Putting the phone down

Putting the phone down

Putting the phone down to see the world can be a challenge.

Putting the phone down

I like watching trains. I try to record the Amtrak trains that pass through New Orleans. Social media users enjoy the recordings. So, yesterday, I drove over to Central Avenue in Old Jefferson. Central Avenue is a railroad nexus. The East Bridge Junction switch tower stands a few hundred meters from the street. The tracks heading up to the Huey P. Long Bridge cross Central, as do the tracks of the New Orleans Public Belt RR. The main line for the Canadian National Railroad (formerly the Illinois Central) pass here. That’s the tracks the City of New Orleans trains use. So, there’s a lot of train action here.

Trains lured me Central Avenue as early as the late 1980s. I listened to a radio preacher in the afternoons. Watching the trains provided purpose beyond a guilty pleasure. Trains offer great photo opportunities. My Nikon EM captured the action nicely. Slow moving freights, the City zooming out of town, and the Sunset Limited presented photo challenges. To this day, I am a rank amateur, always learning.

Watching, not recording

The two City of New Orleans trains pass each other daily, just past Kenner. I recorded #58, the northbound train. That’s the video above. A couple of freight trains passed by, one going up the Huey, another heading into the riverfront area. Parking under the Earhart Expressway enables me to move up and down Central Avenue safely. The trains present colorful targets, the silver-blue for Amtrak, red, black, and yellow of Kansas City Southern, and the bright blue of the Public Belt.

When City #59 (Southbound) passed, I watched it with my eyes. The City lacks the “special car” appeal of the Crescent or Sunset Limited. It runs up to Chicago and back. The route rolls along, it’s not scenic like winding up the east coast or out through the western deserts. So, groups chartering private railcars choose other routes. Not so yesterday, as an 11-bedroom Pullman sleeper and a Vistadome car brought up the rear of #59. Charter Wire owns the cars.

The train rolled by. I didn’t record it. The City rolls by fast. To get photos/video of the back, you have to start as soon as you hear the bells of the crossing gate. I didn’t. I let it go, with those green-livery private cars going by.

Is that such a bad thing? I’ve got the memories.

Looking through the viewfinder

I get that the professionals see the world through their cameras. Chris Granger wouldn’t be the wizard he is without taking photos of literally everything. I’m a writer. The memory sticks. Now, I have a visual in my head of private cars going up to Chicago. I can write about that. I’ll show you those cars in a story.

Deflowering New Orleans Newcomers

Deflowering New Orleans Newcomers

Locals take pride in deflowering New Orleans Newcomers.

deflowering new orleans newcomers

Deflowering New Orleans Newcomers

New Orleans locals (I hesitate to say “natives,” so let’s just go with locals) wear their pride for the city up front. We put everything about New Orleans up on the front porch. Like the meme, we take our crazy out front and give it a cocktail. While locals may disagree, this feeling, this sense of pride, isn’t unique. Our perverse ways of showing it aren’t unique.

There’s one thing particularly unique about New Orleanians though. When it comes to our friends experiencing the city, we like to watch. Yes, we’re voyeurs. We take folks out into the wilds of the city and watch as waves of sensations crash over them.

Not just carnival

The most common experience we like to watch is when we take friends to Carnival. That’s only two, maybe three weeks, though. There are so many other opportunities to watch this phonomenon.

That first time walking down Bourbon Street. The whir of a passing streetcar. That roast beef po-boy. Half a muff at Napoleon House. Walking into Snake and Jake’s. Stepping into St. Mary’s Assumption. Walking around the Garden District. Sitting along the river, at The Fly, at The Moonwalk, down in the Bywater.

What all these have in common is the desire of a local to watch. We’ve seen these things. The thrill may not be gone, but there’s a greater thrill in the first-time reaction.


A first-timer’s Mardi Gras ranks high on the list of local voyeurism. We love to see the reactions. That fiber-optic Muses shoe passes by.Indians who Won’t Bow Down come down the street. Elaborate costumes in the French Quarter. Sensory overload! We want to see their face. It’s like watching a lover as pleasure hits them. What’s causing the pleasure becomes less important than seeing, hearing, feeling their reaction.

Nothing is perfect

Whether it’s sex or gumbo, nothing is perfect. We come in with the notion that our newcomer friends will see and feel what we do. It’s not always the case. The perceptive New Orleanian knows this. They move on, from the current sensory experience. We plan the next potential smile. And we always watch.