Walking around Baton Rouge on a Saturday afternoon seemed like walking around a city that was all mine. Foot traffic nil. Granted, I had arrived in Baton Rouge on not just any Saturday, but on Christmas Eve. And unlike New Orleans (just 90 minutes downriver), Louisiana’s capital of Baton Rouge is car country, despite its well-intentioned grid system, set up long before cars were invented, meant to nurture some kind of urban interaction.
On the map, I noticed that four diagonal streets converged on a centrally-located stretch of Government Street. I had imagined that the square must be the city’s center. When I walked toward the square, I realized that there was no square. There was no center. Just a UPS office, a McDonald’s, and a radio tower spread out in all their single-floor, free-standing glory. A case of American sprawl sprawling into the city instead of outwards. There must be a city planner rolling around in his above-ground tomb somewhere.
I did manage to find a newly constructed plaza, however, just a few blocks away, in a manicured median of North Boulevard, where rows of speakers along the walkway gently played Christmas songs to no one but me. It felt curiously post-apocalyptic, humanity’s creature comforts having seemingly outlived humanity. But the peacefulness held a rare beauty.
Despite the ghost town appearance, I still gathered that the small city was just resting. A farmer’s market had set itself up downtown, but had closed by noon. Bars and live music venues would be opening later that night. Nonetheless, such a lull in activity created a great opportunity to take photographs.