Don’t leave Picayune

Published 7:00 am Saturday, October 10, 2015

Last weekend I made the mistake of leaving the apartment. Last Sunday, a cool, clear fall day, seemed like a great time for a drive down south. I’d intended for some time to take Highway 11 as far as I could, across Lake Pontchartrain and through Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge and then take Highway 90 to Fort Pike. According to Wikipedia, the wildlife refuge is supposedly the largest urban wildlife refuge in the US, but if there are walking trails to explore the area, I didn’t find them. I did see an egret and some rusting boat and car hulls as well as some homes that blended right in with all of it.

Fort Pike was one of the Gulf Coast forts built after the War of 1812. It’s twin is Fort Morgan in Alabama, and that’s a site worth seeing (if you like old forts. And really, who doesn’t?)

Fort Pike is decidedly less interesting, mostly because it’s been closed for years for repairs, it’s overgrown and a secured chain link fence cordons off the whole area. The fence however was accented with empty beer cans that had been fitted into the fence holes. I appreciated the effort. Failing to really accomplish much of anything on the drive, I headed back west on Highway 90, toward New Orleans. I had read there is a sizeable Vietnamese community in New Orleans, and I figured I’d find it sooner or later near the water. And sure enough, right as one leaves Bayou Sauvage one sees a Vietnamese neighborhood, with stores all bearing signs in inscrutable script. Perhaps the trip wouldn’t be a wash.

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I turned into the neighborhood and made a few passes past a couple of strip malls to try and read what little English I could find, and made a turn down a side street in order to turn around. The neighborhood, I should add, was the sort one might generously term colorful. There seemed to be quite a bit of day drinking going on, and I noticed the locals didn’t seem too keen on an interloper. As I drove slowly down a small street looking for a place to turn around, a man in a wheelchair, clutching a bottle of something, began to yell angrily in what I assume was Vietnamese. As if struck by a minor miracle, the man got up out of the wheelchair and began lurching toward the street, staggering toward me, yelling, and as he did this, I noted the street was a dead end. As was my quest.