Decatur Street, New Orleans
The streets were almost silent on Saturday. Walking around the French Quarter felt safe, in regard to the virus, but oddly unsettling due to the isolation.
Due to a near-empty refrigerator, I walked to Decatur Street, the 1100 block. This is an area that would be crowded with locals and some tourists on a normal weekend. Molly’s, a bar that Katrina couldn’t shut down, was closed. Coop’s was closed, Turtle Bay was closed. Tourist joints like B.B. King’s Blues Club, closed.
I was prepared for most of this, having checked Google maps and local news sources, but I did not expect the entire block to be closed.
So I circled around, past an abandoned French Market, to El Gato Negro, not marked as closed on Google Maps, and it was shut tight.
Around another corner, and back to Decatur, and I found the only place open for blocks, The Italian Barrel.
They had menus set out where diners two weeks previously would have had a fine al fresco meal. I had to wonder about reading the menu, as to that point I had not touched anything on my walk. But I needed food, so I read the menu, and in less than two minutes a man came out, friendly, quiet, with an uncertain look. After two weeks of self-isolation, I am unshaved, not appropriately dressed for this place.
But I assured him I needed food. He offered some suggestions, took my order, went back inside, while I waited, the only person outside on the block. Just up a nearby street a man was scavenging through some garbage cans. Only later in the day did I read about the city bringing many homeless people to a downtown Garden Hilton. I had seen two other homeless people in this half hour walk, one passed out on a sidewalk, one wearing surgical scrubs. As I walked past the man in scrubs, a van stopped and handed him some water. The homeless kids we call the Gutter Punks were not around at Chartres and Esplanade, where they usually congregate. I do not know if they also were bussed to a Hilton.
Again, some contact was necessary when I paid the bill. The young man handed me the bill; I handed him my credit card, trying to maintain minimal contact.
Overall, the service was excellent. He handed me a bag with my food after about fifteen minutes. I told the man that I hoped to see him in better times.
Walking home with a paper bag labelled with the name of the restaurant, I would not have been surprised if some hungry person had tried to grab the bag from me. But we are not quite there.
Once the food was home, a series of new questions came up.
How does one sanitize a food container? When the warm bread is wrapped in aluminum foil, is that safe? How long could the virus survive on aluminum foil? How many times do I have to wash my hands while trying to have a meal?
How long can we live like this?
An empty French Market