The second accompanied installment of Public Transit Tuesdays brings us from City Park to Audubon Zoo on the Leonidas bus, passing through Hollygrove, Pigeon Town and Gert Town, proving to be a fine continuation of my Uptown education which began years ago when I was a student at Lusher Extension. This bus adventure opens with difficult questions: How do you pronounce "Leonidas" anyway? What are the boundaries of these neighborhoods? Good thing my bus buddy and best friend Jenny who was raised in all three neighborhoods was there to help answer them...
As I've said before, nearly all of my bus adventures begin in the 7th Ward at St. Bernard and Broad, where there's never a shortage of crazy. If you're a regular bus rider, you're familiar with bus stop stock characters such as the bus stop griper and the bus stop conspiracy theorist: Bus stop gripers will complain about anything as long as they think people nearby will agree, and bus stop conspiracy theorists want everyone to know that The Man is plotting on everyone — everyone. While waiting on the Broad bus, a typical bus stop griper exited the corner store, fussing about the employees, saying they "needed an attitude adjustment because they came here from overseas." As she crunched away on her pork rinds, she looked up at the bus location monitor: "Dat thang still ain't workin' huh? Shiiit, dey coulda kept dat!" Soon after, a bus stop conspiracy theorist approached: (looking across the street where free cell phones are being distributed) "What kinda phones dem is over there? Some kinda new phone?" As one could predict, the bus stop griper replied, "Chile, no. That's the same damn phones they always givin' out." The bus stop conspiracy theorist said, "Oh well shit, I don't need no mo' free phones — I got eight of 'em right now at home and not none of 'em work. And you know (here's where the conspiracy theory comes in) when they [government agencies, The Man] type that number in and find out you got a phone, you can't get nothin' else!" The griper said that she had three free phones in her purse and the conspiracy theorist said that she had three free phones in her purse as well.
After researching in the Times-Picayune historical archive and asking on Facebook, I was able to make maps of Hollygrove, Pigeon Town and Gert Town.
Hollygrove: This area has been called Hollygrove for well over 50 years and it makes sense since a street named Hollygrove spans it. You'll find many of the fruit streets here, including Apple, Fig and Cherry.
Pigeon Town: Essentially, Pigeon Town has the same boundaries as Hollygrove with the exception of being on the opposite side of Claiborne. It's said that Pigeon Town was originally called "Pichon Town."
Gert Town: While researching in the Times-Picayune historical archive for pleasure over the weekend, I noticed a few instances where Gert Town was spelled "Girt Town." That made me wonder who Gert/Girt was and why people had trouble spelling his name. It's because, as is said of Pigeon Town, over the years the pronunciation devolved. Gert Town was originally known as "Gehrke Town," named after Alfred Gehrke who opened a grocery store on Carrollton and Colapissa in 1893.
Black Pearl: Until a couple of years ago when residents were complaining about Treme filming, I'd never heard of this neighborhood. Well, I'd heard of it, but it was called something else. Much like calling the part of the 9th Ward along the riverfront Bywater, this neighborhood was euphemistically renamed in the '70s. Again, when you rename a neighborhood, the people who called it by its original name forever, their children and grandchildren probably aren't going to refer to it by its new name — unless they're being pretentious. Thomas Beller of The New Yorker refers to the neighborhood as Black Pearl in this piece which was controversial for many New Orleanians, his account of going on a quest to find his iPhone which was picked up after he left it unattended in public. Know that I don't and won't refer to this area by its original name, but I won't call it by the new name either.
"Hollygroooove (echoing) is in the hou-ouse! Go Hollygrove! Go Hollygrove!"
"Gert Town, Gert Town, Gert Town is get-ting down!"
Leonidas Street was named after the "Fighting Bishop" Leonidas Polk, a former Bishop of Louisiana and Confederate Civil War general, and is pronounced "Lee-ANN-uh-duss" with "Lee-ANN-diss" being another acceptable pronunciation.
On the return trip from Audubon Zoo to City Park, a man who was doing construction on a house sprayed himself with a hose while rubbing his chest and gazing lustily at the bus passengers. I wasn't able to snap a picture of him, but there was another construction exhibitionist across the street.
We stopped outside of Home Depot on North Carrollton at a taco truck, Taqueria Los Poblanos. I scored three tacos for $5: desebrada (pulled beef), pastor (pork in pineapple marinade) and asada (grilled beef). Of course I couldn't resist a Mexican Coke for $2.50 extra.
We walked to Pelican Thrift on Tulane and Carrollton (not that bad since there are so many shady trees) and found one of the largest selections of pre-owned media and furniture in the city. We also found a man playing piano.
We boarded the bus again, heading to Maple and Dublin Streets upon Jenny's suggestion. I came across a store called Nuance which boasted local crafts. It was full of New Orleans-themed gifts and art and hand-blown glass sculptures made by Arden, the owner. We also met three really sweet cats there: Gonza, Gus and and another one whose name eludes me.
Our final stop before heading back home was to one of Jenny's favorite stores, Vieux Carre Hair Shop. The name confused me until one of the owners told me that they used to be in the French Quarter until recently. The store has a full selection of theatrical makeup along with several wigs and masks.
Thanks again for checking out this week's Public Transit Tuesday! I think I might head back to the East for next week's installment and I'll be exploring the Claiborne line with Robert Morris of Uptown Messenger the week after next! Here are some outtakes, as always.