The Great New Orleans Pit-Spitting Contest
I was lucky enough to witness an interesting and indigenous New Orleans sporting event on Esplanade Avenue, in Alcee Fortier Park.
Alcee Fortier Park is located in the Faubourg St. John neighborhood. The park is officially maintained by the City Department of Parks and Parkways, but it's really the people who live around the park who are responsible for the park's amenities and upkeep. Like many things in New Orleans, it's an intramural effort. The city government does do some things, but many, many other essential things are left up to the people on the ground. As anyone in city government will tell you, and they are very forthcoming, the city doesn't have a lot of money and it doesn't have a lot of staff, and the staff doesn't have a lot of expertise. New Orleans stands or falters on the shoulders of its citizens.
Alcee Fortier, after whom Alcee Fortier Park is named, was a linguist, a historian, and a Louisiana folklorist. I'm slowly working my way through Volume I of his "History of Louisiana."
I was walking past Alcee Fortier Park the other day when I heard frenzied cries of, "Spit the pit! Spit the pit!" coming from the middle of the park. A pit-spitting competition was underway and I had arrived in the middle of it.
I took a seat on a bench at the lakeside of the park and settled in to watch from afar. Then, I got more interested and joined the crowd.
"Spit the pit! Spit the pit!" There was a group of men and women by the red abstract sculpture on the riverside of the park and they were all gathered in one of the most exciting, small-scale, neighborhood events you can find in our fair city: a watermelon pit spitting competition. Naturally, there was betting involved, just to make it interesting.
I locked up my bicycle and wandered over to where the games were taking place. I won't get into too many details, but it was a fascinating display of tongue and cheek artistry, as well as expansive lung work. I walked away twenty dollars richer after sizing up the abilities of a small woman named Sally. I figured she had heart and she walked away with the longest distance of the day: 7'8". Not bad for an elderly lady who only weighs 105 lbs. When I asked her the secret of her success, she told me. "You have to use your diaphragm," she said. She never lifted her shirt but I suspect she's sporting six-pack abs above her belt line.
You never know what you'll find in New Orleans. Turning every corner brings a fresh surprise. You never know what you'll find on Esplanade Avenue in New Orleans. Ours is a beautiful and intriguing street.
Alcee Fortier would be impressed by what he could find around Esplanade Avenue today. Here's a picture of him:
I, your humble narrator and your man on Esplanade Avenue, am equally delighted by the adventures I have in our neighborhood as Alcee Fortier would be. If you think you would be equally delighted, here's a word from our sponsor:
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