I was in the best mood on Monday. Part of it was because I was still riding the mystical high of seeing Patti Smith at Jazz Fest. Part of it was because of the weather (sunny, dry, high of 77 … on May 6? Yeah, I’ll take that!).
But the main reason I was such a happy camper? Because it felt like we had our city back. To ourselves. Even if only for a moment (and even if not entirely). The late winter/early spring is always big, Big, BIG in New Orleans and, this year, we had the added bonus of the Super Bowl. So, it was nice to get up on Monday, look at the calendar and realize all roads were not leading to the next big party. Instead, we could catch our breath a bit, let our hair down, and just be us. Ahhhhhhhh.
Of course, “being us” in New Orleans isn’t quite the same as “being us” in other parts of the country. I was reminded of that as I biked home late Monday afternoon from the can’t-be-beat combination of acupuncture and Bacchanal. Making my way down Dauphine, just crossing Governor Nichols, a woman yelled out from her stoop “Hey, you want …”
I didn’t hear the rest of what she said, but, in New Orleans, if someone yells, “Hey, you want ….”, you stop what you’re doing and go investigate. Odds are the “want” they’re peddling is food or liquor or some combination thereof. So, I did. Stop my bike, wheel it around and peddle back to this stranger’s stoop.
Turns out the “what” that was being peddled were stickers. Birth sign stickers, to be precise. That this woman had designed herself.
“What’s your sign?” she asked me. When I told her Libra, she declared, “Oh, that’s my best design, let me go show you,” and then disappeared up the steps to her apartment.
Well, now, when she returned and handed me the Libra birth sign sticker, I must say that it actually was really nice and, in fact, captured my inner Libra-ness. The sticker was of an angel on one side of the scales and a devil on the other.
“Sold,” I said and handed her $5, which apparently is the current asking price for handmade birth sign stickers (now you know). Thinking we were done, I got back on my bike seat and prepared for the final ride home.
But we weren’t done.
“Listen,” she said. “That sticker is in one of my best Ziploc bags. It’s the bag I keep all the Libra stickers in. Do you think you could trade it for just a regular sandwich bag?”
Now, I grew up in a household where my mother and sister cherished Ziploc bags, so I am very familiar with the sometimes unnnatural attachment folks can develop to the “sealed in freshness” of a Ziploc bag. Plus, I am a big believer in supporting small business entrepreneurs. How could I say “no?” So, I didn’t.
Removing my new angel/devil sticker from its original home, I handed over the crisp, neat Ziploc. In return, the woman offered me a crumpled, easily 20-year-old, fold-over flap sandwich bag.
“The flap will work better for you anyway,” she reasoned. “Use it to hold the bag on your handlebars while you bike home without worrying about hurting the sticker.” (You can see why she has her own business).
I got back up on my bike, flap carefully positioned on my handlebars and started to peddle away. As I did, I heard the woman’s stoopmate say, “I can’t believe that guy turned around. For a STICKER!”
“It’s New Orleans,” was all she said. Yes, indeed, it is.
Brett Will Taylor is a southern Shaman who writes Love NOLA weekly for NolaVie. Follow him on Twitter (@bwtshaman) or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org