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  • In the netherworld of the batture between the levee and the Mississippi River near New Orleans, there is a small community built on stilts. Locals call them "camps": a dozen eccentric structures — some rundown, some handsome, all handmade — clinging to the river side of the great dike.

    Jean Brady Hendricks, 88, is happy in the batture. She wears long dresses and gaudy jewelry, and rides a pink Schwinn. Her home is a ramshackle thing swallowed by river vines and visited by night creatures for whom she puts out cat food. She used to be a torch singer in the French Quarter at places like Poodle's Patio lounge and the Gunga Din club. When she first saw her house, she says, she broke into song.

    "'A shanty, a shanty, an old shanty town, the roof is so slanty it's touching the ground.'" she sings. "I think it's the worst looking house up here, but I don't mind," she says. "If I was younger, I'd mind. It's funny how you become more tolerant as you get older."
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