Deep Snow Plantation
Dear Elisaveta Andrievna:—
When I wrote you last I was just leaving Natchez in my moss-grown car—accurately dubbed 'struggle-buggy' by my colored friends—for New Orleans, whose chamber of commerce calls it 'The City That Care Forgot.' At the moment there is an overproduction of care in the town. Local statisticians estimate that if no more is manufactured for five years there will still be enough home consumption and for export. In any event, when you tear yourself away from New York and begin to see the United States, you must visit New Orleans.
This city was founded by the French, embellished by the Spanish, fought for by the English, purchased by the Americans, and sold down the river by its own citizens. It is distinguished by superb cooking, a bad climate, excellent manners, some of the best and also some of the worst architecture in the land, good duck shooting within forty-five minutes ride of its main street, and a political corruption tropical in its rotten lushness.1
It is a city of pimps, prostitutes, and gamblers; French-speaking grandes dames who wear the eighteenth century in their black lace shawls; hoodooworking Negroes; oyster-fishing Jugoslavians; industrious Germans; fiesta-loving Italians; Spaniards, Greeks, Jews, Filipinos, Chinese; and, on the extreme periphery, a large group of Anglo-Saxons who sometimes look strangely out of place in this least typically American of American cities. New Orleans is an easygoing, pleasure-loving, colorful, odoriferous, church-attending city whose dead are buried aboveground and whose politics is carried on underground. Bells quiver on its air, cassocked priests and crisply starched nuns are familiar figures in its streets; the doors of little shops are always open, as in the hot countries, so the life of the streets and that of the shops are one, and what is business elsewhere seems comic opera here. Sacks of oysters stand on the sidewalk in front of the numerous oyster bars, where customers eat shellfish around the clock; fruit sellers, vegetable venders, chimney sweeps, and prostitutes cry their wares and services unabashed; nostril-quickening odors of coffee, sugar, molasses, and tropical fruits linger in the heavy, hot, damp atmosphere. Patios bloom with the ponderous flowers of the banana plant, glow with the cream-white of camellias, sound with the silken softness of fountain waters; while Andrew Jackson, liberator of the city from the English, charges perpetually forward bronze-mounted on a horse in the old Spanish parade ground, and the near-by Mississippi sweeps on to the Gulf of Mexico.