
The first one was February 19, the night Krewe of Bacchus rolled. It was a wet night and the parade hadn’t arrived yet. I peeled away from our watching party and walked down the parade route. The crowd grew in size as I approached Canal Street, where I crossed over in the Quarter to make my way to Cafe du Monde, the place I’d finally chosen as my destination. The Quarter seemed depopulated, stuck in waiting mode for the parade to finish. The line for take out beignets was short. Even the couple places I stopped for a beer were nearly empty. I got back to my parade compatriots on St. Charles Avenue, now in the thrall of the parade, and said good night. I went home and had beignets with the family.
Another walk to the Quarter about a month later, March 31 to be exact, the day the Final Four was being played in the Superdome. Down along the river the NCAA and CBS had installed giant TV screens so people could watch the game. Just as I made my way up Decatur Street the first game started, Louisville against UK. The sidewalks were clear; the people I’d seen all day in either red or blue were now in the Superdome or behind those big screens anxiously watching the game get off to a tentative start. The Quarter looked empty behind the giant screens. There wasn’t any crowd noise in the broadcast yet, just the sounds of squeaking sneakers. All the way up Decatur to Cafe du Monde, sneaker squeaks bounced off pavement and buildings.
And there wasn’t much of a line for carryout at Cafe du Monde.