Big Easy Bona-Fides Not So Easily Defined

Mar 03, 09 Big Easy Bona-Fides Not So Easily Defined
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source: Plane tickets have been cheap lately, especially if you catch thrift-lovers’ specials on discount sites of the usual suspects.  Armed with this info, I had no choice, it seems, but to book a flight back to the motherland…

New Orleans…

So what if I arrived almost a week after Mardi Gras?  Not a problem.  I had plans to attend a birthday party then relax in laziness at my parents’ house before jumping into Spring Break week, finishing papers that would be due, etc.  Some “me” time.  No stress time.

And indeed I did.  But on what was to be my last day, Sunday, I ended up having lunch with two friends who’d come in from Thibodaux and Baton Rouge (about 40 and 60 minutes from New Orleans respectively).  Thibodaux Friend picked me up and as we drove he asked what exit we should take to get to Decatur in the French Quarter.  What a question.  I realized how far I had gone from my birthplace.  I had no idea what exit we were to take.  Further, I could not wrap my mind around there being a “Decatur” in New Orleans.  Unfortunately for us both, my brain shut down and all roads led to Decatur, East Atlanta.  My mind no longer envisioned maps of New Orleans.

Just a slip, right?  It’s not as if I’m driving in this city every chance I get.  Haven’t in at least five years.  Something like this is bound to happen.  Just find Canal Street and Thibodaux Friend can take it from there.

Oh, I can find Canal Street.

From there, Thibodaux Friend and I entered an alternate universe where we parked and walked the French Quarter, and I, the New Orleans native, played the tourist while he led our twists and turns off Royal, down Decatur, and to Angeli’s to eat.  TF loved eating at Angeli’s, as did Baton Rouge Friend.  I had never been to Angeli’s, nor heard of it outside conversation with said non-native lunch partners.

Again, this revelation didn’t bother me much–until we finished lunch and discussed going to Snug Harbor.  Now, I’m from New Orleans.  I know Snug Harbor is on Frenchmen Street.  But as I sat listening to TF and BRF toss ideas about what else we could get into on Frenchmen, it sunk in that I’ve never actually been to Snug Harbor.  I may have been on Frenchmen Street once.  I didn’t know just what way what streets ran in the French Quarter (turn on Toulouse, walk up Royal? huh?).  I started to doubt my New Orleans “bona-fides.”

See, my family didn’t frequent the Quarter; we just did not.  I ate my red beans and rice at home and went to second-lines with my folks.  And even during my college years, the area held no allure for me.  So does the fact that I couldn’t tell you where to eat in the French Quarter, besides Cafe du Monde, make me less of a bona fide New Orleanian?  Or that I just recently actually visited Snug Harbor and learned where Spotted Cat and d.b.a. stand make you doubt that I’m from there?  Or that I don’t eat crawfish, don’t like spicy food, and can take or leave Fat Tuesday?  What is the authentic New Orleans experience?  I can give a New Yorker a half-ass explanation of what Creole and Cajun is, can tell you where to find the Moonwalk, direct you to a couple of the local wards–but where to find good jazz and a bite to eat?  Good breakfast places in the city?  The best oysters?  Art galleries and go-to spots for po’ boys and hot sausage?

I might not be able to help you, but uh, I know people…

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