Clarence, who preaches to save souls and does yard work to make money, came for a cake. His wife Ida didn’t come, but she waved from her porch.
Deon got a cake while wearing her pink-and-black-polka-dot robe because that’s what we do now. We go casual, we stay home.
During these weeks of COVID-19, Jeff Pounds has been baking treats and giving them out free to his New Orleans neighbors just for the pleasure of seeing them smile or, if they're wearing masks, to see their eyes twinkle.
A professional photographer, Pounds coaxes smiles for a living. He knows just how to do it. First, you need the excuse to celebrate. And food always helps. That cake Deon got? It wasn’t just a cake, but a thing of beauty, really, with drizzled frosting and edible flowers.
Julie, from across the street, got a cake, too. She’s the one who suggested Pounds make this a thing in the first place. Send out invites, make it intentional.
“I had always loved cakewalks when I was a kid, and it always reminded me of people and fun, so that’s what I wanted to call it,” said Pounds.
He used social media to spread the word about his "cakewalk." To give things a festive air, Julie drew with chalk on the brick cobblestone sidewalks, so much a fixture of New Orleans.
There are things we think of when we think of New Orleans. The old homes. The music. The vibrancy of the people. The merriment, the crowds. The disasters and the resilience.
Pounds moved to New Orleans and bought his home mere months before Hurricane Katrina.
Twenty-one years later, the coronavirus pandemic is wrecking his business. Wedding season should be heating up, but with all large, public gatherings canceled for now, his schedule is mostly empty.
“The only COVID work that’s come my way was for a distillery. They converted their business to making hand sanitizers,” said Pounds. “So I took pictures of those so they could post them online.”
He looks for silver linings. There is always beauty – it just depends on your perspective. With no tourists, the streets are clear of revelers, and they're cleaner. It’s calm and quiet like nothing he and his neighbors have ever seen. And the weather has been perfect.
“I’ve been taking photos,” said Pounds. “You can walk by the homes in the Garden District and really appreciate them right now because they aren’t blocked by cars. The architecture is stunning. You forget that.”
He’s social distancing with his elderly dog Natchez who, in his day, did tricks. The two would ride together on Jeff’s motorcycle.
“Natchez has seen 49 states,” said Pounds.
At 14, Natchez can’t do all his tricks anymore, but there’s still a spark. He’s still got some adventures left in him.
“We’re resilient. We’ll get through this,” said Pounds. “That’s who we are.”
Next, Pounds plans to visit the local nursing home. And he will come with cakes.