by Spencer Silverthorne
As we move into the 21st Century, New Orleans is shifting from a resource-based economy towards an economy driven by entrepreneurs and artisans. Our riverfront development will emerge as a model of 21st Century design excellence and serve as a beacon for New Orleans’ transformation into America’s boutique city. – Sean Cummings, CEO of the New Orleans Building Corporation
What is a wharf? Someone on city council must have had a stage in mind. The ore surface feels rusted enough, if rust could be glazed. It helps that the sky is dreamy and red like sailor’s delight. Where is my delight?
Let’s be honest: I came Here to smoke a joint and have public sex. But the private security guard buzzing around on his golf cart makes sure no one has too much fun. At least self-identified anarchists came before me to graff over the word FREEDOM that was once ceremoniously marked on a stone slab bench.
If my anarchist friend O were here, he would accuse his boyfriend of being a liberal. Complain about how P wants to pressure O to get an eight-to-eight desk job or go back to graduate school. P thinks O is a fascist in denim cutoffs and a black t-shirt with holes fraying around the shoulder blade.
I want to sit on COMMERCE bench but there’s a group of BMX riders gliding to bunny hop. A lone illegal skateboarder trails to capture the tricks on film but I stumble into the frame. I reprise the thirteen year old self who embarrassed my skater friends G and C by saying I wanted both of them in my bed, pushing strands of rogue hair behind my ear. And if we got bored, we could have taken turns whispering body worship into each other’s ears.
If I had a head start, I could understand why the body is beautiful. So I sit on EQUALITY bench and pull out my iPhone to flip through suitors within a ten mile radius. Two years ago, the dating algorithm suggested an architect who may have been employed by Crescent City Park Incorporated, but now he’s gone to Chicago to build more benches.
These benches are cool because they oddly remind me of the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. I say “cool’ because the effect of the oblong structure is to make one feel oppressive, small, and claustrophobic. Art has the potential to say, “Good job everyone, you are fucking up!’ I want to go to Berlin because there’s cool night life, hot guys, and amazing art that actually interrogates the forces that make us miserable.
At seven, most park visitors get the hint from private security, and in unison, we climb breathless up and over the rail bridge, back to Piety, maybe to dinner, and far from understanding why we need a wharf in the first place.