What a weekend, eh? All those Labor Day weekend plans.
I had every intention of going to see the Southern Decadence parade on Sunday, but staying inside and watching Ghostbusters on Comedy Central just seemed so much more comfortable than hanging out in the wind and the rain.
But there was one thing that couldn’t keep me cooped up inside: Football. Specifically the presentation of the Ohio State versus Akron opener at the Mid-City Yacht Club.
Things like this become very important to you when you move to a different city. There’s something sacred about a home team. It doesn’t matter where you move to; you’ll always be a fan of the team you grew up loving. And being from Columbus, Ohio… the Buckeyes were everywhere. We don’t have a professional football team; there are the Browns up north in Cleveland or the Bengals down south in Cincinnati. Take your pick.
So most people in Columbus put their love into the Buckeyes. They are the home team, and if you live there for any amount of time, there’s an excellent chance that you either have gone to Ohio State or have been employed by Ohio State. There’s also a good chance that the mention of Woody Hayes will invoke the same kind of reverence that you’d save for someone like Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King Jr. or your favorite president (sigh… Bill Clinton).
Living in New Orleans, especially when you first move here, can feel like living in a foreign country. Y’all pride yourselves on being totally and completely different from the rest of the country, and that is certainly one of the reasons that I’ve fallen in love with the place, but it also makes things tough when you get homesick (which is inevitable). There have been times when I’ve gone into a Wendy’s and ordered a frosty because that frosty from Metairie, La. tastes exactly the same as a frosty from Grove City, Ohio. If you’re having a no-good, awful, bad day, you want the comforts of home. You don’t necessarily want to swim in a sea of "purple and gold;" you want to wrap yourself in the warmth of "scarlet and grey."
Homesickness can really get under your skin. It can play with your mind. When I first moved down here, I had some car trouble and didn’t have anyone to help me. If I was in Ohio, I’d call my dad and he’d come and jump my car, or I’d call my brother, or any of my friends. But in New Orleans, I didn’t have anyone. It’s times like that when you start thinking to yourself, screw these poor boys, crawfish and second lines; I’m going home!
But in the end, that doesn’t help. You must learn to rely on yourself. Moving to a different city will test you. At times it will tear you apart, but you’ll put the pieces back together and you’ll start being able to do things you never thought you could. It will make you more resilient. And you’ll realize that you were being silly… you really do love those poor boys and crawfish with all your heart.
When I moved down here, I didn’t really know that many people. Actually, I knew just one person: my wonderful former roommate Elizabeth who was also from Ohio. Getting used to living in the deep south was tough; there are different rhythms here. And as a girl who loves the seasons, moving to a tropical area was pretty jarring. Hands down, the thing that I miss the most about Ohio is autumn. I miss the leaves, the smell of the air when everything turns red, orange and gold. I miss the local apple cider and pumpkin doughnuts that are sold at every corner shop. I miss proper "football weather," when you break out the hoodies and comfy jeans. Autumn goes hand-in-hand with football.
So the thing that helped me get over my homesickness the most, in the beginning, was watching Buckeye games. It made me feel at home even if it was for just a few hours, and it helped me to meet people. And the number one thing that you need to have in a new place is people.
(Elizabeth and me watching a Saints game)
At first, Elizabeth and I would go to our neighborhood bar on game day where everyone else in the hood would show up in their college shirts and we’d watch our game on a little flat-screen television with no sound. If there was anyone else hanging out in the joint with a Big Ten shirt on we’d have a new drinking buddy for the night.
Then we graduated to Cooter Browns, where a lot of people go to watch college football games. We started going with our neighbors, who are Colorado State fans, and that’s probably the only place in town that would play their games. Plus, they have great oysters. But as awesome as it is, Cooter Browns also seemed to be the main hub for New Olreans’ Michigan fans, and it just seemed like treason to continue to go there. You see, Michigan and Ohio State don’t mix. We kind of hate each other. There’s a whole HBO Documentary about it. The only time a Buckeye fan would ever root for Michigan would be if they were playing an SEC team.
After a few weeks of the neighborhood bar with tiny screens and no sound and hanging with Michigan fans at Cooter Browns, I became friends with one of my co-workers, Jenny. She was, miraculously, from Columbus as well. She took me to the Fox & Hound, which is where a lot of Ohio State alumni hang out for games. We had a whole room full of scarlet and grey. The first time I walked into that place and everyone was wearing Buckeye jerseys and yelling "O-H… I-O," I almost cried. Imagine, if you will, being a Saints fan from New Orleans, living in a new city and walking into a bar decked out in "black and gold" with people chanting "Who Dat!" You’d get the chills man, it’s unreal.
And I gotta say, the Fox & Hound is great. There are some awesome people there, but we like more of a "neighborhood bar" feel. This was a family place, and I’m sure it’ll be great if and when I have kids (and much to my dude’s dismay, these future offspring will be decked out in Buckeye gear and not Tiger gear, so help me God). Also? The bill at the end of evening would always be outrageous. A few beers and some cheesy pretzels always seemed to edge up to $50. Granted, my memory is probably a little hazy; "a few" beers was probably more like "a lot" of beers. This led to our continued search for the perfect place to watch Buckeye games. And as we all know, there is a universal law that says "seek and ye shall find". And after a bit of searching, we found the Mid City Yacht Club via Facebook and the "Cajun Buckeyes."
(A bloody mary and a buckeye–peanut butter and chocolate… perfect for an 11 am game)
It’s the perfect place. A neighborhood bar where everybody knows everybody else. On game days, the Buckeye fans are plenty and the beer flows cheaply. There is also free food – no $50 cheesy pretzels! You see, one of the owners, M.J. (who is awesome) is an Ohio State alum, and she and her husband Jeremy put together a great atmosphere to watch games. And not just Ohio State games. If you have a team you love, they will make sure to put the game on. It’s also a great place to watch Saints games (a team I’ve come to love) and LSU games (a team that I will never love, sorry). And during crawfish season, they have the best boils on Friday nights – always plenty of corn (an important thing to an Ohioan) and they put pineapple in the boil, which was so good it blew my mind.
(M.J. & my friend Nick)
Through this group of Buckeye people, I have made some awesome friends here in New Orleans. And friends are so very important when you’re a transplant; your connections to people can make or break you. You need to be able to have like-minded people to talk to when you’re feeling a little homesick.
Especially when you work at a place where you have to walk by this every day. Several times.
That right there is a commemorative poster celebrating LSU’s national championship over Ohio State. It’s lovely.
Or when you’re a Buckeye fan transplanted deep in SEC country and you get comments from people (people who claim to love you, like your fiancé), like "hey… remember that one time when OSU played Florida in the national championship and lost? And then the very next year played LSU in the national championship and lost?"
Yes. That is when you will need your friends.
I had missed football. I had missed the Buckeyes. And Tropical Storm Lee wasn’t going to keep me and my fellow Ohio State fans from opening day. Not even a whole off-season of controversy and head coaches resigning, and star players being suspended, and being made fun of by my LSU dude and his friends about "sweater vests."
I don’t get as homesick as I used to, though there are still days when it’s hard. My friends make those hard days a lot easier.
So my advice to anyone thinking of moving to New Orleans?
You’ll get homesick. It’s inevitable. Elevate the homesickness with your home team. Find a place to watch the games and make some friends. Have a poor boy. Realize how lucky you are; you live in New Orleans, after all. It’s awesome here.