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Cousin de Louisiane, an esoteric pilgrimage

By Ned Cheever

I’m not from around here. (You can tell by the way I talk.) My home is in East Texas, but my heart has found a home in Louisiana.

The culture and history of New Orleans and Southern Louisiana have captured and held my attention for many years, to the extent that I feel like a natural citizen in exile. Drawn as if by gravity, I visit as frequently as circumstances will allow.

New Orleans has been the focus of my interest to such degree that I have gathered these bits of trivia that comprise the winding roots of my knowledge. This rambling collection of uniquely cultural truths– none of which is vital, but, collectively, invaluable– follows no order.

I know …

  • The difference in the red and green streetcars.
  • Why the Neutral Ground is neutral.
  • That Carondelet doesn’t rhyme with Chevrolet, Terpsichore doesn’t rhyme with chicory, but Calliope can almost rhyme with cantaloupe.
  • That Conti doesn’t rhyme with Tonti.
  • How to say Tchoupitoulas, but I wouldn’t want to draw it in a spelling bee.
  • That Burgundy wine and Burgundy Street have opposing accents.
  • That Ursulines is singular, and Houmas House, too.
  • Where “Vetrans” is.
  • “Where I got dem shoes.”
  • That of the nine streets named for the Muses, all are mispronounced, and one is misspelled.
  • Of the visible construction flaw in the Beauregard-Keyes House.
  • That the Roosevelt Hotel was headquarters for the Kingfish, and that he could see all the way to Baton Rouge from his suite, or so they say.
  • That the Sazerac Lounge and the Blue Room are thankfully alive again.
  • Where Seymour Weiss left the deduct box. Okay, just kidding!
  • That Tennessee Williams lived at the Maison DeVille, but the Monteleone claims he lived there, too.
  • That Truman Capote called the Monteleone home, when in New Orleans.
  • That the movie Baby Doll was filmed at the Columns Hotel, and that the film crew pillaged the place on the way out.
  • That Marvin, the bartender in the Carousel Bar, never gets dizzy.
  • Where to get martinis for a quarter!
  • How to make a Pimm’s Cup.
  • The difference in Fat Harry’s and Harry’s Corner.
  • The legend of LaFitte’s Blacksmith Shop.
  • That it’s Pascal’s Manale, not Pascal Manale’s. I do not know what a Manale is.
  • That Sandra Bullock can walk to Commander’s.
  • That Cafe Du Monde has the best coffee for a morning walk on the river, that CC’s is best for a walk in the Quarter, and that you get your Starbucks at the Royal Sonesta.
  • How to properly say croissant, beignet, and praline.
  • That Galatoire’s is best enjoyed if you have your “own” waiter.
  • That Napoleon never lived in Napoleon House.
  • Why Irene’s and Tommy’s have the same menu.
  • Where I can dine in the bed of a pickup truck.
  • That the Bombay Club has vignettes and the Bistro at Maison DeVille has banquettes.
  • That the Parkway Bakery and Tavern is no longer a bakery, and that Junior is long gone.
  • Liuzza’s on Bienville from Liuzza’s at the Track.
  • A half loaf at Mandina’s is whole enough for me.
  • What the waiter means when he asks if I want “my-nez.”
  • How Dooky Chase got the name.
  • How Ruth’s Chris got its/his/her/their name.
  • That Ugelsich’s is gone.
  • That Willie Mae’s Scotch House is not a bar.
  • About lagniappe, but I don’t get much of it.
  • That ”shotgun” can describe a house or a marriage.
  • How to make groceries.
  • That a po’ boy dressed is not a clothed youngster of limited means.
  • That a ”spy boy” is not a treasonous youth.
  • That a ”second line” is not repeated drug abuse.
  • Where the Zulu King and Rex hook up on Lundi Gras.
  • That the King or Queen of the Mystic Krewe of Barkus is always baseborn.
  • That the Krewe of Muses is the prettiest of all.
  • That the Mondo Kayo Marching Club is the most fun of all.
  • That the guy selling ferry tickets is a grifter.
  • That Grandpa Elliott has one good eye, but I can’t tell which it is.
  • That there are a lot of Neville musicians, but not how many.
  • That the prolific Marsalis family numbers fewer than the Neville clan.
  • How to pronounce Rockin’ Dopsey.
  • That Irvin Mayfield, Wynton Marsalis, Kermit Ruffins, and Jeremy Davenport all play trumpet, but Davenport hails from St. Louis while the others are locals.
  • How to say ”muffalotta,” “Sant Bunnawd,” and ”Bye-yoo Sant Jawn.”
  • From the context if “hawt” means heart or hot.
  • Why Mirabeau is pronounced “Miraboo.” Do you, too?
  • How to pass a good time.
  • Where to pass a good time.
  • How to eat a crawfish, but I do not care to describe the act.

Ned Cheever is a new contributor to NolaVie. He has logged 31 visits over 17 years, stayed at 18 different hotels, dined at 76 different restaurants, taken over 1,500 photographs, lived through 7 Mardi Gras, one shooting incident, and a pocket picking.  And, yes, he still comes back.