I’ve long posited to no one in particular that New Orleans is the most interesting city in America. Well, maybe I declared that somewhere deep in the trenches of South Carolina to my only witness who may have been unconscious at the time, but nonetheless I became quite certain this was a fact. I lived in Houston during most of my grade school years, and had I been the wiser, I would’ve escaped my suburban purgatory many years back and fled to the Mississippi river delta to take up residence with some unlikely earthmother/sugar mama/voodoo practitioner.
We arrived in New Orleans some time decidedly past our bedtimes on the second day of our trip. After a 13 hour drive which entailed visiting the house I grew up in north of Atlanta, modeling through the state of Alabama, drinking it off in a Waffle House parking lot and then napping it off into Mississippi as Kelsey steered us through the dark toward alligators unknown, we were ready to be met with the humid, mystical embrace of Louisiana.
Upon crossing into the city limits, our main observations were that a) we were lost and b) the streets were cobbly and our car would probably explode. And since the vast, sensational news network machine convinces on the regular that New Orleans is basically exactly like Left for Dead or another franchised zombie apocalypse of your choosing, we were a little freaked out. Because when it’s nighttime you can’t see where the zombies are, which means they are everywhere.
When we finally made it through the throngs of unseen horrors, we were greeted by Megan, our handsome bungalow curator (who knows The Scene, has her finger on The Pulse and whatnot). Immediately it became eerily, twincestily evident that the three of us were nearly identical, but unfortunately Tegan and Sara cornered the market on that long ago. Defeated, we broke the ice with some Kentucky bourbon poured straight into diet coke cans, naturally. Megan let us stay at her place under a few conditions like that we wouldn’t steal her things and that we wouldn’t make her Stay Up Late. She had this shirt I really liked, but I didn’t steal it so I think we met exactly one half of the agreed-upon terms.
According to our intrepid guide, we’d serendipitously arrived in New Orleans on the eve of “Decadence,” which the throngs of Hurricane-wielding gay men and hipsterqueer ladies suggested was The Big Gay Weekend. And so it was. New Orleans was so very gay that we didn’t know where to begin. But Megan did, so we hit up the sort of cringeworthily named bar, “Rubyfruit,” to be among our own. The dykes of New Orleans were remarkably good-looking, and mostly seemed to straddle the delicate hipster/lesbian line with aplomb, minus the pretense of how ladies do the same thing somewhere like Brooklyn, wherever that is. Also, did I mention everyone is super hot? And that it’s a paradise?
The Crown Jewel of New Orleans:
The crown jewel of New Orleans is not the French Quarter. Nor is it the crawfish. But sans oil spill, I imagine local-caught crawfish would place in a close second. No, the crown jewel of New Orleans is the go-cup. The go-cup is a thing you ask for when you aren’t finished with your drink. So you’re at a bar and the fine looking lady with the Dia des los Muertos tattoo you’ve been heatedly discussing hegemony with does that saucy little head tilt gesture thing at the door and is all like, let’s get out of here. You can be out of the door in 5 seconds flat, amber-courage in tow; just ask the barkeep for a “go-cup,” pour that pint like a pro and you’re golden. Finish that shit on your walk home (not while driving or operating machinery, asshole).
While I was still hesitant to accept this as a legal practice, Kelsey became the go-to go-cup orderer-er. It was kind of like speaking in code or something, except no one else felt like a secret agent because they got to do this shit every day of their lives. In New Orleans you apparently have to royally fuck things up to violate the law, which takes some getting used to.
On Burying Your Dead:
Even when it comes to burying the dead, the normal rules do not apply in this crazy bayou land. On our second night there, we visited a public cemetery on the way out to a bar, naturally. Megan explained that anyone could bring a body here and bury them, just like that. We walked through rows of shallow plots, each piled high with uneven stones and tried to think if we had anyone who needed burying (we didn’t). It sounds morbid, but there was something incredibly authentic and beautiful about seeing the dead put simply into the ground. But the cemetery also served as a reminder of the hardship that’s always on the periphery in a town that’s seen some real shit go down. One recent plot was just a tarp-covered silhouette, weighed down by four rocks around the edges. Wow.
In sum, New Orleans is probably the most interesting city in America. Maybe it’s just our go-cups talking, but everything was teeming with some kind of otherworldly energy that I’d like to have longer to tap into and perhaps bottle for profit. New Orleanians seemed authentic and tough, but in a resilient way that wasn’t closed off to outsiders like us, as we wandered around wide-eyed in the city they had hand-stitched back together. Maybe I’m just exoticizing the city as a result of an intense dalliance with southern voodoo/hoodoo culture that started and ended with some Zora Neale Hurston a few summers ago, but my whole point is that yeah, we absolutely loved it there.
New Orleans was a deeply charming, proverbially and literally intoxicating place. Roaming around the area felt like exploring; everywhere you turned there were little pockets of history or intrigue or just great-sounding jazz, wafting out of an open doorway. Perhaps some time soon the gulf winds will carry us back that way.
In the next installment of storytime with Kelsey and Taylor, the brave travelers make it to the Lone Star State where they Do All The Things, including but not limited to cleansing their auras at a nude beach and wrangling wild horses (except not that last part).
yay i love these!
i love your trip! guess what? barcelona has to go drinks too! we were in a bar last weekend and my friend wanted to take her sangria with her. the bartender saw her trying to pour it into one of our empty beer bottles and stopped her but instead of yelling at her, he said “you’ll get a 50 euro fine if the police see you. here, have a plastic cup.”
Kelsey is a go cup pro
ohmygosh you actually look exactly alike.
You all went to hippie hollow? Badass!
UGH WANNA GO
I’m a New Orleans girl, born and raised, and this column made me so homesick!! And yes, the go-cup (plus drive-thru daquiri shops) are the crown jewel of the city.
When I went to college in California, during freshmen orientation they told us that we can’t be seen outside the dorms with cups of booze or we’d get arrested and I seriously thought they were joking…everyone walks around with a go-cup in New Orleans! Apparently, the rest of the world does not operate this way…what a cruel awakening.
Ugh, you left before Voodoo Fest!
i know! i desperately want to see janelle monae :(
SO glad y’all enjoyed our city! Please come back soon :) Everything you said was dead-on. Plus, perfect timing with Southern Decadence!
I have a question, when you move cross-country like that in the US, do people ride trains? is it possible? are there inter-state trains?
When people move, they throw their shit in a car and drive. But there are inter-state trains:
still not over go cups
me neither. i hate everywhere else
go cups are fucking win. i live in MO and its illegal to take your drink with you…unless you know the bartender, and she’s cool as hell. so yeah, go cups FTW. also…i wanna go on a cross country trip!!
I no longer drink, but when I did, I didn’t care what was legal or not, so I don’t know what the laws are in my area.
i didnt know the law or care, until i got, now i know and care, so i go cup it!
*caught…until i got caught…
I un-serendipitously last visited NOLA during a Lutheran youth gathering. All I can say is saints by day, sinners by night. But the voodoo stuff creeps me out. Like, I avoided the voodoo shops with the altars for fear of touching something out of my own clumsiness and getting bad luck. And I’d also recommend trying some alligator for anyone wary of the crawfish. Anywho, yes, it’s a very interesting city – can’t wait to go back.
These are a lot of fun to read – any chance of the “girl-on-[insert random place]” series coming back?
Was your gathering at the Marriott? I remember a youth group being there during Mechacon.
I meant to say I was on vacation there while a Lutheran youth gathering was taking place. They swamped the entire city that weekend and finding a place to stay, much less eat, was a hassle. They had most of their events at the Convention Center and a few big events in the Superdome though and now that I think back, I do remember the MechaCon people in their costumes. But they seemed to fit in nicely when compared to middle/high school kids with neon green backpacks.
They were junior high. Every time I read about my old classmates I feel embarassed (and yes I hear about them a lot with gay friends and mechacon-going friends..yikes they were creepy! Sad that they thought they were cool).
I’ve got to a NO Pride Event, I live an hour away and have never been! For shame!
I AM FROM NEW ORLEANS AND IT IS THE SHIT
IM GLAD YALL CAME AND HAD A GOOD TIME
wahhhh so jeals. Go cups go cups go cups!
Mmmm, lucky girls! New Orleans is absolutely at the top of my cities-to-visit-in-America list.
anything outside of the French Quarter is really ghetto territory! seriously, you’ll get shot just walking in the hood. New Orleans is one of the top 5 cities with the highest crime rates. A lot of murders are unsolved in that city as well!
that’s a really unfair statement. most of the violent crime in new orleans is drug related or domestic. obviously there are bad neighborhoods but if you aren’t walking around by yourself at night in bad areas (which doesnt include the majority of the city) or buying (or selling) drugs, then for the most part you have nothing to worry about.
NOLA is such an amazing city. Go cups and drive-thru daiquiri shops are incred, but the people there are the real treat. My gf evacuated during Katrina and we’ve been back 3 times since and it is heart-warming the way people from NOLA are just so proud to be from there. They are proud of their city and its heritage and I love it. Definitely thinking of moving there one day.
PS – You can have go cups in Vegas and Key West too! Yay!!!
Interesting trip. I’m curious about the left4dead-like scene you mentioned. I’m a left4dead fan (and player) and the New Orleans burial sites are is creepy-cool. :)
this makes me miss Louisiana! and especially the legality of the go-cup.