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Hard Work in the Big Easy

June 16th, 2010 | posted by Bill Rau

If you’re not “from these parts” but you’ve experienced the French Quarter, chances are it was a jam packed good time with music, food, entertainment, and many forms of art. The Quarter always appears unending, alive and boisterous, and working at our gallery in the center of it all has offered insight into just what it takes to make this place what it is:  enthusiastic, romantic, loud, old, new, magical, matchless–You name it.  I’ve learned it happens in the early morning hours, just as the Quarter is waking.

At about 8:13 am Monday through Friday, I take a right onto Carondelet Street and begin the drive into downtown. Only at this time, it’s as though the Quarter is just waking up. I’ve concluded that it sleeps one hour a night, from 6:30 am to 7:30 am, and after 7:30 it’s snoozing the alarm clock until around 8:15. Most corners there stands a man, hosing the party from last night off of the sidewalk. In front of a hotel or a restaurant, he’s always wearing an apron and typically wears black striped pants. There is history on his face. It’s almost something you’d like to photograph, if it was a serious hobby of yours, but you’d feel pretty ridiculous photographing these men. It’s a type of moment that doesn’t quite translate in conversation, you just savor it when you see it. Rarely, I think, do most people ever get to.

This band plays just outside our doors almost every day, rain or shine...

It goes further than that. The Royal Street bands are staking their territory for the day. The wait staff at any given restaurant is having one last cigarette before shift 1. The street performers are painting themselves silver. The signs are flipping from “Sorry we’re closed” to “Come In We’re Open!” and the whole thing is unfolding, corner by corner, slowly becoming alive again.

Rau Antiques’ location here in the heart of the Quarter is almost just as important as our inventory inside. Since beginning to work in this area, I’ve discovered the distinct preparedness that goes on every day– both here in the gallery and the Quarter itself (before the crowds trickle in.) I see now there is just as much business in partying as there is in business. To work in heart of the Quarter on Royal Street is a real gift.  Fresh pralines, vibrant music, the weight-gaining food, the 200 proof drinks, the tiny paper shop, the Piano Bar (if you haven’t been, go); it all takes good ol’ fashioned labor. It’s tradition that started with work, ends with work, and in the meantime contributes to the whole cacophony of business and play that defines the Quarter. To say ‘there isn’t anything like it’ is redundant, so I’ll just end it here.

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