I cant begin to describe how in love I am with New Orleans. I’ve often said that I’ve traveled all over the states and many places had their charms but I’d trade none of it for my bay area. I found the exception off the bayou. New Orleans touches something in me that I havent found a voice for yet but I fully intend to visit and revisit till the words come.
Hidden within it’s dense, humid evening air is 400 years of secrets, legends, music, sex, cuisine, corruption, culture and beauty that insists upon slowing down and breathing deeply in every decadent, elegant piece. It becomes a part of you. If not for the complicated obligations holding me here I’d trade this place in for a first floor shop and upstairs apartment on Royal street in a second.
I am taken with the sense of family that permeates each subculture I passed through there. Everyone is somehow interconnected. It was almost as if I hadnt known I was holding my breath when confronted with NOLA’s playful, gregarious, baudy warmth. Sitting outside our hotel the first night three old women stepped out to hail a cab from the 50th anniversary party they’d been attending. They chatted as if they knew us about how nice it was to see the judges again and chuckled wistfully that they’d all outlived their husbands, dubbing themselves the First Widows’ Club. As one passed me to sit on a marble landing I told her to hang on. She set her hand on my thigh, looked me in the eye with a twinkle and this elderly woman of old Nawlins money said in a purposely lusty voice, “You said hold on” to bursts of cackles amongst them.
Later in the week we were sitting in a seedy bar having amazing red beans, rice and andoulie sausage when the bartender suddenly bolted out the door shouting after someone. She brought him back in, slapped him and gave him the business about slipping out the back on his tab a few nights back. He sheepishly paid up as she waved him off, saying not to do it again. She came right over to ask how we were as if we were regulars. This sort of casual, sensual familiarity played out over and over during our stay. It called to me all week long. It truly is the Big Easy and even as it still tries to find its footing post Katrina, (the upper and lower 9th wards made me cry in their ever-present X marked shacks acknowledging searches and bodies like so many poor man’s makeshift crypts) it is a stunning city in all it’s forms. Wherever we went we were welcomed warmly. people thanked us for coming and pleaded for us to let people know that Nawlins had survived. Indeed only half of it’s original 600,000 inhabitants ever came back. Only 1 in 10 remain in the 9th ward where people were handed down shotgun shacks and row houses generationally and had no insurance.
NOLA is San Francisco’s sensual, traveled great aunt, chuckling sweetly at it’s angst-fueled reinvention of the sexual wheel. Patting it’s chilly, damp, activist, no left turn allowing kin on the knee she proffers assuredly, “Oh honey, you just go have fun!” with the wink of a worldly retired whore. I cant wait to know her biblically again.