Along the edge of the Gulf, Nathaniel ‘Natty’ Adams details the people, places, culture and moments that make New Orleans one of America’s most colorful and vibrant cities.
At the far eastern end of the Bywater neighborhood, past Poland Avenue and below St. Claude, lies New Orleans’ most beloved unofficial public park. Across train tracks, through collapsed barbed wire-topped fence, and uphill atop a scruffy levee is how locals reach what they call “The End of the World.” The spit of land curls—beckoning fingerlike to the boats on the Mississippi—at the mouth of the Industrial Canal, where small ships are waved past a rusted lock by the Army Corps of Engineers. Here the industrial and the natural abut and overrun one another, concrete covering earth, pierced in turn by scrubby marsh grass and skinny shadeless trees.
Canal-side, herons and cormorants stalk at water’s edge as the absurd pelican sits on the edge of a bollard with the hauteur befitting an official state bird. The city side of the levee is dominated by a hulking brutalist naval base, shuttered since 2011, that’s now home to squatters, transients, scrap metal-hunters who have stripped it down to the window frames, and battalions of feral raccoons. Inscribed along the base’s great barrier, a message in graffiti two stories tall: “OPEN YOUR EYES.”