Are You From Here?
It happens all the time, especially if you’re in the service/hospitality business, as I am, and the people you encounter day-to-day comprise an ever changing roster of people from out of town.
“Are you from here?” they ask.
I have my stock answers. I say that I have been in New Orleans for 35 years, raised my family here, but that if you were born north of I-20 it can sometimes be hard to convince folks around here that you’re not a Yankee.
I was born north of I-20. So I generally tell folks I’m from Washington, D.C. That often satisfies. But if they know that area, they’ll inquire: Oh, where in D.C?
So, I’ll clarify. I’m actually from Bethesda, Maryland, just outside of D.C. But if they are familiar with that area as well, they press on: Oh, where in Bethesda?
Then I am forced to confess. I’m from Chevy Chase, Maryland. But don’t judge me!
For the uninitiated, Chevy Chase is as Inside-the-Beltway as Inside-the-Beltway gets. It’s George Will’s zip code, for crissake!
But – for the record – it’s also a very pretty place, lots of trees , very little litter, crime is white collar only and it’s a helluva place to raise a family. If you’ve got the scratch.
I don’t have the scratch. But my dad did. He was the dean of Georgetown Medical school for 25 years and a professor of physiology and biophysics – a rare academic among the scions of wealth, power and privilege around us.
But, these days, I have amended my stock answer to the daily interrogation of the provenance of my birth in terms familiar to any true New Orleanian.
Where did I go to school?
I’ve never been sure if that’s just a New Orleans thing, or widespread, but it sure is the lock down personal identifier in this town. And nobody ever means what college did you go to. It’s what high school did you go to? And since I have to answer that question every day, let me make something clear.
I’m better than you.
I went to Georgetown Preparatory School in what used to be called Rockville, Maryland, but is now called North Bethesda, presumably to increase it’s property value. Kind of like how parts of the Upper 9th Ward have been slowly absorbed into the ever-expanding, more gentrified – and more expensive – place called the Bywater.
There, I just added $60,000 to your property value.
But I digress.
Georgetown Prep. My alma mater. What was once an unassuming cluster of classroom buildings and dormitories designed in the neo-classical Colonial architectural style, set upon 90 acres and surrounded by a 9-hole golf course – it is now perhaps the most famous (or infamous?) high school in the country.
Perhaps you’ve heard of it. It became all the rage – literally – last year during the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill. Surely you remember: The lurid tales of drunkeness, the lascivious predation upon unsuspecting Catholic school girls – all of it exposed on live TV to the horror of a nation.
People ask me: Was it like that when you went there? The wild parties. The drugs. The drinking. The wanton sexual romps.
My response, sad but true is: If there were untamed, unsupervised, besotted orgies among my classmates at the time I went there, unfortunately, I was unaware of it.
Hell, I didn’t get laid until I was in college.
But despite Kavanaugh’s fierce, nearly hysterical defense of his impugned honor, he was approved for a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court. As was Donald Trump’s prior nominee to the High Court, Neil Gorsuch, who also happened to have gone to Georgetown Prep.
Other distinguished alumni include Jerome Powell, the head of the Federal Reserve and Brian Cashman, the general manager of the New York Yankees. We boast five current or former U.S. Ambassadors, a passel of Congressmen and Senators, a U.S. Poet Laureate, five members of the extended Kennedy clan, an NBA All Star, an Olympic Gold Medalist, NPR sage and Animal Planet host Mo Rocca and – most importantly – the guy who played Dr. Curt Connor in Spider Man II and III.
They, me, all of us, were no doubt honorable school boys; we wore coats and ties to school, learned how to speak Latin and we all – I think – like beer.
Which is all a way of answering those infernal daily inquiries: Where are you from? Where did you go to school?
Answer: When you control 22.1 percent of the Supreme Court, the nation’s fiscal policy and interest rates, and the payroll of the New York Yankees – dear reader, let me tell you: This is Georgetown Prep’s world and you’re just living in it.
So…where are you from?