Benjamin Morris: In Praise of the Fly

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Benjamin Morris

Picture this: the sun high overhead, the sounds of the river all around you, the feel of soft grass underneath you, shade trees lining the path, and the smells of picnics and barbecues wafting in from across the pitch. Yes, it’s summertime — spring was a blip, that one week of perfect high pressure we had last month — and what better place to go and celebrate New Orleans’ official longest season than a spot that brings together so much of its natural beauty in one place?

I’m talking, of course, about the Fly.

Everyone in New Orleans has their own relationship with the river — where you enjoy it most, the memories you’ve made walking along it or swimming in it or fishing in it (or bathing in it, as I often see down by the Moonwalk in the Quarter), the explorations and discoveries it’s brought. Even when it turns against us, and high water arrives, it’s still a thing of unmistakable beauty. There’s something special about spending time in its presence, that calms the mind and soothes the nerve, and puts all the daily struggles and irritations in their proper perspective.

The Fly, I have found, is one of the best places in town to go and experience this firsthand. There’s nothing like turning up on an afternoon, perhaps on a break from work, or in the early evening, just before sunset, to take in the sights and smells and sounds. It’s one of our most beautiful public parks, flat-out, in part because it’s so simple: grass, river, walkway, and that’s it. Sure, there are facilities like restrooms, water fountains, and soccer fields, but as far as the basic experience goes, what more could you ask for?

Now that the sun is out with force, locals know it’s the place to be. Last year, when the spring floods rose to unprecedented levels, the Fly was a destination spot for visitors wanting to see the water up close and personal. On more recent visits, I’ve seen sunbathers, frisbee players, and most agreeably, amateur golfers having a good time. I’m not joking about the last group — a few weeks ago, I was out there reading, and looked up at one moment to see a few university students set up an impromptu tee, complete with a set of drivers and a bag of old golf balls — which, one by one, they zinged straight into the river. Never mind the tugs tooting their horns in complaint — how’s that for stress relief?

Rather than keep it a secret, the best way for us to preserve our parks is to use them. So: if you’ve never been, go and visit as soon as possible. Take a blanket, a picnic, a book, a friend: whatever suits your fancy. The entrance is adjacent to the parking lot of Audubon Zoo, on the upriver side. If you’re coming from Magazine downriver, hang a left into the parking lot, and just follow it around to the right side of the facility — you’ll cross the railroad tracks, go uphill a bit, and then you’re there. And enjoy.

Benjamin Morris is the author of Coronary, a poetry collection, and The Bella, a novella. Around town, he can be found catching music on Frenchmen, crawling the galleries on St Claude, playing soccer in City Park, or tending bar at the Sovereign Pub Uptown. His column appears on Sundays. He can be reached at

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