There’s a saying (or there ought to be!) that you can take the boy out of Boston, but you can’t take the Boston out of the boy. After 19 years in the city that still thinks it’s the hub of the universe and barely two in the city that operates in a parallel universe, I still have days when those old Boston ways rear their Puritan head.
That’s not to say I haven’t made progress. I no longer avert my eyes and protect my wallet when a complete stranger says “hi.” I now use the car horn to say “hello” to neighbors instead of “get the hell out of my way” to strangers. And I see yellow lights as a gentle reminder to stop and look around at our awesome city, rather than an aggressive pull to floor it.
But I do have my moments when I forget everything I’ve learned here and revert to being an uptight Yankee. Like a few Sundays ago. The weather was cool and dry, so I invited a few neighborhood friends over for stoop night. About 15 or so folks, a true NOLA mix of seniors and college kids, close friends and new neighbors, said they loved the idea and would see me at 5:30 Sunday afternoon.
Well, 5:30 came. And went. Then 5:50 came and went. Then 6:15. But my stoop was empty. I checked to see if I had missed a text (because you know in New Orleans no one actually makes a phone call!). Nothing. Nada. No messages, no people.
My inner-Boston started to panic … and get really upset. Why, up there, if no one has called or arrived within 45 minutes of your invitation, the odds are great that you have been declared a social outcast. A dull social outcast. Just as visions of me, alone for life on an empty stoop, started swirling in my head, I looked out my window and saw where I was.
“You’re not in Boston, you fool,” I said out loud. “You’re in New Orleans.” I reminded myself that people don’t plan here, especially on a Saints day. I figured that other things had just come up and kept the river raft that is life in our city from rolling by my stoop.
And I was OK with that. And I was right about that. Well, the first part.
Where I was wrong was in what I did next.
You see, since I now knew no one was coming over, I took Tyra Banks (my dog, not the supermodel) for a nice, long walk down to the river.
Soon after, the texts started coming in.
“Hey, just got home, over in a bit,” Craig and Nora texted around 6:30.
“We’re on your stoop; where are you?” Laurie and Robbie texted soon after.
“Just now leaving the Pub,” Terry texted at 7, followed by Gladys at 7:15 with, “Back from the North Shore, be there in a minute.”
I cheerfully texted each and every one back that, since no one had showed up, Tyra and I had gone for a walk.
“What? You left your house?” one friend responded with a sad-faced emoticon. “What planet are you from?”
I told everyone that I had waited an entire 45 minutes and, since no one had texted or shown up, I figured they all just found something else to do.
“I mean, I waited 45 minutes. It was getting late,” I told a very perplexed Carrie.
“Look, in New Orleans if someone shows up 45 minutes after you invited them to, that’s not late. That’s early!”
Craig’s response was the most succinct: “Dude, you have to start living on nawlin’s time. Get over this Boston ‘on-time’ crap. We have a different clock here and it is not even remotely based on reality.”
Now, if I were still living in Boston, that last comment would really have thrown me. “Not based on reality? Time?” What the…..?
But, I got it. Because I don’t live in Boston anymore. I live in New Orleans now. A place you can’t explain.A city that marches to its own indecipherable drummer. And takes its own sweet time doing so.
I promised my stood-up stoopers that I’d try to remember that more often. And that, if I ever again left for a walk when I should have stayed on my stoop, I’d at least do so in true NOLA fashion and leave the door unlocked.
The go-cups out.
And the bar stocked.
Brett Will Taylor is a southern Shaman who writes Love: NOLA weekly for NolaVie. Visit his site at ashamansjourney.net.