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Silver Threads: No place to retire like New Orleans

Bettye Anding

Bettye Anding

When older folks clean out their desks, unload their trucks, do whatever they do to sign off on the daily grind of 45 or 50 years, there’s sometimes the question of where to begin a new life.

I suspect that most of the locals just begin over comfortably at home, joining clubs, doing some volunteer work, buying tickets to things they didn’t have time for before. Playing more golf or tennis. But there are always those who brave life in distant climes, whether it’s just to get away from the humidity, join children and grandchildren in appealing places, or check out some exotic realm they’ve often heard about. But there can be downsides to that for sure.

You can retire to Phoenix, where you’re willing to park blocks away from any destination because you found shade and where you know that “dry heat” is comparable to what hits you in the face when you open your oven door.

Or to California and have a beautiful financial retirement plan, but you still can’t afford to buy a house, and the four seasons are fire, flood, mud and drought.

You can retire to New York City, where they think Central Park is “nature” and being able to swear at people in their own language is being multi-lingual.

Go to Minnesota, where you have only four spices: salt, pepper, ketchup and Tabasco. And Halloween costumes fit over parkas and sexy lingerie is anything flannel with less than eight buttons.

Or, you can retire to the Deep South, where you can rent movies and buy bait in the same store, “he needed killin’” is a valid defense and everybody has two first names — Billy Bob, Tommy Joe, Betty Jean, Mary Beth, Sue Ellen, etc.

After reading this on the internet the other day, I got to thinking about what folks who retire to New Orleans would discover. Relocate here and you’ll find that the points of the compass are now — confusingly — Uptown, downtown, river side and lake side.

That during football season nothing — NOTHING — takes up more space in local newspapers on Sunday and Monday mornings than how LSU and the Saints fared.

With its patios and balconies the French Quarter looks more like Barcelona than it does Paris, so you wonder why they call it that.

That if you’re talking to folks from the North, it’s New Or-leens, to folks from Uptown it’s New Oil-yuns and to just plain folks it’s N’Awlins. (That’s of course if you’re not singing “Way Down Yonder in New Or-leens.”)

That the West Bank isn’t always on the west side of the city. It depends on which bend of the Mississippi River you’re in.

That mules have the right of way in the French Quarter.

That we have so many ingredients with which to season foods that it would take expatriates from other places years to identify and understand what’s going on. But they’ll like ‘em all. And they’ll even like okra.

That if your closets aren’t air-conditioned, don’t leave shoes in them in the summer. They’ll mildew.

If you meet people with T in front of their names, that’s not “tee” or “tea.” It’s “ti,” and that’s French for “little.” Like Ti Martin and Ti Nolan.

That voodoo priests sometimes get quoted in the newspaper. (An irate one once called the Living section, complaining that a competitor had been chosen for an interview, and a co-worker of mine from Ohio said, “This wouldn’t happen in Cleveland for sure.”)

That there’s a different gumbo from every cook. So taste away; you’ll like most of them.

That we have two seasons here: hot and briefly cool.

That if your new house is on a Mardi Gras parade route, you’ll have at least a week of Carnival fun — or maybe not.

You’ll also discover that that there are many more affluent and efficient places to retire: we’re not completely cleaned up after Katrina; our politicians seemingly never get done with making the wrong kind of headlines.

But you’ll never have to walk a mile to find shade for your car; our beautiful oaks provide plenty of it.

Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at [email protected]