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April 17, 1981 - Image 26

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1981-04-17
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V V V

Page 8-Friday, April 17, 1981-The Michigan Daily

a

-W

-1w

The Michigan Daily-Friday,

From Diamonds...
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Rolling slowly

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By ELLEN DREYER
HE LURE of the road has al-
ways drawn people away from
their daily haunts and rou-
tines. This winter, my friend
Caro yn and I embarked upon a
peculiarly American sojourn-by bus.
We planned our escape route with the
help of a U.S. road atlas and contacts in
various places (friends, friends of
friends, etc.). With a good picture of
where we were going and who we could
visit along the way, we had only to buy
our three-week bus passes and hop on
board.
SO WE PAY our $200 apiece, and
Carolyn and I begin our adventure that
will lead us to Denver, Santa Fe,
Flagstaff, San Diego, and on up to San
Francisco, giving us an exciting, un-
forgettable experience.
Our bus from Ann Arbor to Denver
pulls out at 6 p.m. sharp from the down-
town station. Carolyn and I exchanged
excited smiles as the driver turns onto
I-94.
A heavy snowstorm has left a carpet
of snow and continues to come down,
swirling around the bus. Inside the
warm and comfortable semi-darkness
we anticipate our adventure.
WE ARRIVE IN Chicago at midnight
and have a two-hour wait for our Den-
ver connection. But, there is plenty to
Ellen Dreyer is a LSA junior, ma-
joring in English.

see in the bus terminal. We drop our
packs and flop onto orange plastic seats
while a constant parade of travelers of
every description passes by-as well as
those who make their home in this ar-
cade-like hall.
Carolyn reads to me from the
American Youth Hostels handbook,
then I try to call a friend in Denver, to
no avail.
When we board the bus our driver has
a mischievous grin as he rips our
tickets. "Oh ho!" he laughs, glancing
at our overstuffed packs. "You girls are
pretty brave to be camping out this
time of year.'' Carolyn grins
knowingly, since we aren't carrying
one bit of camping gear. Our sleeping
bags will be used on top of hostel beds.
THERE'S NEVER A typical bus ride
for us, although there are lots of long
ones; this stretch will take 36 hours. "If
we make it to Denver, we'll be ready for
anything," I tease Carolyn.
The city grows farther behind, and
our bus is gradually enveloped by the
vast darkness of the plain. There is no
snow here, but the tall grass to either
side of us shimmers in the headlights.
Everyone around me seems to be

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'

Mardi Gras . .
(Continued from Page 12
ny Crowell, a taxi-driver who emigrated
from New Jersey three years ago when
he was 24. He speeds down a narrow
alley as he describes his city, cutting
through a little-known shortcut uptown.
He feels so comfortable now that he
lights a joint.
"IT'S KIND OF crazy, but you learn
to co-exist," he boasts as he darts under
a yellow light. "You just learn to keep
your distance."
* * *
This city has played the role of a
social microcosm since Day One, an
ethnic beef stew exposing divergent
people to each other. The "French
quarter" contains the most blatant con-
trasts-and the ones that so delight the
vacationing outsiders-but beyond the
parade routes the less romantic mixes
are found.
"It is like a checkerboard," explains
Louis Greene, a retired factory
foreman living above a bar on Canal
Street. "You have your black neigh-
borhoods and your white neigh-
borhoods, but not on this side of town
and that side like most cities, but all
mixed together. There is always ten-
sion. It's not always peaceful, but
generally they get along."
AND YOU HEAR of the history of
New Orleans-a European superpower
battleground from its discovery by
Spain in 1542 until it was ceded by
France to the United States in 1803. As
the native Natchez Indians and Creoles
were infiltrated along the Mississippi
bank, and until it became a part of the
United States, nations traded the
territory back and forth, and even im-
ported large quantities of Africans to
keep house, help in the cotton and
tobacco fields, and serve drinks.
Realizing a good thing when they saw
it, venturing Central and South
American and Caribbean Islanders
landed in New Orleans to get in on the
ever-growing business opportunities
and the city's unique frivolity and per-
missiveness.
The upper class residents built them-
selves thousands of elaborate, ornate
mansions with inpenetrable iron fences
meshed in fancy patterns, that now
serve as one of the city's trademarks.
TO HEAR THE locals tell it, then,
these disparities between ethnic groups
are more economically motivated than
anything else. "It's not black and white
so much as lower class and upper
class," Greene says, "It always has
been."
Today,, the mansions are
systematically being subdivided and
converted into condominiums, at

$100,000 to $200,000 a unit. Unfor-
tunately for the aristocracy, its num-
bers are increasing while these'ante-
bellum mansions cannot possibly be
duplicataed. Nevertheless, the queer
social stratification continues.
* * . *
"It's a different kind of racism down
here," Crowell says as he drives up St.
Charles Avenue past the Tulane and
Loyola University campuses. "There
was a lot more tension there (New Jer-
sey) because they were working and
competing with each other. The white
people seemed more threatened by the
blacks. Here, they just treat them like
animals. And they get along better."
There does seem to be an odd
acquiescent quality to the blacks living
here, whose ancestors once occupied
slave quarters of these mansions but
now inhabit the many disconnected
squares on the checkerboard-islands
of real estate with much more simple
houses packed tightly together. Land
that is covered with parched, weed
lawns, and crumbling sidewalks.
BASKETBALL COURTS,\strewn
with broken glass, seem to occupy one
corner of every residential intersection.
Small taverns are equally prevalent,
with their glowing Budweiser signs.
Even at 9 a.m., loud soul or disco music
pours out of the open doors.
All of this is literally a stone's throw
from the mansions and the aristocracy;
one right turn or an exploratory walk
around the block, and you find yourself
in a new society.
To a northerner, encounters with the
residents here have special significan-
ce. For the most part, the natives' ex-
pressions are friendly ones, albeit skep-
tical.
The accommodation, the fear of the
aristocracy that has always been felt by
the lower class blacks-ingrained
during slavery and simply reshaped
and structured today-brings the
tradition to you in its bare, defenseless
form.
And the condescension, the imper-
sonal tolerance, extending from the up-
per rungs of the socioeconomic ladder
to the lower ones, reveals itself in its
own, equally timeless way.
This tense relationship between the
various ethnic groups that comprise
this city may be clearly visible to an
outsider; but it takes some effort, and
the Mardi Gras gaiety tends to obscure
the frictions and lends the city a super-
ficial image of unabashed harmony.
Along the famous, tourist-strewn
sidewalks, euphoric madness prevails.

.l: ....**...** . . . . . . . . .

H e w l e t t - P acur rmaPol 5

HP-33C

Typical street in San Francisco

asleep, and the irregular sounds of deep
breathing evoke a mysterious feeling
within this big capsule speeding across
country.
I SIT AWAKE a long time and listen
to a conversation between the bus
driver and a passenger:
"How'd you like the storm?" says the
passenger.
"Oh,' weather's like this all over the
country. Surprised there's no snow
here."
"I'm headed to Albuquerque, visit
my daughter from my first marriage."
The passenger leans forward confiden-
tially. "At the moment I'm not em-
ployed, but before Christmas I was
working an oil rig in Saudi Arabia. No,
no family with me ... my wife wouldn't
a had nothin' to do with it."
"How'd they pay?"
"Decent. Around twelve an hour."
"Not bad. I make about thirteen with
everything taken out. I've been driving
Continued on Page 9

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