Top 10 Things I Learned in New Orleans


I realize I’m probably stating the obvious, but I went to New Orleans to visit my niece last week. If you are unaware of this, it’s because you either weren’t checking Facebook last week and somehow missed my manic updating/picture posting/commenting or you have un-friended me, because I’ve already driven you insane with previous updating/picture posting/commenting. Either way, I support you and have nothing but warm feelings toward you. In fact, gird yourself, because it’s entirely possible I will try to friend you again, since I don’t realize you intentionally un-friended me in the first place. I can be oblivious that way.

Okay. Moving on. Things I learned.

1. Head Cheese = Pig Face. 

Do you know this? I’ll admit, I had no idea. We inadvertently ordered head cheese as part of a meat and cheese plate at this spectacular Italian restaurant. It looked a little like meat fruitcake, I must say–glistening there on the adorably rustic, Italian meat and cheese board–which sort of stopped me in my tracks from the get go. Plus, I had just eaten goat the night before and reached my limit for culinary boundary pushing. Plus, this song kept running through my head — the one Dane Cook sings in that movie, “Dan in Real Life” — “Ruthie Pigface Draper,” and then that reminded me of Emily Blunt dancing at the jukebox and then this led to a fit of hysterical laughter and it just all got to be too much. I ended up sticking with the prosciutto.

2. There’s this happy kind of music called Gypsy Jazz. It makes me want to dance.

But since I’m not really all that well-versed in music styles, I had to look it up on wikipedia. I didn’t really get the nuances, no surprise, but I did come away with the impression that it’s really cool and requires a lot of special training and dedication from the musicians who play it. I’ll tell you this, it’s a heck of a lot of fun to listen to–especially the group we heard, Showarama Hot Trio, and it seems to attract some really good swing and blues dancers who absolutely killed it on the tiny dance floor and made me miss dancing. BAD. So Gypsy Jazz has now inspired me to learn how to swing dance. Uh-oh. Somebody call the obsessive-compulsive fairy. Mama’s got a goal.

3. When you’re in New Orleans during the week, you see the same people everywhere you go.

One night my niece and I were walking down the street on our way to the aforementioned head cheese dinner, and we passed this older black gentleman. We smiled and nodded and after we passed him he called out to us. “Hey,” he said. “Didn’t I see you at the blah-bity-blah club last night?” We said, “Yeah, maybe, we think so!” (but I mean, it was hard to remember which club was which, I was so wasted that night on goat tacos and slap-your-granny hot sauce.) Then he said, “I thought so, I was playing in the band. Thanks for coming out!” That, my friends, is small town delightfulness. It made up for what happened next.

4. Tasers can look like guns.

What happened next was we came upon a woman and man who were fighting on the sidewalk. There were already people standing around and watching the whole thing play out. We walked up–there were three or four of us–and stopped because it looked like something we might want to avoid. And then I saw what looked like a small gun in the woman’s hand. She was pointing it down, near her leg, but her finger was on the trigger. It was dark and we were a couple of yards away, but it didn’t have any yellow markings or that weird space blaster look that I thought tasers have. So I said, “Let’s walk A DIFFERENT way!”, and all of us turned tail and hustled around the corner quicker than you can say “that’s a really bad idea to have a taser that looks exactly like a gun.” Anyway. We took the long way to the restaurant and hoped everybody kissed and made up before things got all tasey.

5. There’s a two-level Anthropologie in the French Quarter. With a Starbucks right next door.

I don’t really think this needs further explanation.

6. I want everyone to be in love. Even people who don’t want to be.

Or, in other words, I’m a compulsive matchmaker. Which is to say, as my niece and I walked around town, I said about umpteen million times, “You should date him.” It got to be a thing. And then, in order to keep all the potential matches straight, we had to give the guys nicknames to help us remember who was who. There was:

Extremely Tall Bro

Neon Bicycle Helmet Bro

Double Bass Playing Bro

Dreadlock-Wearing/Saxophone-Playing Bro

Blond Beard Bro

Soccer Shirt Bro

Too Creative for Planet Earth Bro (alternately known as Sleeping in the Vacant Lot Bro)

Sweaty Swing Dancing Bro

On a Date with His Girlfriend but Still Checking You Out Bro (unilaterally eliminated for obvious reasons)

Prosthetic Arm Bro, and last but not least

Cool Waiter Bro.

Poor girl went along with my silliness and laughed, but graciously declined them all. I haven’t given up yet. I have my eyes peeled for the perfect bro for her.

7. When people throw Mardi Gras beads at you from a balcony, they are not trying to pick a fight.

Again, no explanation, other than I am an idiot.

8. There are shocking things that happen at clothing-optional pools. Don’t go to them.

Please. I can’t talk about it.

9. I will never ask a celebrity for a picture. Ever. I will, however, stare at them and smile in what is, undoubtedly, a very creepy way.

This behavior is all because of a little incident back in the 80’s. All I’ll say is that it involved an eager, young, starstruck 18-year-old girl on the sidewalks of New York City, Dustin Hoffman and one of us (guess who) getting our hopes and dreams for an autograph crushed. It’s too painful to say anything more. Thanks for not asking.

10. Opening up a thrift shop seems to be the perfect way for a recovering hoarder to make a living. 

This observation is courtesy of my niece. There are several of these establishments in New Orleans, and she can find the greatest things there. But I do worry about the germs and whatnot lurking on the stuff. And the rat skeletons under the mountains of junk. While she bounded joyfully through these caves of crap, I kept it strictly to window shopping.

11. (Because now that I think about it, I learned 11 things in New Orleans.) Bourbon Street, no. Frenchman Street, yes.

Mainly because on Frenchman Street there weren’t any strip joints or live sex shops or dens of red-hot, fiery, charcoal-blackened iniquity or whatever they’re called these days. This can’t be the first time I’ve seen these places, maybe it’s just the first time I’ve noticed it–but the girls that hang out in the doorways of these places in their stripper outfits, looking monumentally bored and/or mildly pissed, really caught my attention. My niece and I discussed how we both wanted to rush up and grab the girl by the arm, pull her out of there, give her some clothes, money and a pep talk about how she can go to SCHOOL! and be BETTER THAN THIS! make SOMETHING OF HERSELF! have a FULFILLING LIFE AND WEAR TURTLENECKS TO WORK! I know, I KNOW– it’s judgmental and I don’t know any of these girls’ stories, and I sound self-righteous and simple-minded because everybody makes their own choices, but…. I just can’t help thinking that none of those girls, when they were eight years old, said to themselves, “Boy, when I grow up, I’d sure like to hang out naked on Bourbon Street trying to lure drunk guys.” Sigh. Okay, moving on.

12. (Wait, 12 things, because I really don’t want to end on a downer.) I love my niece.

She makes me laugh. She really, really makes me laugh. She’s extraordinarily smart and insightful and is probably the only person I enjoy shopping with. She can effortlessly plan an entire day that includes dinner reservations and all kinds of other fun activities at the drop of a hat. She makes it seem effortless. She likes Anthropologie and Starbucks. She actually forced me to read two of my short stories OUT LOUD to her, then said she really liked them. And I believed her. She always sees the vision, always welcomes the possibilities, always believes in peoples’ ideas, and, last but not least, wants to rescue strippers with me. I can’t wait to see her again.

Happy Mother’s Day, y’all. I’m gonna go research swing dance lessons.

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