Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Plaquemines Parish

If you see an elephant as you drive south from New Orleans you expect the day to be filled with the unexpected and delightful and mysterious. It was not to be.

Highway 23 to Venice (a name to conjure with!) seems like it should be a scenic drive but the lack of traffic, particularly tourist traffic, should have alerted us to what was ahead. It looked like this:

Chemical plants and long straight stretches of empty highway under a broiling hundred degree sun. Then we spotted ships rising up out of the fields, ocean navigators riding the river to collect the chemical products.

Plaquemines is a word of Creole and Indian origin meaning persimmon though originally it was the name of a French fort built on the river bank and surrounded by said trees. Nowadays it is the largest Louisiana parish even though 65 percent of it is water!

Hurricane Katrina ravaged this place sending powerful winds and wall of water twenty feet deep across the parish. That only three people died is a tribute to the value of a sensible evacuation plan.

It is a damaged place still.

Trees growing through permanently stationary boats and cars.

Poverty seems endemic to this parish (which is what Lousiana calls it's counties), with half the population living in trailers and the other half living in nice houses.

This is a rather slick trash barrel. I studied it for a while and I cam t the conclusion you could empty it by lifting the low end and dumping the contents into a container. Pretty smart.

Classic Louisiana cemetery.

We drove as far as Port Sulphur, a name to conjure with, until we got bored with the absence of anything to look at and turned around and drove back to the Crescent City.

Plaquemines is a tough place to live as flooding and hurricanes are of life. Devastating conditions flooded the place in 1915 and 1927 and 1965’s Hurricane Betsy did another shitty number on these people.

The other piece of parish history that fascinated me was the grip one Leander Perez is said to have had on the entire parish from 1919 to 1969 when he ruled the place like a dictator.

It's a strange drive along this wide open four lane highway in flat lands past grazing cattle and alternating trailers and mansions.

There were no actual people to be seen except those few driving pick up trucks far faster than my sedate 65 miles per hour.

The parish website Plaquemines Parish paints a rather more cheerful picture than my rather bleak assessment of the place.

I have to confess we were rather glad to turn tail and head north to the bright lights of cosmopolitan New Orleans.

My wife never reproached me for persuading her we needed to explore this corner of Louisiana.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


David B. said...

Plaquemines Parish reveals no secrets until you leave the four-lane and head down the levee roads to the bayous. This however, is better done with a knowledgeable guide. Next time, we'll see if we can get you some fresh crab.

Conchscooter said...

I had the feeling that might be the case...