Bon temps, after all

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.

17 thoughts on “Bon temps, after all

  1. I am not a party person either, and I suspect that New Orleans would overwhelm me, but I still want to go there so badly. I blame (predictably and annoyingly, I know :P) having grown up on Anne Rice.

    • It’s really good! I will always put in a plug for New Orleans even though I do not live to spend a super long time there myself. You should definitely come to New Orleans. The customs people will call you “honey”, and you can listen to saxophonists in Jackson Square, and have crawfish etouffee for lunch.

      (I am now craving crawfish etouffee.)
      (Like whoa.)
      (And I know that I cannot have any for at least a week and a half.)

    • In fairness, it was a really BIG building. And the gun and knife show was cordoned off from the book sale section. I wanted to know whether you could bring books to the gun and knife show. Hardly fair to guns and knives if so. 😛

  2. I’ve been to New Orleans twice, once in 1998 and then this past December with my family. Both times I got the same impression: New Orleans away from the French Quarter was great, but the French Quarter and surrounding area stressed me out to no end and made me want to run away screaming. I dont’ think I could ever live in NOLA.

    • I know I couldn’t live there. I have a low tolerance for fun, and New Orleans wears me out in a hurry. But I like the French Quarter, as long as I go there at a quiet time of year. When I was a kid, my parents took us occasionally, and we’d get beignets and walk along the river. It was nice.

  3. I found this so funny! Hilarious about the book AND gun sale – you’d never get that here in merry old England! I always wanted to go to New Orleans but I’ve been concerned about going since the hurricane. One day.

    • Oh, you should go, if you ever get a chance. Don’t worry about hurricanes! Just go early in the year, before the hurricanes have started, or late in the fall, and you will be fine.

  4. I’ve been to New Orleans and the surrounding area to visit family a couple of times. I really enjoy it every time I go. It’s just such a different feel plus the fabulous food!

    • Oh the food is good. There’s a restaurant that you can go to there, and I would do it if I ever had enough money for a fancy meal, whose owner is friends with Neil Gaiman, and if you tell the restaurant this specific Neil-Gaiman-related password, they will bring you a surprise.

  5. This was hilarious, particularly the sign forbidding guns in the book sale. That tells you everything you need to know about why I like hanging out with bookworms. 🙂

    • I nearly didn’t say there was a gun sale in the same building, because I thought the sign was funnier without that, but then I felt like I would just be unnecessarily propagating stereotypes about the American South. 😛

  6. I saw your comment on my site that you wanted to know the ending of Year of Wonders. If you really want to know – send me an email: akreese (at) hotmail (dot) com.

  7. Pingback: Review: River in the Sky, Elizabeth Peters « Jenny's Books

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