Summer Lassitude

ANDREI CODRESCU

August 05, 1991|By ANDREI CODRESCU

It's summer. Empires are breaking up everywhere, but in New Orleans the dogs lie still on the road until cars just about run 'em over.

The alligators sprawl quiet on the bottom of the bayou with sleeping turtles on their backs. The magnolias are dozing and the girl at the Seven Eleven moves in a dream and holds your quart of milk for what seems like a day.

It's a fine time for Rep. Arthur Morrell, a Louisiana House Democrat, to propose that New Orleans secede from Louisiana and the nation. That would make legal what is already a fact of life. Louisiana and the nation seem as far from New Orleans as Tierra del Fuego.

The legislator's reasons are economic, ''the city pays the state more than it gets back,'' but there are better reasons. A place so deeply sunk in the summer of its Catholic African Creole past is already gone, slumbering along with its sister-cities of myth, Macondo, Nineveh and Salvador Bahia de Todos los Santan in Brazil.

Seven golden-winged dragonflies rest on a purple cabbage growing out of a crack in the sidewalk. The shutters of Victorians on St. Charles Avenue are drawn: behind them ghosts are dozing with leather-bound books in their hands. For the past century I've been sitting at the Napoleon House watching a bottle of Dixie Blackened Voodoo Beer give off steam.

They outlawed this brew in Texas last week, which is only right. What do they know about magic there?

To tell you the truth, I'm waiting for the night. That's when some of the stillness evaporates and people come out on their steps and into the streets wearing mostly their skins and their eyes. In the rest of the world they go to sleep about that time.

And what would we do if we seceded? Nothing -- just like we are doing now. Everywhere in the world they seem to be doing this or that, but here we revel in nothing and that makes us different. And when we get our Republic of Summer, our Kingdom of Stillness, what should we do to keep this way?, I ask my son, Tristan.

''Invite all the pirates back, throw out all the tourists,'' he says, and takes a long time to take a sip of iced tea through a long, crooked straw that's got an ant sleeping on it.

Andrei Codrescu teaches writing at Louisiana State University.

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