Every time I pass through the doors of a coffee shop I frequent, I see the framed quote by Tennessee Williams: “America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland.” I think it’s sweet, mostly true, and just about what I expect from the proudest city I’ve ever had the chance to live in. I’m leaving right before Christmas, so at the time of posting this, I’ll be settled back into my adoptive hometown of Nashville, Tennessee.
I moved to New Orleans in August of last year, right before I started graduate school at Tulane. I will for the life of me never forget the heat of New Orleans in August. After visiting Tennessee in August of this year, I stepped out of the car to lose my breath. Immediate, sweat started dripping down my neck and I could only breathe through my mouth in heavy gulps. The humidity, the stifling closed-in city air, and the swamp smell. The December day that I packed my belongings in a truck, it felt around eighty degrees and so humid my hair stayed wet. But each time I visit I’ll go between May and August. That’s how warped it’s made me.
So I’m back in Nashville, Tennessee with a freshly-minted Master’s degree in English. I moved to Nashville in 2008, right before high school, and right before Nashville became not-Nashville.
I think Nashville is the Los Angeles of the South. New Orleans is the New York of the South. Maybe that’s why I’m a four down here and a solid two in Nashville. It’s cool, though, because I am a Mississippi eleven.
I guess I should tell you some of my favorite things to do or see if you come here or, hell, I’ll give you some insight if you decide to move here.
- Hotel: Hotel Indigo on St. Charles. It’s cheap, right on the streetcar line, and you can bring your dogs.
- Bar: I’ve been an avid Tracey’s patron for several months. I live next door, though, so it’s mostly convenience but the bartenders are great.
- Honorable Bar Mentions: Lafitte’s Blacksmith Bar in the French Quarter, The Saint in the Lower Garden District, Snake n’ Jakes in Uptown (great live music), Maple Leaf on Oak Street (great to see a fight and they also have weekly crawfish boils), Half Moon in the Garden District.
- Keep in mind that New Orleans has few if any liquor laws, so don’t ask the bartender for a “drink to go” unless their drinks are served in a glass instead of plastic. All drinks are to go, just take them with you.
- Restaurants: Joey K’s might be my favorite. Slim Goodies is the best for breakfast/brunch, the Caribbean Room will blow your mind, the Court of Two Sisters Jazz Brunch is fantastic, Cochon and Atchafalaya are bomb-as-hell.
- Best Beignets: Hands down, Café Beignet.
- Best Po Boy: Mahoney’s.
- Best Burger: Camellia Grill on Carrollton.
- Coffee Shops: Rue de la Course on Magazine, followed by Hi Volt, Zot’z, Cherry Coffee, and Avenue Café. If you’re in a hurry and need a chain, opt for PJs.
- Music Venues: Tipitina’s on Napoleon wins.
- Neighborhood to live in: Irish Channel or Marigny (that’s 100% subjective, but neighborhoods are more important in New Orleans than anywhere I’ve ever lived. You don’t leave your neighborhood much, so find a good one.)
- Go to MOMA and Ogden. They’re great museums with student passes and free days.
- Audubon Park is great to run in, and running on the streetcar line feels less death-inducing than streets or sidewalks.
- Oh, take the streetcar most places because POTHOLES ARE REAL AND THEY ARE EVERYWHERE. Park your car and ride. You can download an app for tickets.
- Whole Foods is, I shit you not, the cheapest place to buy groceries.
- If you choose to visit or live in NOLA, you need to know one thing and this is the most important: Quarters. Quarters are gold and you use them for everything. Laundry, the streetcar, buses, parking, giving to the homeless people that need to get on the bus. Just trust me, bring quarters.
- Body glide, available at Target and on Amazon. You’re welcome.
Tchoupitoulas Street: Chop-it-oo-las
Lagniappe (a lil’ something extra): Lan-yap
Marigny (neighborhood): Mari-knee
Metairie (suburb): Met-aree
Chartres Street: Chart-er
Prytania Street: Prit-anne-ya
If you need to purchase foodstuffs from a grocer, you are “makin’ groceries.”
Now, that’s all the positives from living in the hottest and oldest city in the Deep South. The negatives? Succinctly, it’s the fact that New Orleans isn’t the Deep South. My neighborhood was full of New Yorkers, Chicagoans, and Seattleites. Very few people are born and bred in the city, apparently, and I think that’s why I felt so uncomfortable. I couldn’t go anywhere without someone commenting on my accent, asking me questions about what the South is like, and had to prove my liberalness because being “country” made me naturally conservative in their eyes. It was weird, and I felt uncomfortable most of my time there.
People are rude. I mean, not scream-at-you rude, but no one wants you to ask “how’s your mom and them” or say hello on the street. That’s part of the reason I claim New Orleans is the New York of the South. Everyone minds their own business and has no time for your foolishness.
Still, though, New Orleans gave me two things: cirrhosis of the liver and heat rash. I’ve never encountered people who drink as much as a New Orleans local, and that is saying something based on the company I keep. I’ve called this city a few things, like “hold-your-ass city” and “don’t-give-a-fuck city,” but it’s all in loving jest. I’ll miss it, I’ll visit often, and when I do, you can bet I’ll find a pole on Bourbon Street to act a fool on.