Monday, May 22, 2023

the last book I ever read (The Wild Tchoupitoulas (33 1/3) by Bryan Wagner, excerpt six)

from The Wild Tchoupitoulas (33 1/3) by Bryan Wagner

The Wild Tchoupitoulas engages with history in the present tense. The album talks about the Magnolia Bridge as if you could still walk over it, when in truth it had been taken down in the late 1930s. All the territory by the New Basin Canal, whether or not it was technically the Battlefield, was redeveloped in the succeeding decades. The train station opened in 1954. City Hall moved to its present location in 1958. The Pontchartrain Expressway and the Interstate 10 overpass were built in the 1960s, cutting through Central City and destroying an important corridor of black-owned businesses further on down Claiborne Avenue. The Superdome opened in 1975 literally at the same time The Wild Tchoupitoulas was being recorded, completing the transformation of the neighborhood. A state-of-the-art facility and the largest fixed dome stadium in the United States, the Superdome was built as skyscrapers were going up on the neighboring blocks on Poydras Avenue, all part of an effort, led by Mayor Moon Landrieu, to make New Orleans look like a modern and progressive city. At the same time, New Orleans was developing its cultural landscape. Eight blocks in Tremé, for example, bulldozed in the 1960s to make way for a modern arts complex modeled on Lincoln Center, a project never completed, becamse the original location for the Jazz and Heritage Festival before they were repurposed as Louis Armstrong Park. Through the 1970s, local geography, from Central City to Tremé, was changing. The Wild Tchoupitoulas registers these changes in its city and in its tradition even as it also participates in them.

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