Waxing Sentimental

Sep 13, 2005 by

Having lived outside of New Orleans but only an hour away for a year now, it’s been easy for me to go home whenever the urge struck. Baton Rouge, while doubtless a charming town in its own way, is but a wan reflection of the New Orleans I love. I keep thinking about what I’m going to do and where I’m going to go once they re-open the city. It only takes a moment for reality to come crashing down. Everything will be different.

New Orleans, to me, is a city of memories. When the places where the memories were born are gone, I have to wonder what will become of them. Will they remain hidden, waiting to be re-discovered like toys left in the attic? Will we be forced to abandon them, and resolutely go about creating new memories, memories which will always seem lackluster in comparison? We don’t whitewash our pasts; we illuminate them with azur and gilt.

If I want chargrilled oysters, I can always head down to Corporate and go to Mansur’s on the Boulevard. Their recipe is good, but it isn’t Drago’s. Maybe the storm will allow Drago’s the rebuild their parking lot. Maybe they won’t re-open. It’s the uncertainty that hurts.

Nothing in Baton Rouge can compare to Tony Angello’s on Fleur de Lis, with its hot, fresh italian bread and angel hair with the best red gravy I’ve ever had. Last I heard, it was under 10 feet of water. Most of my memories of my grandfather involve sitting in the back room, surrounded by pictures of winning racehorses, listening to my grandfather try to convince my mother that if she just tried harder she could change the law for him. My grandfather died the day after Christmas.

Then, there’s R&O’s in Bucktown. Mere blocks from where I grew up, I have never had a better poboy than the several hundred, if not thousands, I’ve had there. I’m assuming it’s flooded. Sid Mar’s, just across Old Hammond Hwy, was allegedly flattened. When it re-opens, and I can’t help but think it will, I’ll have 1/2 a crab stuffing poboy and 1/2 an oyster poboy, and 3-cheese cheese fries.

As it is, I’d just settle for my mama’s beenie weenies (she can make lasagna and beenie weenies, but that’s it. if she tries to serve you anything else, run away!), served in the kitchen with the pink tile floor and cracked “white leather” formica counters we painstakingly repaired with clear nailpolish.

Maybe it’s my italian blood, but almost all of my pleasant memories seem to revolve around food. There’s the time G4’s cat Max sat in the pizza, Sunday mornings at the Bluebird Cafe, chinese delivery and The Game, and my college graduation celebration at Antoine’s. That same Antoine’s is now missing its sign and the brick wall on which it was painted.

Most of the other memories are alcohol driven, as sad as that sounds. We’d get into The Boot, and honestly claim to be sophomores without mentioning it was highschool, not college. Every childhood Christmas my father would let me smell his glass of Chartreuse as I’d beg for just a small sip (he caved in when I was about 13, and that was quite nice, I must admit). He gave me a bottle of VEP for my 21st birthday.

Friends are scattered. Many have already found new homes and new jobs. They say they won’t ever come back to New Orleans. That is one thing I don’t believe. So long as there is a city, people who have lived there will be drawn back. The peculiar mixture of costume and crime, saturated with the heady stench of ecclectic and eccentric foods throughout, has its own gravitational pull, and we can’t resist.

I also miss Jane. Growly, round, small Jane with her formerly perforated inner bits and mended pelvis; Jane who came with the sweet siren with whom we all fell in love, but someone in particular most of all.

Blah. I really should be studying, but it’s hard to concentrate, what with the sleep deprivation, uncertainty, and flashes of anger.

Anyway, in terms of what’s happening in Baton Rouge, the response would be “not much.” Traffic, always a beast, has become physically painful. The infrastructure cannot support the sudden population boom. Neither can the pizza parlors – the wait runs 2-3 hours, and you’re almost guaranteed it will be cold.

Also, the LSU Law School has been suddenly inundated with Tulane and Loyola Law students – 200 of them. The Loyola kids are nice. The Tulane kids (I have yet to encounter one who’s not from the northeast) just keep saying that everyone in New Orleans must be stupid ever to have lived there. They’re also convinced that all the city ever had to offer was Bourbon Street. I’m honestly quite resentful of the attitude they’re pulling when they actually had a choice about where to go, and they chose New Orleans. So many of the people who stayed behind had no choice about where they lived – they were born there, and never had the resources to leave. Also, there are those who chose the city and who will continue to choose the city because they love it, flaws, floods, and all. If these kids can’t understand that, and can’t recognize what a wonder New Orleans was and will be, that’s their own shortsightedness and loss. I don’t have the energy or desire to try to convince them otherwise.

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