Old East Orange, The lost city of Casino’s ?

 

Paddling across the Sabine River, I couldn’t escape the feeling I had forgotten something important. One of those nagging feelings in the back of your mind which sort of makes your stomach turn, but you don’t know why. Shoving this down I looked back at times to check on Lauren paddling 20 or so yards back. I was raised on these waters, what could I have possibly  forgotten? Pushing my paddle under the washed out bank I hoped  if there were a nesting alligator it would choose the paddle over my leg.

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The mosquito population was hosting an involuntary blood drive, buzzing about whispering sweet nothings. Like a bad prom date, finding all the “tender spots”,  promising they didn’t have diseases, and  would call  in the morning . As I pulled Lauren’s kayak onto the bank, I couldn’t help but feel a bit chivalrous,  somewhat of a southern gentleman. If only I had a  Mint Julep and were wearing a white suit I could have been the ginger version of Clark Gable in “Gone with the Wind”.

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Changing from water gear to hiking gear

This feeling quickly faded as Lauren explained she had came across a large  Moccasin which lifted itself from the water surface as it approached her. That’s what I had forgotten, we covered alligator 101 but I forgot the snake talk. Not knowing what to do she charmed the snake with her Snow White like powers. Joking aside she really does have a Snow White/ Cinderella way about her, like singing and dancing with birds and mice while sewing a gown. I’m certainly no Prince Charming,or Mr. Darcy; pick all you want but real men read Jane Austen…right..

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Known as Old East Orange Louisiana, this reclaimed swamp was once the home of Casinos, Gin joints, Speakeasies, and houses of ill repute, more popularly known as brothels. If you still don’t understand, Google brothel on a co-worker’s computer. (Preferably one you don’t like),  followed by an image search for overweight speedo. Now, leave the office; your I.T. guy should be there shortly.

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Let’s just say this place was not filled with holy relics. Amongst the rubble we would not find the Spear of Destiny, or the Holy Grail. In fact we found bottles, lots and lots of old liquor bottles. Generations had come here to  kill brain cells, gamble, and dance the night away to Big Band Swing and Cajun Zydeco.

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What was once casino, now no more than piers and pylons set among the reeds and flowers. Once home to card sharks, pickpockets, and gamblers now the residence of alligators, toads, and snakes….. So the crowd hasn’t changed much.

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Cement Stairs lead to what was once an entryway. What once was the threshold to a roaring casino/bar is now an invitation to walk directly into the swamp.

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A tiled sidewalk cracked and decayed by time and the shifting ground played home to weeds rooted within its cracked surface.

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Bottles sat catching rain, the ghosts of countless nights of party, dance, and a bit of  debauchery. They roared through the 20’s and 30’s, yet like all things aging and slowly fading. Shifting economics, and the construction of a new Interstate system slowly starved these businesses.

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We walked for miles on a thick asphalt roadbed often broken by the slow but persistent growth of trees. Ending in the swamp, only charred piers remained of the mile long bridge, a burnt reminder of what must have been a marvelous fire.

Once known as the Mile Long Bridge.
Once known as the Mile Long Bridge.

Why are we so attracted to these lost abandoned places, these ghost towns? Some may dream of treasure, others perhaps, romanticize of a better time. I, however, love to see nature reclaiming itself. With every flake of rust, steel beams and nails are converted, transformed, and redeposited. Cement cracks until it is no more than the sand from which it came. Wood beams  rot, depositing hundreds of years of absorbed solar energy and carbon back to the forest floor.

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I love seeing time and nature do what they do best, repair and restore. Yet, time does not only heal old roads and reclaimed swamp, for time and nature heals broken hearts and fearsome wounds.

“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” The wise old man John Muir

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