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Love NOLA: Lending a hand … or a can opener

Brett Will Taylor (photo by Jason Kruppa)

A true love is always there when you need her … in ways large and small. NOLA proved to me she was such a lover the first night I lived in Treme, which happens to be one year ago today.

Moves are never easy, but this one was particularly brutal. I had picked up and left behind 19 years of a successful, happy life in Boston to move to NOLA in pursuit of being a writer. I knew not one person in this city. It was a move that seems crazy when you’re in your 20’s and downright certifiable when you’re in your 40’s.

But as my first friend here has told me repeatedly:  “You are one crazy SOB,” so NOLA-bound I was. Or more precisely, Treme-bound.

My house is the only place I looked at. I literally opened the door, said “this is it,” and signed on the dotted line (see “crazy SOB” above). About six weeks later, 115 boxes from one chapter of my life arrived on North Robertson Street to help me start a new adventure.

By 8:00 that first evening, I was physically whipped and mentally fried. I also was hungry. And thirsty.

I looked around to see what was unpacked and realized that I had everything I needed to make my all-time favorite meal: an unspeakably dry Old Raj martini followed by Bush’s beans and Oscar Meyer weiners (I call it my “top shelf meets bottom shelf” meal). If given the choice, it will be the last meal I have on this good earth.

I happily poured the Old Raj in a perfectly chilled (and quite large) glass and got down to the business of fixing my dinner. I melted the butter, sauteed the onions and fried the weiners. The Stubbs BBQ sauce, Lawrey’s and cumin were all standing by to help doctor the beans to perfection.

The gin tasted good. The kitchen smelled good. “Life IS good,” I said out loud.

And, just like that, life suddenly went bad. Very, very bad.

You see, somewhere between packing up Boston and unpacking New Orleans, I had lost my can opener. And even a crazy SOB like me knows you can’t have beans-n-franks without the beans. And you can’t have the beans if you can’t open the can in which they so blissfully reside.

I’ll admit, my first response was neither positive … nor printable. But then I bucked up, grabbed my can and my martini and  set out onto the streets of Treme. In search of a can opener.

The initial search did not go well. I went to the corner store. No can opener. I knocked on seven doors. No one was home. I was beginning to tell myself that franks-n-well, franks, might not taste so bad after all.

Then, I knocked on one more door.

“Who is it?” asked a distinctly elderly voice behind the closed door.

“It’s Brett, I’m your new neighbor. I need help,” I said (with not the least bit of shame).

The door cracked open as far the chain would allow and this sweet angel named Miss Jessie peered through.

“Baby, what’s wrong?”

I held up my can and said “Ma’am, I just moved down the street. And I don’t have a can opener to make my dinner.”

Miss Jessie unlocked the door and called her nephew to the door. “Go open this nice man’s beans,” she said.

While he was gone, we exchanged a few pleasantries about the neighborhood, the weather, the beans. Then, all of a sudden, she got this very serious look on her face. “You know, I better go make sure he’s got this handled. You only got one can.”

I sipped my martini to keep from laughing.

A moment later, Miss Jessie returned (I have never seen the nephew again) and handed me the can. “You have a good dinner now, Brett.”

I did. Have a good dinner. And an even better year.

Brett Will Taylor writes Love: NOLA weekly for NolaVie. Visit his blog at


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[…] of this column might already be familiar with Miss Jessie.  She's the life savor who pulled me back from the brink of disaster my first night in Treme when she opened my can of […]

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