New Orleans. The Crescent City. Sin City. The City That Care Forgot. La Nouvelle-Orléans. The Big Easy. The city that doubles in population during Mardi Gras. The city that courageously rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina’s devastation and is continuing to suffer the effects of that tragedy almost six years later. A predominantly Catholic city surrounded in a sea of southern Protestants. Religion is sprinkled into and is the source of everything. Mardi Gras is the excuse to drink, party, overeat, and miss work because you’ve done the all of the latter. And chances are, your boss is out the same day for the same reason. Before the storm, time centered around Mardi Gras. I can’t remember — was Grandmother here for Mardi Gras 2004? No, Elijah Wood was king of Bacchus. If she had been alive, I would’ve remembered explaining to her the difference between hobbits and orcs. After the storm, time is centered around the storm. When was the last time we went to Hansen’s for a sno-bliz? It was when they first re-opened after the storm because Ashley was running the place because both Mary and Ernest died within a few months after the storm. True and sad story.
The city where you can wake up to beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe Du Monde, scarf down an oyster poboy (dressed) and a cold Abita Amber beer (or a Barq’s Root Beer in a bottle) while sitting on a picnic table outside at Parkway Tavern for lunch, and then indulge in “breaded” speckled trout with Louisiana crab, white shrimp, toasted almonds and sauce mousseline prepared by our own James Beard Best Chef award winner, John Besh, at August, one of his many restaurants in the city. Our city “does” food … well. We plan lunch at breakfast, dinner at lunch, and breakfast at dinner. I love living in a food-oriented city. When I moved, I made a list of restaurants that I heard (or knew from prior dining experience) were great or that had been here for so long, they were a New Orleans standard. So far, after a little over a year, I’ve checked off just about all of them I am very proud to say. There are a remaining few that I can’t wait to sink my teeth into, but I’ll get to them eventually.
I moved to New Orleans in early May of 2010 — the middle of Jazzfest. The fact that I found an apartment during this time is empirical evidence that the Universe was conspiring in my favor for this move. It was only a 600 square-foot half of a double shotgun house. That’s not a typo; I didn’t leave off a zero. Six. Hundred. Square. Feet. In other words, I lived in a space smaller than the size of my parents’ garage which only fit one car and the Snapper lawnmower. So if you really want to generalize it, I lived in a space a little bigger than a car. If I ever fall upon hard times, I know I could probably live in my car. Don’t know if I could do without the indoor plumbing, electricity, and cable, but the air conditioning would be great!
We “do” JazzFest, Mardi Gras, Halloween, or a regular Saturday night with a unique passion and skilled bacchanalia. Everything happens a little slower down here, but it eventually happens. I believe this is because of our one-and-a-half seasons that Mother Nature bestows upon us. (Mother Nature is no friend of New Orleans.) One season being “hot”; the half season being “a little cooler.” The heat combined with the humidity is absolutely unbearable in the summer. Step out of your door at 7:00 in the morning and the density of the air takes your breath away and you break into a sweat walking to your car parked only 15 feet away. My electricity bill this month is abominable. I received the email this week, and as a result, I am typing this with a glistening layer of perspiration making a concerted effort to not venture anywhere near the thermostat. I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said that a Bikram yoga class could be held in any room in New Orleans that didn’t have central air conditioning. We got your 105 degrees right here. That being said, the weather is but a small price to pay when you consider everything else this city has to offer.
I moved to another part of the city into a larger apartment (thank the gods) six months later in November. The holidays came and went and then there was Mardi Gras. I live one block off of the parade route. In the two weeks preceding Mardi Gras Day, there were at least 18 parades that passed by my house. It was a constant street party in my neighborhood, and I have five words that summarize my thoughts during that time: Vuvuzelas need to be eradicated. They were a new “throw” this year; I hope they will be a passing fad. I unwisely decided that I would start taking the streetcar to work during the month of March. On the Thursday before Mardi Gras, our streetcars stopped running before I could leave work. Ok. No problem, right? I’ll just catch a cab. Finding a cab in New Orleans at 5:00 on that Thursday was like trying to find a one-legged nun walking a goat. I had to walk home — 28 blocks in four-inch heels. But I’m here to tell you it can be done! Also during this week, I locked myself out of my house and had plumbing issues which required the assistance of every towel I owned. But I survived my first Mardi Gras and despite the vuvuzelas, the key-challenged incident, the hike in heels through hell, and the inch of water on the bathroom floor, I had a great time doing it!
I haven’t even touched on the live music scene here. That deserves a post of its own. Suffice it to say, we have the best music scene around. I want to say so much about this, so I’ve already started a “music” post. I’m biting my tongue right now.
I know there are people who also love the cities in which they live and think theirs is just as unique as New Orleans, and that might be true. I’m just glad to be someone who appreciates and takes full advantage of where they live. I’m not knocking anyone’s city, and given the right circumstances, I could move and be perfectly happy (as long as I got shipments of CDM coffee and king cake at Mardi Gras and could take an annual vacation for the two weeks of Jazzfest). I love a change! New Orleans is kind of like a guy I dated once. He was laid back and did everything according to his own time, went to mass every Sunday with his mama but was out partying and listening to music until 5:00 am, looked sublimely sexy in a suit and tie and knew the difference between a cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon, but was damn hot in just a pair of jeans standing in front of the refrigerator asking if I wanted a High Life or a PBR. He had a soothing voice and could talk you into (and out of) anything. He was dichotomously seductive. That’s how I feel about New Orleans. Even around the roughest edges of this city, there is something alluring that enchants and holds you … even during summertime in New Orleans.