It’s no secret that I get fed up with New Orleans fairly often.
Becoming an adult in a Midwestern city where most things worked reasonably well really skewed my expectations, I think. I grew up here, but I wasn’t concerned about utility bills or recycling pickup or insurance costs as a child or teenager, and so my first encounters with things like renewing a driver’s license or getting electricity turned on at a new apartment were in a place where those things only took maybe an hour of your time and you had solved the problem at the end of it.
So moving back home in 2008 was a bit jarring, even more so because the city was still in full-on Katrina recovery mode. Still, I made the best of it and was a huge NOLA defender until probably circa Hurricane Ida.
Now I swear at least weekly that I want to move. Things like Carnival season or Jazz Fest restore my enthusiasm briefly, but then I hit a pothole and blow out a tire or I get a $500 power bill or my neighbors get carjacked.
However, I recently had friends in from St. Louis (along with their three daughters), and just doing ordinary everyday things with them refreshed my love for my hometown even more than a special occasion like Carnival. We know Carnival is unique, but I didn’t realize how much of the rest of the city I’d been taking for granted until I saw it through their eyes.
We started with dinner at Liuzza’s by the Track the night they arrived: gumbo, po’ boys, fried okra, and Abitas. The food was delicious as always, but even more than that, I made friends with some people at a nearby table – something I never did easily in Missouri, where I was always saying things that were somehow “inappropriate.”
The next day, we met for beignets and iced café au lait at Cafe du Monde in City Park, explored the sculpture garden and Storyland, and rode the train before catching the streetcar to Mona’s in Mid-City for lunch – with a bonus alligator sighting! That night we walked around the Quarter and crashed a wedding in Jackson Square and of course made a few new friends.
On Friday, I had to work, but they took in the Children’s Museum before we had an adults-only meet-up for drinks at Bayou Wine Garden, where we enjoyed crawfish and rosé and made friends with the people around us.
Saturday, we started the day with Bloody Marys and omelets at Russell’s Marina Grill (best Bloody Mary in the city if you ask me!) followed by a day trip to Bay St. Louis, which is such a nice getaway that I always forget about. We capped their visit off with gelato, almond crescents, and cannoli at Brocato’s, where we of course made even more new friends.
My normal day here involves a lot of sandwiches or leftovers eaten at my desk and driving to track meets and the orthodontist and making sure everyone has clean underwear and snacks – so I don’t really get a lot of chances to be a tourist in my own city.
Taking a few days to remember what I love about it here – the sights, the sounds, the smells, the food – was a much-needed experience.
Although I will probably start threatening to move again once the termites start swarming in just a few weeks.