Between the Bridges

The old wooden pier has ventured no more than 100 feet into the bay. It sits parallel to others of its kind, waiting patiently for the coming weekend. On this weekday morning, though, no one else is about and we sit alone, the piers and I, looking into the blessed north wind that filters all sound.
I am content. Before me is picture-perfect Pensacola Bay, its outline defined by three bridges. On my left is the 3-mile bridge, linking Pensacola to the Beach. Straight ahead is the infamous I-10 bridge felled by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, and to my right the equally infamous Garcon Point bridge with its $3.50 one-way "toll to nowhere."
Behind me is where I do not want to look. The house of my unhappiness hovers above me, almost hidden by the weathered water oaks and bent magnolias that shield it from waterview.
Now, though, I cannot ignore calling sounds from the house. I turn my wheelchair and begin a slow, measured progress up the incline.

 

The Longest Street

Who are you? Are you a Texien? Do you want to sit by me? Where did you come from?

My classmates knew my name by the end of first period. I didn't learn theirs for weeks. Just the name of the seventh-grader who offered me a seat that morning. Her name is Audrey.

It was late 1945. The war was over. My dad, newly returned to civilian life, had packed us up and bundled us off to a new world. The French-speaking, family-dense, sign-of-the-cross, gumbo-making Catholic world of south Louisiana would be my home for the next 40 years. I entered that world when I was 11 years old. You never leave it.

I spent many years trying to answer the question, "Who are You?" I never did find out. So I can't tell you any better than I could when I was eleven. I can only repeat a 1708 quote from the Governor of Acadia. "The more I consider these people the more I believe that they are the happiest people in the world." This was, of course, before the 1755 Grande Derangement.

I began to work on "Where did you come from?" and had much better luck. This was where I lived for over 40 years. My interest in history and genealogy came naturally, I suppose. I've lived a grand life and I hope I've been sufficiently grateful for it. I've been influenced by some of the most amazing people who ever lived, some I know personally, some I met through books. I hope they recognize my thankfulness for their presence in mine.

By 1970 I was ready to answer my own question "Where am I?" with some assurance that I was correct in my assessment of that world I had by now joined. I compiled a coffee-table type history book titled "The Longest Street." It quickly sold out, went out of print, and disappeared into library archives. I have been re-writing it ever since. In my head, that is. Occasionally, I dropped bits and pieces of a new and revised edition in various local publications. We Are What We Remember and Lafourche Country III are the latest ventures. In addition, I must have 2000 pages of commentary (gee, that's only 4 reams of paper - no - I have more than that, but we'll let that guesstimate stand for now) expanding on the original manuscript and focusing on the second set of 40 years that have gone by.

This website is my latest attempt at updating the "Street" and expanding that bayouside view by including a bayside community that has captured my heart - Gulf Breeze, Florida - and its serene backyard, Escambia and Pensacola Bays. Some of the same issues and core values crop up in each community.

Hurricanes, helicopters, hubris.

The devout patriotism evident in Gulf Breeze's residents is braced against Golden Meadow's devout Catholicism.

Debates about the presence of big oil (the bayouside has it, the bay is adamantly against it) fill the airwaves of talkers' radio.

Both communities abhor and endure wildlife from mosquitoes to sharks.

Both enjoy bountiful fishing grounds and both lifestyles are ultimately well-served by an underlying joie de vivre.

Tanya Brady Ditto

Just to talk or just to share, contact me at tanyabd@longeststreet.com

Bienvenue Cajun Nation