Without a doubt, the ugliest place in the world is the local camel graveyard outside of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. It's a spot between two hills where the local Bedouins residing near the city bring their dead or dying camels for slaughter. They don't bury them or anything, they just slit the poor beasts throat (if it's still alive) and leave it on the ground. It is a horrifying spectacle during the day, especially when the wind has died down. Huge black clouds of flies float above the corpses, and rats scurry between the bones and rotting flesh. When the wind catches the smell carries for miles.

I haven't been to too many places, but New Orleans can be the most beautiful and ugliest of places. The beauty is easy to find, when you are looking for it. No one looks for ugliness here but finds it usually where one lives.

I live in a shoddy subset neighborhood behind the French Quarter called the Faubourg Marigny, which I believe translates into "False Neighborhood." It was called this, I have been told, because it was considered lowly to not live in the French Quarter proper if you were not across Canal in the Garden District. Living behind the Quarter connotes poor income, low class, and low standards. I have never had a healthy sense of residential pride in the four years I've lived in New Orleans, partly because every places I lived in was in a section that fit my often precarious monetary situation.

The things I manage to find beautiful about my own neighborhood are those American Beauty kinds of things. The dim streets whose lights are clogged with overgrown banana trees or bamboo. Decrepid front porches overladen with dying plants. Empty lots glittering with broken bottle glass. The stain where a homeless man was sleeping on the sidewalk. Buckled, neglected streets. The inability to talk to your neighbors. Even when people sit out on their porches to talk, it's hushed and private. Tourists who have drifted too far are pissing on our breezeway gates. Junkies bum change from me. Little, unattended black kids in droves are stealing bikes or running from something. The busses that trample down my street shake the house. These streets were built before cars.

But what is truly ugly to me about my neighborhood is the neglect. No one cares about your area unless it draws a profit from tourism, which is the #1 reason New Orleans stays afloat at all. To know that no one cares and no one is going to do much about makes you not care how ugly it is.

There was a housing development here that was built directly on top of a landfill. Whole cows and tractor tires began to slowly surface through the top soil. All the residents suffer from some unknown illness of some kind, constantly. HUD and the EPA aren't doing jack and the city turns its head, as it has for generations.

What really makes it ugly is the broken spirit here, the bruised willpower.


Update: Since September of last year I moved into the Treme, another neighborhood suffering from neglect and yet people have been living there for 20 years or more. It's only about 8 blocks from where the above apartment was located. Still the same feel though, bruised willpower. Soon I will move another few blocks closer to the Marigny, on St. Claude. I'm seeing a pattern here...

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