1: A weekly letter to the world’s best lover
I have a confession to make. I’ve taken a lover. I didn’t mean to. I wasn’t looking to. But I have.
Her name is New Orleans. Now, look. I’m not naïve. I know it’s not going anywhere. You and I both know New Orleans would make a lousy wife. But. But. But. She makes one helluva lover.
It all happened so quickly. I moved here one year ago. August 15 to be precise. After 19 years in Boston, it was great to be in a city that didn’t pull up the drawbridge at 8:30 p.m. (10:30 on weekends). As a native Texan, it was great to put my sweaty, stinky, bare feet back on Southern soil (even if both Texans and New Orleanians know we’re not really Southern…we’re better!).
And from the moment I made my way to the French side of Canal Street (settling first in the Quarter, now in Treme), I was head over heels in love.
Now, let me be clear: When I say NOLA is a lover, I’m not talking about some lithe, perfectly shaped 20-something who has stepped off the pages of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. That’s a lover who makes you forget the life you live.
No, I’m talking about the lover who makes you remember the man you are (or woman; NOLA goes both ways). The voluptuous, lived-in (and lived-on) lover who, to quote Vera Charles from “Mame,” is somewhere between 40 … and death. The lover who has seen it all, done it all, known it all. And if you’re just lucky enough … might share some of her “all” with you.
If you’re lucky, she’ll seize your heart and take over your head to the point where you are blissfully happy to be dancing, strutting — and sweating — down Rampart Street on a blazing hot, swampy August day as part of the Satchmo Fest Second Line. (Alex MacMurray is right when he sings, “You’ve got to be crazy to live in this town.”)
If you’re lucky, there will be a moment when you are rolling with the Chewbacchus Krewe, dressed as a gay space alien, alongside a fully stocked Bar2D2, and NOLA’s lust for life lifts you higher than any drug (OK, in that case, maybe it was a bit of both, but I digress….)
If you’re lucky, there will be a second Sunday when you have breakfast at Decadence Shoppe, head over to Jazz Fest for some Irma and a soft shell crab po’boy, and, then, wrap it all up by driving to Bacchanal, OZ on the radio, so you can get lost (and found) in rose, laughter … and more music. And more food. And you’ll know. You’ll just know … that heaven indeed is here on Earth. Here in New Orleans.
If you’re lucky, you’ll be walking through the Marigny or Treme (or, if you’re lost, on the American side of Canal Street) and you’ll see NOLA in her full glory. You’ll see the multi-colored beads of people who call this place home, living their lives as fully and joyously as possible. And you’ll know that this city could teach the rest of our oh-so-divided country a thing or two about unity. About compassion.
And, if you’re lucky, on those awful days when, six years later, you can’t drive through Mid-City without seeing the waters. When you can’t walk by your old apartment above the Orleans Grapevine Wine Bar without seeing troops combing the streets. On those days, if you’re lucky, NOLA will pull you close, hold you tight and whisper in your ear, “Never again.” And, because you love her so, when you walk your dog past still-abandoned homes or drive past a still-boarded up Charity Hospital, you’ll pull NOLA close, hold her tight, and quite clearly say, “Never again.”
Those are five reasons NOLA is my perfect lover. I could go on and on, but my editor already is shaking her head at the excess. Of course, we do that a lot here. Excess.
I do hope you come back next week, though. To this space. A weekly ode to the world’s best lover, the world’s greatest city: New Orleans. And, hey, I know she gets around, so feel free to send me some of your love letters too.
Because, you know and I know, that we all Love NOLA.