I made my first trip to New Orleans this past April, and the faces I remember most were those of two Christian women in their mid-to-late-twenties. Their faces were worn and slightly red -- pink, really, as if drawn from the plain's wind. And the women themselves were plain. Neither wore makeup or adornment of any kind. They were both wearing the long denim skirts common among devout evangelicals. Their faces were simply pretty and graceful without being pious or smug.
They appeared older than their approximate age and showed deep lines from smiling and even deeper lines from frowning. But in that moment, they were smiling, radiantly content under their haphazard buns of long, untrimmed hair. Right on the women's heels were two burly, menacing bikers. If they noticed, the women didn't seem to give a damn. They weren't in the least bothered by the city's grittier, reprobate elements, and for a brief moment, I saw them as blissed-out hippie girls tripping on mushrooms, lost in their own happy world.
I was walking west on Dauphine Street, one block north of Bourbon, a street I planned to avoid. The women were walking east, roughly toward St. Louis Cathedral at Jackson Square and the nearby French Quarter Festival, one of the many musical events frequently held in New Orleans, the reputed birthplace of so much American music. The women could be headed to one or the other or both. Anything goes in The Big Easy.
These five stories will give you a glimpse into what else is happening in New Orleans, a city as rich in unbridled iniquity as it is in spiritual devotion, camaraderie, inventiveness, and gumption, among other things.
2. Faces Glass and Painted