New Orleans has worked it out. They’ve cracked the code. They know the answer, and they whisper it to every person that walks down its streets: “Pssst! You should paint your house purple. You should play music on every corner. You should be like this.”. The joy is intoxicating.
The first person I spoke with after I got off the plane nonchalantly told me that she “liked the way I carried myself”. And when I say I spoke to her, of course I mean that she spoke to me. People in New Orleans like to speak to you. It’s like the entire city has decided that they’re not going to do that weird human thing where people aren’t nice to each other. We’re going to be open and kind and we’re going to have a Bloody Mary with bacon in it. Extra bacon!
Allow me to talk briefly about the food. Parkway Bakery’s Po’Boys are a hug from your fun uncle, District Donuts is Charlie when he first sees inside the chocolate factory, and I refuse to believe that the fried chicken from Willie Mae’s Scotch House is just chicken. I’ve had chicken before. This is magic chicken. It was all incredible and yet again I was as gratified by the people that handed it to me as I was by the food itself.
This is thing that I think will stay with me. After the beignet high wears off, I’ll remember the genuine smile on the face of each person I met. The guy hosing last night’s mistakes off of Bourbon Street, the museum attendant who slapped an “Admission” sticker on my phone screen while I was texting. Everyone twinkles with a mischievous glee.
This was my first time in New Orleans so I can’t tell you whether the enlightenment that they seemed to have achieved is a response to the unthinkable adversity that they have had to overcome or whether it was always like this. I can only report is that of the many things Katrina broke, the people weren’t one of them.
When I set out on this adventure I wanted to explore love and how it shows itself in each unique corner of New Orleans. The image that sticks with me is the rainbow colored mass of acceptance that was the Pride Parade streaming through the French Quarter: a thousand balconies, a thousand Romeos and a thousand Juliets. New Orleans has worked it out.