“Louisiana was like an obscene phone call from nature. The air–moist, sultry, secretive, and far from fresh–felt as if it were being exhaled into one’s face.”
– Tom Robbins, “Jitterbug Perfume”
I have only been to New Orleans once, but it forever changed me. It’s a voluptuous, glorious, sticky, fun, tragic, obscene, gorgeous place, full of personality and color and shenanigans and the best smells in the world. Staggering stately beauty snuggles up to shocking poverty, and neither apologizes for itself. I took a lot of pictures, trying to capture the feeling, some of them not so bad, but none of them exactly right. I have looked at a lot of other people’s photos, too, but none successfully replicated the feeling you get from the city when you’re there. Until now. Congratulations to The New York Times for discovering these stunning and sometimes shocking long-exposure night-time photos of New Orleans. They are eerily clear but soft in places, just the way my memory of the city feels.
I can’t help myself. Here’s one more Tom Robbins quote from “Jitterbug Perfume.” It’s the visceral word equivalent of the photos above.
“The minute you land in New Orleans, something wet and dark leaps on you and starts humping you like a swamp dog in heat, and the only way to get that aspect of New Orleans off you is to eat it off. That means beignets and crayfish bisque and jambalaya, it means shrimp remoulade, pecan pie, and red beans with rice, it means elegant pompano au papillote, funky file z’herbes, and raw oysters by the dozen, it means grillades for breakfast, a po’ boy with chowchow at bedtime, and tubs of gumbo in between. It is not unusual for a visitor to the city to gain fifteen pounds in a week–yet the alternative is a whole lot worse. If you don’t eat day and night, if you don’t constantly funnel the indigenous flavors into your bloodstream, then the mystery beast will go right on humping you, and you will feel its sordid presence rubbing against you long after you have left town. In fact, like any sex offender, it can leave permanent psychological scars.”
― Tom Robbins