Heaven for Less than $5

No trip home is complete without a mandatory stroll down Decatur.  I’m not one of those locals who believes the French Quarter is an overrated experience.  There’s magic there.  I peek in windows and chat with the occasional drunken tourist, until I reach that familiar green awning, always packed with eager faces and tummies.  My friends and I seek out the table with the most seats and least powdered sugar residue.   To search for a spotless table would be an utter waste of time.

It’s not just about how delicious beignets are [very], or how deep the coffee tastes [amazingly so], but it’s what comes with it.  To truly enjoy beignets, they must be consumed then and there.  It’s not a traveling food.  It’s not something you rush, unless you want to be a powdered sugary mess.  Coffee and beignets are meant to inspire camaraderie.  A visit to Cafe du Monde can be as funny and raucous (with a large group of family and friends), or as romantic (if you haven’t licked beignet sugar off someone else’s fingertip in the moonlight, you haven’t lived) as you want it to be.  Those green trays come bearing awesome.  Sugary, doughy, milk-infused, caffeinated, memory-making awesome.

It’s the little things like this that make New Orleans forever my home.  Granted, you can pretty much go anywhere and have a good time.  But you can’t go just anywhere and feel like you belong.  Put it on your bucket list.

The good stuff

Not all condiments were created equal, and other stuff

It’s very easy to implode into your own New Orleanian-ness.  You can eat fried fish a thousand different places, and never tire of it.  The split second you remind yourself that Mardi Gras is not a national holiday is a startling revelation.  My crescent shaped universe was all I needed, and seeing outside of it was tantamount to heavy lifting, because it was so rich with a culture all it’s own.  Though I lived a rather worldly and cosmopolitan lifestyle (I had been to Canada), there was a certain smug sense of self satisfaction that came with living in a place people traveled to globe to melt into.

But it wasn’t without flaws, which caused me to leave.  It happens.  And I was forced to learn different things about regular life living in Maryland, like:

1. You Don’t Spread Wasabi Like Mustard:

I’d had sushi before I moved to Maryland, but I wasn’t extraordinarily experimental. Shrimp Tempura and California Rolls.  No ginger or wasabi. I don’t know nobody named wasabi.  But with a new place should come new experiences.  Curiously enough, my first experimentation with wasabi was during a visit to New Orleans, while running errands with my stepmom.  We went to whole food, and I decided to not only try a raw item, but I tried it with brown rice. Fancy. As. All. Hell.  My new bestie in Maryland loved wasabi, so I figured it had to be good.  I put the soy sauce on the sushi, and opened the little wasabi packet, spreading a dollop on each piece, getting in the nooks and crannies of the rice.  It’s all good. It’s spicy, but I LOVE spicy.  But we’re in post-Katrina, under-construction New Orleans…and we hit a bump.  And wasabi went up into my parietal lobe.  WHAT. THE. *&^%q!@!  As soon as I got back to DC, I asked why she was trying to kill me on the slick.  Her response:  “Uh, you do recall that I always mix this in WITH my soy sauce, right?”  Oh.

2. No Waiters in the Club

So, New Orleans is a not your typical southern city, but it is still a southern city, replete with hospitality.  You go other places, tables and comfy chairs have to be bought.  In New Orleans (though that is swiftly changing with the arrival of transplants), it’s a normal occurrence.  There are also people who walk around the club to take your empty glass, etc.  It’s as normal as the rose man.  So in one of my first DC club experiences, when the scruffy kid extended his hand toward the hand that held the empty Red Bull can, of COURSE I handed it to him.  He laughed, my friends laughed, I wondered why the eff he wasn’t throwing my can away? Did he want a tip.  He was asking me to dance.  Oh.

3.  Go-Go is music

No ma’am.

4.  Hatred of Local non-Go-Go musicians

In New Orleans, if you’re trying to do the music thing, unless you’re really making a lot of enemies, you’re going to be supported.  Bounce music has no lyrical content whatsoever, yet, it’s supported in New Orleans.  In fact, you can take a Jessica Simpson song, set it to a bounce beat, and you and your family are off ramen for at least six months.  (Sounds anecdotal; it’s been done.)  That being said, I need one of my DC folks to explain to me whose mother Wale sodomized and failed to call, because that’s the only explanation for the level of vitriol this kid gets in his city.  Can he rap?  Nah.  But, it still doesn’t explain the hate.

5.  Light Skinned Blacks are Dominican

I am clearly a black woman.  Fairer skinned, yes, but discernibly negro.  Yet, I couldn’t understand why people in my Silver Spring hood would default to speaking Spanish to me.  Then I paid attention and noticed that all of the people who would have been Creole in New Orleans, are Dominican here.  The only people I know that do NOT fit this bill have roots in Louisiana.

6.  Home is Where You Make it

When I got out of New Orleans, I missed it, and almost didn’t give DC a chance.  It was “sterile” and didn’t have it’s own culture.  In a lot of ways, yes, it’s very transient.  But there are great people here.  I love the circle of friends I have made, and continue to make.  Though I don’t feel it has the melting pot vibe of New Orleans, it’s like this awesome salad bowl…with capers and hearts of palm and home grown tomatoes.  As homesick as I may become, I’ve never had a “I should never have come here moment.  Maybe it’s a testament to my ability to adjust and make friends, but I also believe it’s a testament to this area and the great things it has to offer.

So, whaddaya say DMV?  Another five years?