(or Elysium)


In Greek mythos, the fields of Elysian were half of the underworld - the 'good' half - and a place reserved for great heroes and men favoured by the gods.

Compare to Heaven, the Fortunate Isles, Shangri La, Valhalla. If you find yourself spending an eternity riding the Fields ... well, you could do worse.

The site of the first recorded baseball game on June 19, 1846 in Hoboken, NJ. The New York Knickerbockers, led by Alexander Cartwright, hosted the New York Base Ball Club, and lost 23-1. The teams played using the rules that Cartwright had drawn up the previous summer, and baseball was born. Nineteen years later, the Elysian Fields played host to the first Baseball Championship, officially called the "Grand Match for the Championship of the United States," between the New York Mutuals and the New York Atlantics.

Elysian Fields was nothing like a modern ballpark; just a level plain which had been previously used for cricket matches and a tourist attraction. The land was owned by John Cox Stevens, founder of the New York Yacht Club, and after a gambling scandal, he closed the fields to baseball in 1867; by 1869 it had fallen victim to the expansion of Hoboken's downtown.

Elysian Fields Avenue is a straight, lengthy street in New Orleans, Louisiana, which brackets the Faubourg Marigny district and constitutes an extended border of the French Quarter. The avenue, named in accordance with the French (and European) penchant for reusing appellations from the Old World in America (see Champs Elysees), runs from the Mississippi river all the way to Lake Pontchartrain, thus connecting the two bodies of water between which New Orleans sits in its humid, flood-prone bowl.

In the Faubourg Marigny, Elysian Fields is peppered with old shotgun houses, decrepit French buildings, neighborhood grocery stores, and the occasional ancient, quiet bar. As it moves further away from the original city, its linear trajectory takes it through Gentilly, where one-story 1950's era houses and conspicuous palm trees seek to evoke a tropical town that never was (and perhaps mask the poverty of the neighborhoods, which are nonetheless relaxed and easy places to live), and finally through Lakeview, a more modern suburb, replete with strip malls and hideous brick office complexes. Elysian Fields Avenue terminates at Lakeshore Drive, a contrived scenic road that runs along Lake Pontchartrain, over which runs the longest bridge in the world.

For its duration, Elysian Fields is wide, with an especially thick neutral ground (elsewhere known as a median), which sometimes features gardens and miniature parks built by the city. At a few points, the avenue intersects major highways and freeways, like I-10 and the 610 loop.

Elysian Fields is the most famous address in American Drama.

In Tennessee Williams's seminal play, A Streetcar Named Desire, first produced at the Barrymore Theatre on December 3, 1947, the heroine, Blanche DuBois, played by Jessica Tandy, meets her nemesis, the loutish Stanley Kowalski, played by a very young and electrifying Marlon Brando, in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

Blanche has just entered, looking for the address of her sister Stella, newly-married to Stanley. She is obviously out-of-place in "the quarter," with her stylish cocktail dress. Williams writes:

"She is carrying a small suitcase in one hand and a slip of paper in the other. As she looks about, her expression is one of shocked disbelief…There is something about her uncertain manner that suggests a moth. A sailor, in whites, enters…and approaches BLANCHE. He asks her a question, which is not heard because of the music. She looks bewildered, and cannot, apparently, answer him…

EUNICE: What's the matter, honey? Are you lost?

BLANCHE: They told me to take a streetcar named Desire, transfer to one called Cemetery, and ride six blocks and get off at Elysian Fields!

EUNICE: That's where you are now.

BLANCHE: At Elysian Fields?

EUNICE: This here is Elysian Fields. (NEGRO WOMAN laughs.)

BLANCHE: They mustn't have--understood--what number I wanted…"

It's the beginning of the End of the Line for one of the most famous female characters in dramatic literature. Williams's delicate, irrevocable dance of fragile, damaged femininity and somehow-incomplete masculinity is beautiful and tragic as it unfolds.

Elysian Fields is the address of a masterpiece.

A Streetcar Named Desire, Copyright, 1947, by TENNESSEE WILLIAMS
Copyright, 1953, by TENNESSEE WILLIAMS (Revised Version)
Dramatists Play Service, Inc.

And by the way, in a wonderfully theatrical postscript, the irrepressible Tennessee was asked years later whatever became of Blanche. He answered happily that she was released from the psychiatric hospital and went on to open an elegant dress shop in the Quarter.

"She's a survivor?" the interviewer asked.

"Yes," said Williams. "Blanche is a survivor."

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