while it makes sense to temporarily relocate to a warm environment for the purpose of expanding worldview, specifically to observe how those living in warm climates year-round react unreasonably strongly to a slight drop in temperature, after returning from my untimely 7-day visit to New Orleans i have become a permanent proponent of the Brooklyn tundra. as New York and New Orleans are not evenly matched, (the beginning of their similarities ends at the ‘new’ in their respective names) a comparison is hardly germane. although i found myself making comparisons instinctively and jotting notes impulsively through my travels, a far better comparison would be between New Orleans and Las Vegas: a destination of sloth without the burden of culture.
unbeknownst to me, i visited New Orleans during the Sugar Bowl (go Buckeyes!), which is a college football playoff game that has been played annually on New Year’s Day in New Orleans since the 30’s. i experienced a mini Mardi Gras celebration in Mid-City from the sanctuary of the trolley while on my way to repair my phone’s screen for the first time: authorities on horseback condoning the public drunkenness of Polo clad teenagers alternating between cans of Bud and Bud Light.
the next day i struck up conversation with a cute Ohio native while buying a frozen Voodoo Daquiri at The Old Opera House. after being informed of their team’s big win and offering my congratulations i was called an asshole by her boyfriend for living an existence sans college football. i can understand why my existence was an insult to this man; other than the success of their college football team there is no reason to be proud of living in Ohio. my ignorance is an unwelcome reminder that Ohio is a place with very little to offer the remaining world.
besides the great game, there was no sense of urgency in New Orleans. the New York lifestyle implies that even life at its bare minimum requires hustle year-round, whereas the only requirement of the New Orleans lifestyle is the acceptance of tropical ennui, assisted by the lack of open container laws and the ability to buy a handle of Jack Daniels in every pharmacy.
my friend Lindsey’s rent is completely compensated by the Airbnb she hosts in her apartment’s second bedroom. as a result, she can focus her full attention on her burgeoning leather accessories company in the time that she would have spent working three part time jobs to pay rent on her windowless bedroom and shared studio in New York. outside of Etsy Lindsey does not need exposure for her business, so New Orleans is perfect for her to relax and design at her own pace. the $230/night she’ll charge during the height of the Mardi Gras season means that she will enter the black very soon, finally able to afford that new combo belt finishing machine. even though Lindsey is not an affluent woman by materialistic New York standards, she is making a life and working on something she cares about, which i think is a more significant achievement.
after i dropped my phone and broke its screen on New Year’s Eve i had to skip New Year’s Day brunch with Lindsey and crew so i could make it to the Verizon store before it closed. i became lost immediately on this ill conceived walk, and approached a woman hauling a bag of dog food from her trunk to ask for directions. she introduced herself as Big Momma and offered to take me wherever i needed to go if i lugged this heavy bag of dog food up the stoop, into her cluttered and stinky house. her sweet beast greeted me with an adorable gawk as Big Momma expounded (minus inquiry) on the colorful shrine of construction paper that gave the dates of death of her mother and three adult children.
i slid into the passenger seat and watched Big Momma struggle to get the key that hung from a lanyard around her neck into her Toyota’s ignition. before we hit the road Big Momma pointed out the bullet holes in the passenger seat and explained that one of her sons was mistaken for the driver of the car and murdered by a rival gang even though Big Momma stressed that her son never sold crack. (the driver totally knew there was a hit on him, and furtively offered to drive to swap himself from harm’s way imo.) as we drove over “the most horribleist roads” where pursued dealers disappear into a maze of shabby bungalows, Big Momma lamented the loss of her burial plot to her mother and children, hesitantly noting that she didn’t know where her body was headed after she dies alone in her cluttered, stinky home.
Big Momma decided that 2015 was the year she would become a public figure to tell her story and create a positive change in the community. she rapped a song for me about her family’s death, and the Lord’s reasons for taking them away, and her flow was actually pretty sick. in the parking lot of the Verizon store Big Momma spoke about the weapons she keeps in her Toyota: a “legal glock in the dash” and a “chopper in the trunk.” but Big Momma was a responsible woman with plans to alert the police of their existence whenever she is pulled over, keeping both her hands on the wheel and offering the paperwork before they can ask her for it.
the geniality proffered by Big Momma was not an isolated incident; even the stink eyes i received proved friendly. everyone i saw on my walks spoke nice and slow, their dialects dripping with drunkenness as their lives drift peacefully beside the majestic Mississippi. the dark alleys that cough between condemned homes do not intend harm, they are merely shining examples of afflicted poverty that is accentuated by the permissible public drunkenness. i received ‘happy new year’ salutations from these coughing alleys as i groped my way through unlit streets, tripping on the sidewalk’s frequent upheavals. even in daylight people said ‘howdy’ at me for no other reason than passing me by. a visitor in the French Quarter’s unsavory satellite neighborhoods is a cause for celebration, since few people pass through to avoid harassment from the wretched crust punx, who are absolutely the worst people.
the musicians of New Orleans don’t live too dissimilarly from the crusties, except they probably aspire to style their lives after D’Angelo during the production of Voodoo than some PTSD veteran: wake up, cook food, get drunk (D would get stoned), play music, (D would work out), cook food, play music, repeat, etc. this culture of jamming live tunes on the daily is an ingredient of life’s simple pleasures: a cold brew, a warm night, the jams of that moist bayou jazz….but a juncture occurs when the tunes encourage the listeners to exit the architectural beauty of Frenchman St, and venture into that pit of douchedom in the core of Hell that exists on Bourbon St.
moments before i fatally dropped my phone for the second time in two days i looked askance upon a frat douche pointing to a strip club screaming ‘tits!’ at me, and announced with a hasty rebuttal that i was gay. but my resolve was as strong as my freshly shattered phone screen, and i found myself entering a strip joint that only demanded the purchase of one drink upon entrance.
i need to learn to ask the right questions because i asked the club’s greeter what the cheapest drink cost (not what the cheapest drink was) and nearly bought a bottled water for $6.75 + tip. with an icy voice she asked me if i was alone, and much like at the doctor’s office informed me that the stripper “would be with you shortly.” i placed my order by unintentionally giving her the demanding conundrum of choosing between the evenly priced Budweiser and Bud Light when the fishnet clad Mandy introduced herself. i took all of my change when my drink finally arrived, and the greeter/waitress scornfully asked, “Aren’t you gonna leave the waitress a tip?”
i was moody and reserved when Mandy began our conversation, but then i softened up because she was a good listener and laughed at my jokes. she told me that she was in vet school, and i tried to suppress my coughs as i related some of Gaby’s vet school stories, but Mandy noticed and asked if i was sick. our conversation never dragged, but she was only roused from it when she remembered that she was on the clock, so with the fraudulently amicable tone of a saleswoman’s rote she grabbed my cock and asked me if i wanted to have some fun.
this year i need to be blunter with strangers, so i asked Mandy to define the term ‘fun.’ for the price of $280 (i guessed $290) the two of us would go upstairs to a room with mirrored walls under surveillance and do everything but intercourse. she guaranteed that i would cum and again grabbed my cock through my pants as proof. prostitution is illegal in New Orleans, and although Mandy could eat my ass until i came, the moment i pressed my cock inside her the police would bust down the door and detain our perfect, youthful bods. to test her stripper’s integrity i offered her $500 if she included a fuck, but she wouldn’t budge. i respect Mandy’s honor to her craft, but find prostitution laws in New Orleans hypocritical.
since passing through Bourbon St. on a dead, rainy Saturday gives me anxiety, i would only attempt to attend Mardi Gras accompanied by the inimitable Xanax. like every town where tourism is the major industry culture is commodified in New Orleans. the traditionally solitary night of Mardi Gras sloth has been redefined for more profit, expanding it into a one month celebration that makes it nearly as long as the entire season of Lent.
i find that criminalizing public nudity and urination is antithetical to progress especially for a city whose main cultural pull is a mega party. if women are allowed to bear their breasts during Mardi Gras, shouldn’t men be allowed to bear their pricks when urinating? how can open container be legal when toilet emergencies cannot be permitted? maybe prostitution is not necessary during the Mardi Gras season, but what is wrong with having the option? these are perplexing issues with no simple solution. cuisine, however, is straightforwardly anti-vegetarian.
eating out is never meant to be healthy, it is meant to be new. the sixteen half price raw oysters on the half shell that i shared with Ryan during the Lüke happy hour were stout and briny. i slurped my first one naked, chewing through its muscled grey flesh and crunching down on a lucky nut. i over slathered the second guy with a savagely potent horseradish sauce, and Ryan saved my life when he softly recommended that i scrape half of it off. of all of my meals, these pure monsters were the healthiest, and the least filling.
as part of our bang bang Ryan next escorted me to a cafeteria called Today’s Cajun Seafood. i ordered a savory pig’s foot that was served in the type of clear plastic bag that you’d take your carnival goldfish home, as well as a small cup of gumbo in a foam cup. this classic bayou soup is a blend of mysterious meatballs, wings, and fatty meat cubes, all coated in the medium red stock cajun stew. as authentic an experience as this was, my body dehydrating with every bite as i watched Steve Harvey host Family Feud on the cafeteria flat screen, i was secretly hoping for a disgusting and exaggerated experience of fish heads, shrimp tails, and bones that have been slow cooking for so long their consistency resembles the marrow they encapsulate. Ryan excitedly ordered crawfish boudin, which is created by illogically grinding this elusive sea creature into a mash, and stuffing it into a cylindrical tube of cellulose casing. doesn’t make sense to me either.
when i regained the strength to walk after my 2-day fever broke on my final afternoon, i ambled aimlessly and found myself at a crossroads between “$2 Taco Tuesdays” at a convenience store, or my last shot for a cajun seafood at a fresh market. since the taco line was more like a misleading jumble, i trekked across the street to the lineless market, pointed at a tray of Teriyaki marinated jumbo shrimps (only because they looked ready to eat) and walked out with a half lb. plastic bag. unsurprisingly, this was not a meal that i could eat while walking, so when i returned to Lindsey’s i dumped the bags contents into a bowl and fought my way through the marinade as i peeled each jumbo shrimp individually for a meaty, well earned segment. seafood connoisseurs from all cultures will be appalled to learn that i removed that crunchy strip of shit running along the spine of all of my shrimps. i can eat almost anything, but i am just not there yet.
ultimately, New Orleans is not a place of real consequence. lingering hurricane damage and invasive oil drilling has left the streets and sidewalks in embarrassing disrepair. this outcome comes as a frightening example of a population made complacent by free flowing liquor, which fashions the impoverished as easy-going, to the detriment of their communities. Big Momma can change the streets, since she knows them so well: while driving on Ponchartrain Expy she braced us for the reverse speed bumps that are the result of oil sucked from beneath the street, describing the infrastructure underneath them like a crushed, empty water bottle. finding a grocery store that sells more than po’boys and liquor is a challenge. (although when i did find kale it was half the price as it is in Brooklyn.) there are warm U.S. cities (LA) that are haymakers, but i don’t think that New Orleans ever aims to be dominant in anything besides public, nude friendly masquerades.
my cough and my chills resurfaced for my last night on New Orleans soil, and i shivered with ache on a deflating air mattress in Lindsey’s room as Lawerence lead their party in a D&D campaign, and a trio of chatty grad-school students from Washington, DC arrived as Lindsey’s next Airbnb.as i drifted to sleep i heard the voice of a mysterious specter singing The Bones of What You Believe, through the wall, grateful for the doom clock that are the warm months in New York, a time of uneasy peace, ceaseless scrambling…the grind is only slightly more bearable in the heat…
…I will never forget what they did to me as I waited on the line at Family Dollar…