We’ve been in Louisiana again this week. The last time we left Baton Rouge I said, “Good riddance, may I never see you again!” Then I screamed something in made-up French like, “Tu es stupide et je ne te reverrai jamais! Je ne laisserai pas les bons moments rouler! Puis-je ne jamais vous revoir!” And flipped I-12 the bird. Anywho, I’m back.
This time we had my mom with us. Which was good, in a way, because Jerimiah, Jackson, Duke, and I are way over the touristy stuff, (which is what we had to do again on Sunday because my mom had never been to New Orleans!) So there we were, back in NOLA and doing the touristy-type things again, when it hit us why we are not fans: New Orleans is just a really sad place, y’all. Well, most of the Deep South is, but New Orleans is worse because of the tourists that come through and wreck the city, deplete the resources, don’t give two shits about the local people, and do it all while they are drunk and screaming, “Laissez le bon temps rouler!” So I guess it isn’t NOLA that I dislike, it’s the people who come and treat it like shit. Then try to make up for it by throwing a few bucks in a street performer bucket, or take a Haunted Tour and pretend they don’t really just want to stop at the baby grave yard for beers. (Listen, I’ve done that nonsense before. I’ve been to Mardi Gras as a dumb, 20-something, and I’m sorry. You live, you learn. #WhiteDumbGirlShit)
But my mom, on the other hand, is a 75-year-old white girl who just wanted to see the sights, take pics of the Catholic Basilica for her Catholic friends, and step foot on a streetcar. No hand grenades need apply. So we did that. She had an experience for sure (pics below). We took her on the streetcar and the city bus, because the streetcar on Canal is down near the portion of Canal Street where the Hard Rock Hotel came crumbling down, killing one and injuring dozens more. (They are still looking for three more people who are lost in the rubble.) So we had to take a bus around that location. Then we walked down to Jackson Square, had lunch at the Market Cafe, walked through the French Market, and made our way up Bourbon Street. My mom was in awe of the massive amounts of people, meanwhile this was the least crowded I’ve ever seen the French Quarter. And it was only 80 degrees out and we were boiling hot, so there’s that. But still, a ton of drunk people by noon, the smell of urine wafting through the air, and horse shit, always horse shit. Oh, French Quarter.
And there I was. Looking at Jerimiah. Eyeing Jackson. We all had that look in our eyes. That look that said, “This doesn’t feel right.” Because well, it just doesn’t. I know, I know, New Orleans is a tourist Mecca for fun, but honestly, it’s so much more than that. There is so much history there, so much wrongdoing went on there. So much still left to fix, and well, the three of us are just too sensitive to that sort of thing. We trudged on. We drove my mom through the Lower Ninth Ward because she didn’t understand what levees we were talking about, and that felt wrong. It felt wrong for her not to understand the devastation that happened there, but it also felt wrong to be tourists in a neighborhood where people are still just trying to get by, to rebuild, to forget about being treated like animals. But geez, there’s no way to forget. And forgive. How could there be?
And maybe that’s it. Maybe I have only known the post-Katrina New Orleans. Maybe it used to be different than it is now. Maybe it was more fun back then. Maybe the locals were more forgiving. Maybe there was more harmony, but if there was, it isn’t there anymore. The locals don’t like the tourists, but understand their necessity. The tourists vomit and pee on the street corners where slave auctions took place in the 1700s. So I mean… While we were eating lunch we watched a white man and a black man get into a fight over bread on the ground at Jackson Square. It was a silly situation, but the emotions were real. And the anger wasn’t really about bread on the ground.
So yeah, it’s some depressing shit. But there’s no real way for people like me, white people with privilege, to talk about shame without making the “other” feel like shit or seeming to use them as fodder, so I gotta stop. Here’s some pictures of my mom enjoying her first (and probably only) time in The Big Easy. I think she had all the fun she could stand.