Mementos and Symbols of the city I love
A charm bracelet is more than a piece of jewelry. It’s a collection of memories, experiences, and symbols that remind you of where you came from and what makes you, you. Since I’m leaving New Orleans for the weekend I started thinking about what elements I’d really like to have with me no matter where I go. Here is a list of a few items that I’d be proud to flaunt on my wrist at any time in any place.
A pocket watch
The first charm on my chain is a pocket watch, but not any pocket watch. It’s antique, brassy, and it hasn’t worked for decades. No matter how many times you replace the battery or turn the key, you just can’t get the thing to tick.
We in New Orleans like to do things on our own time, at our leisure, and I think that other parts of the world could benefit from our laissez-faire style. Americans especially tend to rush through the day, trying to get from Point A to Point B without any appreciation for possible interactions in between. In New Orleans we understand that there’s so much to miss. Blame it on laziness, or Hurricane Katrina, or booze, but taking our time lets us soak it all in. The saxophonist’s leftover last notes hanging in the thick humid air, the baby egret digging for worms on the neutral ground, the child on the bench off Tchoupitoulas with blue snowball allover his smile. These are the luxuries we afford ourselves in New Orleans, and we’re not afraid to be a few minutes late or stop traffic to treasure them.
A Giant Storm Cloud
With a silver lining. We’ve weathered our fair share of storms here, and we’ve come to realize that the big grey clouds do pass. What’s left in their wake is cleansed, renewed and rejuvenated. Sometimes the results from a storm are even lusher and brighter than what was before. I’m reminded of the late summer crepe myrtle trees heavied by the rain, their bright pink branches hanging low to the ground. These are scenes that you don’t get everywhere, and we’re fortunate to see them all the time.
Renewal is a big theme here, and we’re one of the few modern cultures that upholds such strength in the face of destruction. Being below sea level, our town has been ecologically doomed from the start, but the natural and cultural resources and foundations that we’ve built throughout the years make this town worth fighting for. And so what if there’s a little rain…you’re not gonna melt, sugar.
An Oyster on the Half Shell
There’s nothing more tempting than a succulent freshly-shucked oyster. It’s no wonder why this seafood is considered an aphrodisiac. You have to seduce it, add some tangy lemon juice, spice it up nicely with just enough horseradish before you taste pure bliss. A raw oyster is quite possibly the most incredible bite on earth.
Much like the oyster, living in New Orleans is a romantic endeavor. It’s ever so charming, quite sexy, and often a bit wild. Every day is a new saga in my love affair with this city. Some days I feel passion and desire, and others I take comfort knowing that this city is my soul mate. The moment you think you’ve had enough of its games, it draws you back in so seductively that you just can’t leave.
A Candied Pecan
When I think about the nuttiness of Nola, I can’t help but smile. We’re unique, sometimes crunchy, and balance a good dose of sweet with our heat. It’s hard to imagine living in a place where people act the same way all the time. The manic nature of our population makes it interesting and keeps things lively. Only in this town can you get candy and cayenne in the same simple transaction.
Take a Monday morning in September, for example. If the Saints win on Sunday the whole city is smiling. People are happy to be at work and more willing to lend a hand to fellow fans. But, if the home team loses, you better hope your annual performance evaluation isn’t scheduled for 9am the next day…We live in the moment, we ‘feel’ together, and we have no regrets.
A half-opened straw
Anyone who has been to Camellia Grill has experienced the true definition of hospitality. In New Orleans, hospitality may not come at a high price. It may feel old fashioned, and it’s probably accompanied by a little grime, but man, does it make you feel special. Every time I reach across the dinette counter to grab that half-wrapped straw I feel the love, like that straw is a magic wand that makes my Chocolate Cherry Freeze extra, extra delicious.
For the most part, the service industry in New Orleans is full of characters just like the white jacket wearing short-order servers at Camellia Grill. This is probably what I miss the most when I’m in another city. It feels good when a stranger makes you feel special, for no particular reason, and I wish I could take that magic wand with me!
I could probably add a hundred more symbols and trinkets to the list, but these are by far my favorite elements of this town. Think about it, if you had to leave New Orleans behind, what local charms would you want on your wrist?