This weekend I drove down to New Orleans to visit my sister. I do not like driving to unfamiliar places, and driving in New Orleans, as you will know if you have been there, is not set up in such a way as to prevent a bewildered girl from getting lost. For that reason I have not managed to pay a solo visit to my sister since she moved to New Orleans two years ago (that reason and also the cats she has, which I am allergic to, but mostly I am just a bad person). We thought we would go to the book sale in Jefferson Parish, and get Vietnamese poboys, and visit the hat shop and walk along the river.
“You’ll have to navigate us to Jefferson Parish,” I told Indie Sister, “because I have no idea how to get there.” She was a champion navigator, although when we reached the building we wanted, all the signs said GUN AND KNIFE SHOW.
“Aha!” said Indie Sister. “There’s a sign that says BIG BOOK SALE. They are in the same building. How convenient. Do you need any guns and knives? They are right here in the same building as all the books.”
I did not require any guns or knives. My gun and knife needs are very limited.
We took a picture of a sign that said NO GUNS ALLOWED AT BOOK SALE and bought a quantity of books, and then we went back to New Orleans proper and wandered around the French Quarter. Indie Sister, who does not like football and gets stabby when confronted with drunken frat boys, lives near, but not in, the French Quarter. “It’s great,” she said. “I can walk to the French Quarter, but I don’t have to, like, live in the French Quarter.” I asked her how it was during Mardi Gras, and she scowled. “AWFUL,” she said. “It was all, everyone kept going on about football, and nobody ever shut up, and I believe there may have been one or two people who were drunk.”
“At least,” I said, “you’ve just had the most raucous Mardi Gras you’ll ever have. The Saints can never win the Super Bowl for the first time ever again.”
“Yeah,” she agreed. “I couldn’t even get to the post office to mail my PaperbackSwap books. I had to send messages to everyone to tell them there were parades between me and the post office.”
“Bet they thought that was charming,” I said.
“They did,” she said. “They wrote messages back and said how charming it was. I wanted to get to the damn post office.”
We got poboys in a restaurant near “the gay end of Bourbon Street,” Indie Sister said. “I like it here because there is limited ass-grabbing,” and then we went strolling down to see what Indie Sister called The Hat Shop, which turned out to be The Fanciest Hat Shop of All Time and was closing just as we arrived. Next time we can go to The Hat Shop.
In 2005, my parents and sisters and I were paying weekly visits to New Orleans to see my cousin, who was in a coma after having a motorcycle accident. After he came out of the coma and returned to normal life, there was this big hurricane in New Orleans. It was not a good year for my relationship with the Big Easy. I am not a party person anyway, and I have this nasty sinking feeling about visiting New Orleans, left over from 2005. I love New Orleans for being brave, that particular Louisiana sort of courage it has, achieving happiness with parades and football games even when everything is terrible; but I can only take a very little bit of it at once, and so I tend to think I do not like it at all.
But every time I go there, I am reminded that in fact, New Orleans is rather lovely. New Orleans possesses many things that cause me to feel fond of Louisiana, such as elaborate hats at shops that boast of being haberdasher to the stars, and jazz musicians on the streets, and beignets, and shotgun houses with long, narrow, shuttered doors. And, of course, my sister, who tells me where to cross Bourbon Street to avoid having my ass grabbed, and navigates me across parish lines, and collects flowers and fliers from the sidewalks and the walls of the French Quarter.
I’m sorry, New Orleans. As ever, I misjudged you.