Well, well, well. So Travel+Leisure magazine readers have voted New Orleans #1 for strangest people in America.
Quelle surprise. (A friend of mine who splits his time between Austin and Portland feebly tried to argue to me that those cities are stranger than NOLA. To which I replied, “Amateur.”)
It is true that we have some strange folks in this city I love; we love. As I type this, I’m savoring breakfast at Satsuma in the Bywater (eat here if you haven’t …. amazing and healthy food. Who knew?). In line is a guy who is wearing a hot pink diaper on the outside of some pretty awesome bright green Horton Hears a WTF tights. And no one cares.
A few days ago, I was in United Hardware (itself a very strange place that would fit well in a David Lynch movie) and a man dressed as a golden gnome (think Travelocity ads) was having a detailed (and way over my head) conversation about, well, I’m not sure what. It had to do with wires and such. Anyway, no one cared that he was dressed as a gnome. When I recounted the story to a friend of mine, she looked at me matter of factly and said, “Maybe he was a gnome.”
And I won’t even get into the parade of spray-painted people you see biking and walking around when you live here. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, in New Orleans, the strange is normal; the normal is strange.
The longer I live here, the more I believe the truth in that statement. Not just from a New Orleans perspective, but from a world perspective. In other words, what if Travel+Leisure readers got it wrong?
What if we people who live in the best friggin’ place on the planet are the normal ones and you people who live elsewhere are the weirdos?
Think about it.
All that the gnome, the Horton Hears/pink diaper guy, the spray-painted masses are doing is expressing their selves. Their true selves. Now, I’m not sure my true self ever yearned to wear a pink diaper (not without something sparkly on it, at least), but more power to you if that is your true self. And you’re not afraid to hide it. Because we live in a world today where too many of us are conditioned by the ever more ominous powers that be to behave a certain way.
Even in “liberal, progressive” cities like Boston and San Francisco that liberalism, that progressiveness comes with a set of rules that you must follow rigorously. Or you find yourself oppressed by those fighting to end oppression.
We ain’t like that in New Orleans. There are no rules here that say how you should and shouldn’t behave. The thinking is — the assumption is — that we’re all human beings here. We’re all the same, ergo we should be free to express that sameness in our own unique ways. So we do.
Call me crazy, but that don’t seem too strange to me.
Brett Will Taylor writes Love: NOLA weekly for NolaVie. Visit his blog at thestoryblogbwt.wordpress.com.