Last Friday, the unthinkable happened. After 2 1/2 days at an amazing place called The Forest, tucked in the Homochitto National Forest, I was hit with the sudden realization that I had zero desire to return to New Orleans.
How could this be, I thought? It wasn’t just because any Homochitto road is easier to navigate than the pockmarked messes we call streets around here (have you tried to cross Rampart and Esplanade lately?). Something deeper loomed. Could it be that the beautiful forest had stolen my heart away from this crazy city?
“This too shall pass,” I told myself, packing the car. “As soon as you see the Superdome, your heart will race like always.”
Well, I saw the Superdome. But, my heart did not. Race.
Now I was really concerned. Was I about to flee New Orleans? What would happen to this column? I mean, Love NOLA has a certain ring to it. Love Homochitto does not (and I’m a homo!).
Soon after returning home, my Uptown friend, Stephen, offered an intervention at Cosimo’s. Things did not start out well. Half an hour in, Stephen got up to buy a second round of drinks (OK, 10 minutes in). No sooner had he stood up than an Uptown girl reached over to grab his seat.
“Excuse me,” I said, “Do you mind? That’s my friend’s seat.” To which she replied, “Yes, I do mind. I want this chair. For my purse.” She explained that, it being Cosimo’s, it was neither safe nor sanitary to put her purse on a bar (I will spare you the details, but suffice it to say she did not take Stephen’s chair, though she came quite close to wearing it).
Now, I really was despondent. What had happened to me? To New Orleans?
Then magic happened.
First, just as Uptown girl was walking out with her sparkly clean purse, one of the patrons won $500 at a Cosimo’s slot, which prompted him to do what any good New Orleanian would do: buy the entire house a round of drinks. Which prompted the house to do what any grateful New Orleanian would do: buy him a round of shots. Many rounds, many shots (leaving him searching for his misplaced sense of gravity somewhere along the bottom of his barstool).
Around this time, Stephen and I decided that food would be a good option. So we headed back to the kitchen. As we stood at the half door where you order, we were greeted by a wiry man, facing us on a ladder, visible only from the waist down. He had a rather effeminate voice and, this being New Orleans, you just didn’t know if he was on the ladder with a specific purpose or if he just liked standing on ladders. Either way, it was obvious that he was oblivious to the visual he was offering, because when Stephen asked him to choose between fried green beans and fried pickles, he replied, “Well, the green beans are stringy and chewy, but my pickles are thick and juicy.”
As we pondered the many ways to interpret his answer, a young Asian girl appeared from out of nowhere (in more ways than one).
“Ignore him,” she said with a dismissive flourish. “The white gay man’s reign is over. In the kitchen and the world. Asian lesbians rule all now! We will be known as A-Lay!”
“Oh, and, yeah, have the pickles.”
Not wanting to be swept out with all the other white gay men in her bloodless coup, I thanked A-Lay for the head’s up, promised fealty to her (as long as she could keep the pickles coming) and made my way back to my table.
Now, I ask you, where else could a waist-down question about green beans versus pickles morph into a manifesto about the world domination of Asian lesbians?
Nowhere else, that’s where.
Which is why, as we ate our (indeed) thick and juicy pickles, I couldn’t stop smiling. Sure, I had been seduced by the simple charm and pure pleasures of The Forest. But New Orleans has my heart. And I was glad to be home.