In the process of moving to a new home in New Orleans, I began to think about all the different places I have lived; lived, meaning anyplace I have stayed long enough to receive mail at regularly. Seems like a reasonable definition.
Taking a look at the 21-odd places in five states (Minnesota, Colorado, Iowa, Missouri and Louisiana) that I have called ‘home’ throughout my half-century plus on this earth, I began to see some rather interesting themes. I have lived on streets, avenues, roads and boulevards in major cities and small towns, ranging in size from 7,500 to 500,000
On the other hand, I have never lived on a court, a lane or a cul-de-sac – which is probably all for the better, as I’ve never considered myself all that high-falutin’.
There have been the basic named-after-somebody-now-obscure locales: Harriet and Oakland Avenues, Harrison, Bellaire and Marshall streets.
I have lived on the more mundane, nobody-famous-enough-here-lets-go-with-botany-for-street-names theme: Hickory, Pine, Elm and Cherry Streets and Laurel Avenues (though Laurel could possibly do double duty on the ‘obscure people’ list.)
Numbers, though not numerology, have played significant roles: 21st, 29th and 12th Avenues South; 31st street. None ever resulted in winning lottery ticket combos
There is the downright poetic: while a student studying literature in college, I moved from Longfellow Avenue to Minnehaha Avenue . (It’s funny, but I don’t recall thinking that all that poetic until I saw the written out list of residences I put together for this post. And now, 20 some years later, I’m a high school English teacher. Go figure.)
County Road 47, Highway 76 and Main Street all hearken back fondly to my days bouncing around the rural Midwest.
There is no name-category for Quail Avenue, where I rented a small house, whose main charm lay in the fact that it was so small, my roommate John’s pool table took up the entire dining room and jutted out into the living room, yet was still home to a Christmas party so rockin’ friends still marvel about it twenty years after the fact. (Look for a post this December concerning ‘bobbing for pine cones in eggnog’. Oh yeah.)
All of these places hold some mixture of memories; certainly the good far outweighing the bad in all cases, though the months spent in my mother’s basement as a thirty-year old divorcee do not top the “gooood times, gooood times” list. Nothing against my mother and stepfather (or their basement – it was quite homey) it’s just not what I wanted to be doing at that point in my life.
Some of my fondest and richest memories of youth occurred on a Star Route in a rural township in the heart of Minnesota lake country. (Yeah, it counts: in a box somewhere are stacks of correspondence from over a dozen full-length summer stays on Horseshoe Lake. I got mail there, even have a cemetray plot reserved in the township cemetary. Another story for another time.)
And now, it appears I am in a new chapter unto itself: my French phase. (Reader caveat: this stage does not technically include ‘France Avenue’, the aforementioned location of my mother’s basement. Though if one is looking for some sort of harbinger of things to come, go for it.) My French Phase is appropriate, given as I now live in New Orleans, Louisiana, American home of all things French-and-bastardized French. (I say that lovingly, and most locals understand.)
Interestingly, here is a French connection, if you will, to many of the places I have lived – at least linguistically. Per multiple Internet sources: ‘An avenue was originally a row of trees making a smart entrance to a great house (“a venue”, French for “on arriving”) so an avenue would be a street lined with trees.’ (As for the streets, ‘street’ comes from the Latin ‘via strata’.’ The only French connection I can come up with for that is that, back in the day, the Roman Catholics of Joan D’Arc, et al probably all spoke a fair amount of Latin.) But as with many American words, ‘these original meanings of ‘street’ and ‘avenue’ have been forgotten and they are essentially interchangeable.’ So sayeth cyberspace.
On last note on our cozy, soon-to-be-vacated rental here on Argonne Boulevard: the Argonne Forest in France was home to one of the decisive allied victories in WWI, and the setting for one of the boys favorite movies – ‘The Lost Batallion’ Talk about your synergy!
And, technically speaking, ‘Boulevard’, while also a French word, was stolen, mostly intact, from the Dutch – who are like New Orleanians, in that they live below sea-level and spend lots of time futzing around with levees and marshes and such. So there.
But I digress.
We are now buying a house, and putting some roots down in the Crescent City. Come the first of the month, I’ll be residing (hopefully for quite some time) on Louis XIV Street.
Louis XIV Street, you ask? Why not, says I – via Wikipedia: “Louisiana was named after Louis XIV, King of France from 1643–1715. When René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle claimed the territory drained by the Mississippi River for France, he named it La Louisiane, meaning “Land of Louis”. Once part of the French Colonial Empire, the Louisiana Territory stretched from present-day New Orleans north to the present-day Canadian border.”
This historical note also brings to light another personal theme, as I have now lived at both the north and south ends (more or less) and along the western and eastern borders of the Louisiana Purchase. That aint bad.
As a curious sidebar, my middle name is ‘Louis’ though pronounced “Lou-is” not “Lou-ee” and while Louis and Clark explored the Louisiana Purchase, and ‘Mark’ rhymes with ‘Clark’ , making that part of any sort of French thing seems a bit of a thematic stretch. And for the record, I have never sung ‘Louie, Louie’ at a karaoke bar.
So in a week or two, its onto our new home on the uniquely named street. Though our furnishings are nothing along the Louis XIV style lines, there would still seem to be ample opportunity for ‘king of my castle’ references, etc. to go with the new domicile…I just haven’t come up with any yet. Feel free to make suggestions.
Finally, the English teacher in me takes hold: After reading the above, take a look back at the places you have lived, see what themes and connections you can come up with. It’s a fun and educational exercise.
In our next lesson, ‘domicile’ – from the Middle English….
Ciao for now.