New Orleans owns my soul

“N’Awlinz: Dis, Dat or d’Udda.” – Mardi Gras quote

YAMAMMA’N’EM – A collective term in New Orleans for your immediate family (your mother and everyone else)…as in…”Hey dawlin’, how’s yamamma’n’em?”  —  (Spoken in New Orleans as one word)

Yesterday was ‘Fat Tuesday’; ‘Pancake day’ in England, where nothing much happens besides the eating of pancakes, which if i went out tomorrow and asked the general populous as to why they were eating pancakes, and where the tradition originated, not only do i doubt i would get the answer, i believe i might find myself on the receiving end of many a blank look and even some violence, due to ‘unlicensed provocation of thought processes not pertaining to beer, shit food and appalling television’.

In Louisiana, founded by the French and heavily influenced by the Spanish, African and native American cultures this day is known as ‘Mardi Gras’.

The French, i believe, were/are big on Catholicism and everything that Cathol ever taught, and translated into English, this literally becomes ‘Fat Tuesday’.  This is the day before ‘Ash Wednesday’, which is when everyone smudges dirt onto their head and tries to stop being a lazy, undisciplined fat bastard for forty days (because Cathol said they should), and give up something they do often, such as eating and/or being a lazy bastard.

This commitment often breaks down unfeasibly quickly due to lack of discipline and people generally being…well…lazy fat bastards, and also the fact that it is waaaay easier to eat and sit around than it is to, say, give up eating tasty shit and/or being immobile.

Most people in New Orleans blame it on the heat.

The heat, you see, is quite unlike any you may have experienced before, unless you live in Satan’s stomach.

New Orleans has two seasons: summer and February.

It is very hot and very humid most of the time, and if you ever happen to travel there, take only two t-shirts, two pairs of shorts, one pair of flip-flops, toiletries and money; get your hair cut very short and remove all facial hair.

I took heavy denim’s, stout sweaters, boots, little money, long brown hair and a beard.

It was New Year’s day 1992 and i travelled to be with the girl of my dreams, whom i had met one night six months prior, whilst she was in Manchester on the UK leg of a backpacking trip around Europe, and i had gone to watch the Stephen King film ‘Misery’ with my friend, utterly trousered on strawberry acid.

Long story short:

Paris (romance, wine and Jim Morrison); Manchester again (at end of trip); London (Hackney squat…all sticky black hash, candles, appallingly filthy carpet and amazing sound system); Missed flight home (Oooops!); letter correspondence over months (no internet yet…aaaah such innocent, uncomplicated days); the odd phone call ( a tenner would get me about 19 seconds in the phone box…no way parents would let me call U.S.A.!); a pizza delivery job to save plane fare money; a 21st birthday (a bit more money in the kitty) and;

a flight to New Orleans on New Year’s day (like i said) with a head full of drugs and a heart full of un-ending possibilities with my beautiful ‘Southern Belle’ who called me “sweet boy” and “cutie paaah” in letters and who looked great with her kit off.

Let’s just say i weren’t right interested in coffee and beignet’s, Mardi Gras, Crawfish Etouffee, Gumbo, Jambalaya or fuckin’ Po’ Boy sandwiches when i first arrived….’k?….’k!

Right then, so i guess that clears up any misconceptions you may have of me being some kind of spiritual superhero, with motives as pure as the driven snow; no, i was a walking hard-on at the age of twenty-one and coupled with heavy stimulant use just dropped me straight into the cliched category of being ‘young, dumb and full of cum’, and most of my major life decisions have germinated in my jeans and then evaporated before getting anywhere near my head, where reason and logic may well have saved me much pain and heartache, but would never have looked as good upon their re-counting in these here blog pages.

I have spent days pawing over this blog post, struggling with just what to write about this incredible city.  The struggle has been not just what to write, but how to write it.

Many writers through the ages have attempted to ‘capture’ this city in words and have more often than not failed to do so, for it is not an easy thing to do.

There are three writers who, in my opinion have come the closest:

James Lee Burke

Poppy Z. Brite

Ann Rice

I will, further down the line, try to convey the atmosphere of New Orleans, for ‘t has captured my soul and will forever more; my soul resides there but my heart belongs always to England.

The New Orleans accent and dialect is absolutely not what one might expect from any films one may have seen.  Due to the strong Irish influence, also felt there, the accent is much closer to Brooklyn, New York, than any ‘Gone with the wind’…suuuurthern nonsense often conveyed through the silver screen, and the vocabulary and intonation is simply magical;

“Hey Bra, Where Y’at?”…”I’m right here Bra, where YOU at?”

…”Yeah you right”..

“You goin’ by yamamman’em’s house lader dawlin?…”Yeah, maybe gonna get me somma ‘dis ‘dat or ‘d’udder if she cookin'”

New Orleans celebrates Mardi Gras in a BIG way.  I was present for four of them.

I’ll write about those times later.

It is also a dangerous city, and when i lived there, it had the highest murder rate, per capita, of any other US city.

My wife and i left there after one friend too many, was shot and killed.

One month after we arrived in San Francisco, all her colleagues at the restaurant she had worked at until the day we left, were summarily rounded up, taken into the walk-in refrigerator and executed with a handgun by a recently fired black employee who, it seems, took exception to being fired;

by a white person.






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