UNH, Thompson Hall in the snow

UNH, Thompson Hall in the snow

In New Hampshire right now we are experiencing wet, sloppy snow and rain. It and the wind will continue for 48 hours. By the time it ends, you, students in the New Orleans class should be in the Mid Atlantic heading south towards the Crescent City.

With GPS and Google (we won’t mention the geographic fiction of maps  that Apple produced and withdrew), I feel as though has been a spatial disconnect from one’s orientation and the century’s old art of producing two-dimensional geographic representations, i.e. maps. It does remind me that long before my longstanding boycott of Exxon-Mobil (since they escaped culpability for the Exxon Valdez oil spill), I was a huge fan of Exxon road maps. I collected them; I archived them; I studied them.

This mania is clearly passe in a number of ways; however, I think it is important for you to be able to picture where you are, both in terms of the trip southward and when you are in New Orleans. I have advised your leaders to take you west, away from the population centers on the east coast. This will put you going through much of Pennsylvania and seemingly endless chunk of Virginia before you enter Tennessee. Although, this will keep you from east coast traffic jams and a myriad of tolls. The proposed route is as follows, using Google maps. Envision this route in the context of mountains, road signs, and chain restaurants along the way. Before you know it; you’ll be in New Orleans.

New Orleans neighborhoods

New Orleans neighborhoods

Once you get to New Orleans, you need to have a good sense of where you are in the City. And New Orleans Online has a wonderful collection of New Orlean maps. Just as Ignatius Riley traipsed around New Orleans in A Confederacy of Dunces, they should help you be aware of what it means to be in the Lower Ninth, the Marigny/Bywater, the Garden District, or the French Quarter. When in New Orleans, it is as easy as remembering that St. Bernard lies east of New Orleans (in the Lower Ninth we’ll very close), Lake Pontchartrain is to the north, the Mississippi lies to the south, and Jefferson Parish guards the western border. It is tidy, compact and portions of it are under sea level.

St. Louis Cathedral, March 2010.

St. Louis Cathedral, March 2010.

The French Quarter is much smaller still. It WAS the city for the first hundred years, and it continues to span from Canal Street to the West, Rampart Street to the North,  Esplanade Avenue to the East, and the Mississippi forms the southern border. Across those borders lay the Central Business District (west), Treme (north), the Marigny (east), and Algiers/Jefferson Parish (across the river).

I’ll leave it for you to discover such places as Uptown, Mid City, and Gentilly. We will be heading to each of those, but it up to you to be able to fix them on a map. Like Ignatius, you’ll find that each nook and cranny of New Orleans holds it owns charms and surprises, both good and bad.

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