Love NOLA: A most resourceful city
You know what I love about New Orleans? We are a most resourceful city.
We figure that the good lord gave us everything we need to survive right here. So, we make do with what we have. In creative ways. Often with a flourish.
I love it that we eat everything. All of everything. We eat the feet, the tails, the jowls, the ears. We pickle the heads and call it cheese. Have a few too many and we'll toss you in the pit and eat you, too. It's not personal. We're just hungry. And we don't believe in letting anything (or anyone) go to waste.
I love it that, when the windows rattle and the cold comes in, we just dampen a few sheets of paper towels, roll 'em up real tight, and stuff them between the window and the sill. Works like a charm. Lasts forever, too. Mine have been there for 2 1/2 years now.
Of course, when that summer heat bears down and you could fry bacon on the kitchen table, I love it that you just whip out some Reynolds Wrap and foil your windows until things cool off. Which should be in January. For a day.
As we enter high season, I love it how any and everything has costume potential. It's downright charming to stroll City Park admiring the Spanish moss. It's incredibly resourceful to take some home with you (shhhh!), nuke it, and, voila, your feufollet costume is done!
I love all of these examples of New Orleans resourcefulness, but my hands-down favorite occurred during a time when our ability to make do with what we had was tested. I'm talking about the days after Hurricane Isaac.
You remember, don't you? Those days when thousands of invisible Entergy workers wandered our streets followed by weeks of phantom garbage trucks who ignored our trash? I thought so.
Anyway, somewhere between day 2 and day 5, bar 3 and bar 18, I met this guy who, like so many of us, was making the daily pilgrimage to the Quarter to recharge our phones and souse our livers. He was a nice guy. Lawyer, I think (but he lived Uptown and I think everyone who lives Uptown is a lawyer).
We were having a wonderful conversation about wonderful, immediately forgettable things, when suddenly he looked at his watch. "S&*t," he said. "It's almost 2. I gotta get out of here for the next showing."
"The next showing of what?" I enquired.
"The next showing of Beatrice's gowns."
My friend went on to explain that he lived in an old, four-story apartment building just off St. Charles. One of the tenants was a rather proper British lady of a certain age. She had lived in the building for so long that some of the tenants swore they just layered the bricks and mortar up around her.
While no one had ever known Beatrice to be very high society in New Orleans, apparently she had a much more opulent past across the pond. Which everyone found out when Isaac hit and the lights and the air went out. And stayed out.
Beatrice became quite concerned that her entire collection of formal ball gowns would mildew in the dank darkness and forever be destroyed. Fearing that she would have nothing to wear to next spring's cotillions, she got resourceful.
Every two hours, Beatrice put on a different gown, opened the door to her apartment and walked out. Down her hall. Down the stairs and around the lobby.
“She walks like she’s at a ball,” my Uptown friend said. “White hair up in a bun, shoulders back, head high (though we’re not sure she’s wearing shoes). She never speaks, but pauses to nod at those of us who have gathered to see the show. Every now and then, she’ll give us a little twirl. After about 15 minutes, Beatrice figures the dress has aired out, goes back up to her apartment and closes the door. We don’t see her for another two hours. It’s been going on like this for days. I can’t miss the 2 o'clock.”
What I love about this story is that my friend wasn’t sharing it to make fun of some crazy old lady in his building.
Quite the contrary. He was sharing it because his entire building had circled around Beatrice. They gathered in the lobby to toast her resourcefulness. To stand in awe at her enduring class in the face of Isaac’s withering staycation.
And maybe, just maybe, to pick up a costume idea. Or two.
Brett Will Taylor is a southern Shaman who writes Love: NOLA weekly for NolaVie. Visit his site at ashamansjourney.net.