Submitted by megan on Mon, 06/02/2008 - 19:50
For lunch today, I ate 6 oysters on the half shell and a plate of sweet potato fries, at Felix's, under the watchful eye of the oyster bar man, who called me princess when I walked in and asked me where I was from.
"Canada? I've always meant to make it up there."
"Oh, uh, yknow, unh."
"Well, it's a big country. Montreal is nice."
"Uh-huh. Are you from New Orleans?"
He smiled, huge. Four of his teeth were rimmed in gold. "Born and raised!"
People from here are proud of being from here, whether born and raised or more recent immigrants. I was in a more hipster part of town yesterday, as part of a mammoth sweaty walk, and I saw three or four New Orleans tattoos. Not something that's been particularly noticeable in other cities.
I haven't asked anyone, but I wonder how much of it has to do with the post-Katrina rebuild.
Even three years later, you can see swaths of devastation. The twisted H of Holiday Inn pushed to the corner of a parking lot, boarded up store after boarded up store. Three years later. Without hyperbole, I cannot imagine what this city must have looked like 2 1/2 years ago. It is unfathomable.
Other than that? It's fucking hot here. Like Ottawa August. I'm slathered in greasy 45 proof sunscreen and sweating through that. The kind of hot that you just have to give up fighting and stretch into, because holding out against it will only make you want to throw things and poke people in the eyes.
It is also safer than you might expect. I meant to get back to the hotel before dark last night, because I'd heard so many horrible tales of how dangerous the city is. But I misjudged how fast the sun would set and how often the streetcars run and I found myself in the quickening dusk at a streetcar stop in a fancy but nearly deserted neighbourhood with a paper bag of groceries and my laptop on my back.
I started looking for a cab. And then the first runner came out. And then another, and another. Mostly women, mostly by themselves, after dark, because only certifiably insane people and tourists run here while the sun is up. I stopped looking for a cab and started hoping that the streetcar, which I really wanted to take, because it's open air and wooden seats and creaky and when you ding the dinger it makes this sound that's a cross between gunshot and electrical sparks and there really isn't anything to not love about it, hoping that it would come before my poor feet exploded from all the blood that was pooling in them in this August heat.
When I got back to the hotel I was starving. So I left again, unworried in the least about danger because my hotel is at the corner of Canal and Bourbon, the edge of the French Quarter, and the place was crawling with tourists and security.
Bourbon Street is awful. Awful. Horribly awfully awful. I hate it without reservation. At 9:30 last night, it was all tourists and people who make money off our desire to be someone different away from home. The feeling off the street was one of letting go. People who, in their real lives, are more uptight than they want to be, who don't let go at home, taking themselves to a city where they can give themselves a white slip to drink too much, to be obnoxious, to ogle and hit strip bar after Barely Legal strip bar, and drink weak margaritas out of blacklight lime green grenade-shaped plastic tumblers in the middle of the street.
I walked a block of it and went to the first restaurant that advertised a salad. I ate fast, I went home, I put my poor swollen feet up higher than my heart and tried to drain them.