New OrleansSep 5, 2005
There are still a lot of places in the U.S. that I haven't been to, particularly in the East and South. New Orleans was at the top of my list for a long time, and I finally made it there for the first time in February.
There's something about taking a cab from the airport, driving past typical strip malls and trackless freeways, the shit you see everywhere in this country, and then your cabbie turns into the Quarter and you're just not in the United States anymore. At first you think you're in Europe, but it's not Europe either, it's just New Orleans.
There's something about walking down Bourbon Street and smelling a different aroma or stench every ten yards. The good ones make your mouth water. The bad ones make your eyes tear up and you just stumble out of the cloud of stink as best you can, coughing and giggling like a six-year-old who can't stop saying "poop".
There's something about a to-go cup, and this is going to sound laughable, but there's something so damn civilized about it.
There's something about wandering on wildly rolling, cracked sidewalks past blocks of abandoned buildings and old shotgun houses down to Elizabeth's in the Marigny for breakfast, and having the waitress bring you a Bloody Mary that you sit and drink on the curb while you wait for a table to open up inside.
For all I know, Elizabeth's is gone now. It was right down by the levee. I remember walking up to the concrete wall that morning and realizing for the first time that I was standing below sea level. I wonder if they'll reopen. Suddenly the pain perdu and praline bacon I had that morning, slightly hungover, seems just as precious as anything I can think of. That was probably the best food I had the whole time I was there. That sweet waitress who brought me the Bloody Mary, is she okay? The crazy gay waiter with all the piercings, who wore an apron that read, "want some PIE?"...did he get out?
The homeless-looking woman I saw standing on the corner on Bourbon, surrounded by the crush of drunken tourists, talking steadily to herself while her cat perched on her shoulders. Is there any possible way she could have survived?
New Orleans just isn't like anyplace else. What a God-damned wonderful town, and it kills me to see it like it is now, and to think that I just barely had started to get to know it.
If you liked this, you're welcome to read more of my blatherings.