There are many reasons people come to New Orleans. The food, the booze, the music, the architecture, the history, the art, the culture and so much more. But when surveyed about what they remember, most visitors mention the people. When people refer to something being “Only in New Orleans,” they are often referring to us, the colorful, festive, resilient people of this city. Whether it’s the person walking their dog on a leash made of Mardi Gras beads or Mr. Okra rolling by in his fantastically painted truck announcing, “I’ve got fresh bananas, I’ve got fresh carrots,” we are part of the “local color,” the kooky characters visitors tell their friends about.
We’re just doing us, walking to the game at the Dome in head-to-toe Who Dat gear or leaving work in a costume headed to a parade. We’re just doing our day our way, but I was an oft-returning tourist here long before I moved in 2009 and I know what it’s like to see this city through the eyes of somewhere else. It can be downright magical and it’s often humorous.
This summer, I was heading to a parade for the Tales of the Cocktail. I was on my way to catch the bus when a neighbor stopped me to visit. I was wearing my Pussyfooter uniform, a pink and orange burlesque-inspired ensemble with a pink wig and white combat boots. We chatted a moment and as I finally got to the street, the bus was pulling away. My phone rang. Christine Miller of Two Chicks Walking Tours and a fellow Pussyfooter wanted to know if I was on the bus. She ran to catch it and said she’d do her best to hold it…
Then I ran well over 2 solid blocks, wind blowing through my pink wig and skirt fringe. Luckily, a red light conspired to hold the bus just long enough for me to make it. As I boarded, a tourist holding a cell phone up recording me said, “I got the whole thing!” That’s when it hit me. I was his #OnlyinNOLA moment. I have become the thing I used to love most about this place, the thing so many visitors remember most and laugh with their friends about.
I’ve lived in tourist attractions most of my life – D.C., New York, L.A. and now here. I’ve spent much of my life stuck behind people with maps unfolded in front of them or pointing at things and stopping to take a photo. I learned to live with it but it was never my favorite thing. But as I headed to a parade last week dressed in another version of my Pussyfooter uniform, we stopped at the Rouses to get a bite. I realized walking into the supermarket that I was another #OnlyinNOLA moment in the making. As we paraded down Bourbon Street later, I saw all the tourists with their phones and cameras out. Some laughed, some danced along, most smiled big smiles. So now I’m actually a little grateful to live in a tourist attraction because now I get to be one of the things that brings smiles to our visitors and illuminates our culture in some small way.
Just checked my Facebook and found this on my feed: “I’m standing in a bagel shop at 7:30 am, I’m dressed like Boy Wonder, and not one person is giving me funny looks. That’s New Orleans.”
Enjoy the photos of New Orleans being New Orleans.