I have had nine houseguests — yes nine — since the second Sunday of Jazz Fest.
When you have nine houseguests in four weeks, a few things happen. First, you learn that nine does not easily go into four. But, second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth you remember, as you watch your guests discover her through new eyes, why you’re so damned in love with our hot mess of a city in the first place.
To wit, in New Orleans (and, yeah, I know there ain’t nothing new here, but sometimes it’s nice to be reminded what you already know):
- We bring things together that should not be brought together … and create magic. Have you been to Kajun’s Pub lately (OK, let me rephrase that: do you remember being at Kajun’s Pub lately)? I took a friend there on Saturday night. Let’s just say he was dubious of my dining choice when we entered the joint to a tragic co-ed singing “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.” But then we ordered some of the food that chef Chris Smedley is cooking up at Borracho, which is now located in the nether regions of the bar. My friend wept with rapturous joy as he savored the housemade lamb sausage, pimento cheese, and mortadella. The presentation and the quality make you feel as if Restaurant August has opened a satellite kitchen … at The John.
- We will … and do … flirt with anyone, anywhere, anytime. “What in the world is this?” one of my guests asked me early one Sunday morning while listening to WWOZ. Turning up the volume, I heard the dulcet sounds of New Orleans’s own Isaac Hayes, Brother Jess. He was doing his morning greetings. They’re pretty perfunctory when it comes to his fellow brothers. A “praise Jesus” for this one who has passed, a “the Lord is Mighty” for that one who ails, but then he gets to the sisters. Shoot. You damned near need to take a cold shower after listening, what with all his “Praise the Lord for Sister Mabel, mmmmm-hmmmmm, her bisquits were sweeeeeeeeet.” Or, “I know you will join me in saying a prayer for Sister Ruth. We need her to get better so she can keep bringin’ over some of that somethin’ special that only she can bring over.” Mmmmmm-hmmmmm indeed.
- We love animals. All of them. There are almost as many feral cats in Treme as there are people. Now, sure, we do our part to make sure those cats are spayed or neutered (my friend, Peter, had 28 cats fixed in a three-month period), but here’s the deal: We don’t abandon them at the vet or take them to a shelter. No, we work to find them homes or, in some cases, return them to our streets because, for some cats, they just seem happier there. And it’s not just cats. There’s not a day goes by that I don’t see someone from New Orleans using Facebook to place a stray or abandoned dog, cat, or, most recently, ferret. Why? Because in New Orleans we’re all family. People and animals. And you take care of your family. Always.
- We are nice … to everyone. Walking down Frenchmen the other night, my last houseguest asked when I had become so nice. Not sure how to take a comment like that, I asked him what he meant. “You talk to everybody,” he said. As Maude once told Harold, I explained that was because people are my species. It’s what we do here, I told him. I then explained how we even have people who are paid to say “hi” as you enter our City Hall. I did not add my friend Deb’s observation that those greeters are just a ruse to disorient you before you pass through the scanners … and tumble into the limbo of Dante’s first circle of Hell.
- We keep it in perspective. Prior to arriving, one of my West Coast guests had read some of my recent columns, which noted how New Orleans and I have recently been more on the outs than the ins. His last night here, we stopped by the Rose tasting at Bacchanal, wandered about the St. Claude Art Walk, floated down Frenchmen Street and then, finally, found our way home. “Is it safe walking home?” he asked. “Probably not,” I told him, but then I added what I find to be the ultimate truth in these parts: Even when you find yourself having one helluva half-empty day around here, you always wake up to a half-full city. That’s just the magic of New Orleans.
Brett Will Taylor is a southern Shaman who writes Love NOLA weekly for NolaVie. Visit his site at ashamansjourney.net, follow him at @bwtshaman or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org