Every spring, I work for several weeks to prepare the students in my New Orleans class for what is akin to foreign travel. New Orleans: the sights, the vibe, the attitudes are the antithesis of New England and it is a challenge to explain it adequately. And if you go back through these pages, you will see my past attempts to explain the differences.
However, a wonderful post by Brett Will Taylor at nola.com helps do it for me. So, if you are planning a visit, be sure to read the “Newcomers’s top 10 guide for living in New Orleans,” for yourself. But to sum it up, you might say: “don’t think too much; just go with the flow.”
Taylor’s ten main points are as follows:
1. Planning. Abandon all hope of planning ye who enter here. It’s not going to happen. If you try to plan, you’ll get an ulcer and find yourself constantly making incredulous faces. Just. Let. It. Happen. If you’re meant to hang with someone, Mama NOLA will make it happen. If not, she’ll send even more fabulous people your way to hang with!
2. Comfort zone. Drop yours. New Orleans is like no place on Earth, so don’t experience it the same way you experience everywhere else. If you do, you’ll miss her completely.
3. Costuming. My best friend tells me that he’s never worn a costume in the 7 ½ years he’s lived here. I’ve told him he has until Carnival to change that. Or find a new best friend. You just can’t live in NOLA without costuming. To get started, get yourself a glue gun, spray paint, and a make-up drawer.
4. Da Saints. Love them. Pretend to love them. Or move.
5. Food. We eat our food like we live our lives: rich and over-the-top. And no need to ask what’s good. As someone told me my first week here, “Baby, if a place don’t serve good food, we will shut it down.” She’s right. My corner gas station serves some of the best fried chicken I’ve ever tasted.
6. Music. Lady who? When it comes to music, there’s New Orleans music … and then, well, why you would want to look beyond New Orleans for music? There’s a lot to take in here. For a crash course, immerse yourself in OZ. For a master’s course, listen to David Kunian’s “The Kitchen Sink”.
7. Pronunciation. It’s Brrr-gun-dy, Charters, Esplan-aid, and Cont-eye. Don’t worry about Tchoupitoulas (a word that can devour your entire afternoon). Locals just say “Chop”. Oh. And the Nine Muses streets? Don’t even try. Unless you were born here, you’ll never get them right.
8. Perspective. Repeat after me: “The normal is strange here; the strange is normal.”
9. Bugs. This morning, I heard frantically scratching child plead, “Mama, when do the mosquitos go away?” “It’s New Orleans, baby,” she said. “They never go away.” True dat. The bugs in this city were here before you and, just like Cher, they’ll be here after you. And they all have wings (except for the stinging caterpillars that free-fall onto you in the spring). Oh. And our bugs have serious boundary issues. As in, they all come into your house (you didn’t really want to live alone, did you?).
10. Politics. Don’t ask. This city elected Ray Nagin. Twice.
I could not have summed it up better myself.