Marigny residents observe more activity in more action in an hour of stoop-sitting or window-popping than people elsewhere in America might see all year. So neighbors like Velissa Alldredge, 53, and Deanna Gossett, 71, like to sit on their Mandeville Street sidewalk and take in a perfect breezy afternoon with a few beverages.

“It’s normal to do this here,” said Gossett, who feels like everything she needs is within walking distance.

Even Eddie Gentry — who doesn’t like to go out at night — feels he’s part of the busy Marigny world from the music he hears at night or the view from his window. Basically, if you’re in the Marigny, you’re immersed in the Marigny, he says.

Gentry, 80, has lived all over the city of New Orleans. But he’s spending his golden years in the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood, living on the eighth floor of Christopher Homes, the bland-looking tower at the corner of Frenchmen and Royal streets.

Every sunny afternoon, Gentry, a petite, sharp-dressed man, will sit on a building ledge at the corner of Chartres and Frenchmen streets to soak in some sun and give his critique on the world. Over time, he’ss been proclaimed, mostly by himself, as “the mayor of Frenchmen Street.”

Where the river smells like a latte
Turns out that what Gentry likes about the Marigny is what most people like about the Marigny: its constant buzz, close, elbow-to-elbow neighbors, its music and bright colors. Its location right smack in the middle of everything. Even its two coffee roasters, Standard and New Orleans Roast, which give the neighborhood a distinct aroma, more pleasant than the odors coming from the river that brings them their green coffee beans.

The Marigny’s vibe can be delicate, however. Since the French Quarter and its visitors and festivals are so close — just across Esplanade Avenue — there are times when even the most laidback Marigny neighbors become weary of the hubbub and exuberance that drew them there.

Every morning, 365 days a year, French Market Ice trucks leave the company’s nerve center in the Marigny, on Decatur Street, to make sure that New Orleans drinks stay cold and its snoball stands are stocked with block ice. It’s a crucial role, but it gets more challenging at festival-time, when people park their cars more creatively.

“It’s kinda cluttered to get in here with these big trucks,” said owner Jason Duplantier, whose family has been in the ice business in the city for more than a century.

When temperatures climb and the streets fill with guys in brightly patterned shirts, Duplantier starts pulling 16-hour days. It’s not easy to keep the Marigny rolling. Felton Jones, the roastmaster for PJ’s Coffee-New Orleans Roast, churns out his steam-roasted gourmet beans every day in small, two-bag, 12-minute batches.

Several blocks away, at the Praline Connection at Chartres and Frenchmen, general manager Omar Aziz, 54, who works seven days a week, keeps the place humming for every diner who needs a plate of red beans or fried chicken, complete with a view of the brass band that’s usually playing on the corner at night.

Bohemian bartering
Farther down Royal Street, past Franklin Avenue, owner Benny Naghi also keeps the Mardi Gras Zone grocery open round-the-clock. Naghi has lived in the Marigny for 15 years, but his business used to be strictly Mardi Gras beads and party supplies until after Hurricane Katrina.

“We had no intention of opening a grocery store,” he said. But after the storm, at the request of neighbors, who lack cars and had no other place to shop, he started carrying milk, then bread, then microwave dinners, then dog food. At some point, he realized he’d become a grocer.

The store’s long aisles are now stocked with bicycle headlights, hotdog buns, European cookies, natural sodapop, and a wide range of fresh, all-natural delicacies from Naghi’s farm on the outskirts of the city: chicken and duck eggs, honey, homemade pear butter and pickled vegetables. A large, arched brick pizza oven now dominates the front part of the store, across from a bakery section that sells challah and other breads made each day by Naghi’s wife. Upstairs, a wall of washers and dryers will soon become a small launderette.

The drama of downtown
A few doors down, in a warehouse of Naghi’s, Krewe Delusion is putting together 22 low-budget floats for their sixth annual parade, which follows the more established Krewe du Vieux. While Krewe du Vieux and its 1,000 members have a well-known reputation for being bawdy and satirical, Delusion is more quietly establishing its own standard, as the Marigny’s more fantastical, imaginative procession.

Delusion has a relatively small membership, a few hundred, and stays within a modest budget. So the queen’s float, which was a cornucopia spilling with fruit last year, has been recycled into a cocoon for this year’s ride by its monarch, who will be dressed as a butterfly, surrounded by bright-colored flowers, said Delusion member Hiram Taylor, 64, as he carefully painted the side of a float and assembled daffodils on poles for the queen’s float.

While most Carnival parades follow major streets like St. Charles and Canal, Delusion is meant for the Marigny, said Taylor, who believes that Delusion’s natural home is downtown, where neighbors express themselves in a different way. “This is the dramatic part of town,” he said.