If you live in New Orleans, there are six words you try never to string together in a sentence: I…have…to…go…to…Metairie.
Just typing those words makes me shudder.
It’s not that we have anything against the people who live in Metairie (or Metry, as locals call it). In New Orleans, we love everyone: Felons (aka elected officials). Lepers (and leprechauns). Even people who live in Metairie.
We just don’t want to go to Metairie. It’s too clean. It’s too neat. It’s too…Metairie.
Metairie is a strange land where the streets are paved, the signal lights work and the trash gets picked up. They have a mall in Metairie. And a Target. And a Best Buy (two actually). You can wear nice shoes in Metairie without fear of stepping in vomit or urine or bleach. I’m not sure where you would wear them to…but that’s another story.
I’ve always thought there was a fair amount of respect between New Orleans and Metairie. Begrudging respect to be sure, but respect nonetheless.
We the people of New Orleans have to go to Metairie to buy our underwear, our iPhones and our TV’s. By the way, when you do have to go to Metairie, you always tell at least one friend of your travel plans. And what time you expect to be back. You do this not because you expect anyone to come search for you should you not return (“save yourself” is the unspoken, agreed-upon rule). You do this because you would want someone to take care of your dog and alert your mother as to your suburban demise.
By contrast, the people of Metairie come to New Orleans to live a little. And to get out of Metairie.
But there are moments when respect turns to downright surliness. Like when we had our boil water advisory earlier this week. I turned on my computer Tuesday morning and up popped a Facebook message from a friend who lives next door to Metairie, in Kenner. (Kenner is a tract of land that has an airport. And beige houses. It’s just like Metairie. Only scarier.)
“While New Orleanians are picking toilet paper from their teeth,” my friend, Brett, taunted, “the City of Kenner just replaced the curb in front of my house after I called them and asked. Just once.”
OK, now first of all, what exactly is a new curb? In New Orleans, we are under the impression that curbs cannot be repaired (except in extreme cases of tourism). Second, what is this business about being able to call City Hall? And have someone pick up a phone? Why, when Hurricane Isaac hit, New Orleans City Hall closed on Wednesday and didn’t reopen until the next Tuesday. Never mind that most of us didn’t have power. City employees weren’t about to let that get in the way of an (extra) long Labor Day weekend!
“Ha,” the Metairites and Kennerians taunted me. “Ours is a magical land of 21st century energy grids and functioning city governments.”
I must admit their words gave me pause. After all, when you live in New Orleans, you forget it really is the 21st century (it feels more like somewhere between the 19th and the 20th). And it is downright disorienting to hear the words “functioning” and “government” used together.
But then Brett from Kenner went too far. “There’s great food out here. We have Brazilian BBQ.”
WTM? As in “What the…Metairie?”)
One “great” place to eat between two cities? And it’s BBQ? From Brazil? In Metairie?
No, thank you.
I’ll keep my streets that are so potholed they threaten to sterilize any man who bikes down them. I’ll keep my crumbling curbs. I’ll keep the comic relief we call City Hall. I’ll even keep the toilet paper between my teeth.
Just don’t make me go to Metairie. Please.
Brett Will Taylor is a southern Shaman who writes Love: NOLA weekly for NolaVie. Visit his site at ashamansjourney.net.