Baseball season is underway. This is a sacred time where I’m from. Sun, grass, children playing in the park, all the memories of youth rushing back. But in New Orleans, the start of baseball season is but a placeholder: some 200 days until the Saints’ opening kickoff. This city lives on its own schedule.
The guy next to me is wearing an orange fur coat and a red feather boa; his wife is dressed as a giant grape. Someone playing the trumpet looks like a cross between a post office employee and a Mad Max road warrior. I'm wearing an inflatable alligator on my head.
This is the Bayou Boat parade, which happens on Lundi Gras, the Monday before Fat Tuesday. It's simple: folks get in boats and have an aquatic second line up Bayou St John. Anyone can join, as long as they have a floatable water craft. Or not so floatable; the trombone player's kayak is starting to list.
I’m a fan of most South Louisiana specialties — crawfish, king cake, Zapp’s Potato Chips, et cetera — but a few things make me feel like a traitor to my local roots: I prefer my coffee without chicory, I’m ambivalent about oysters, and I’m pretty sure I have never in my life eaten a Hubig’s Pie.
Man, I swear you could hear Rod coming all the way from clear across Broad Ave. Laughing that big throaty Rod laugh and hollering out his “Alrights!” and “Okays!” while that old rusty bike dodged those Guv Nicholls St. potholes, squeaking up a storm. Didn’t matter if you were a stranger or not, you were gonna catch a holler from Rod.
I first visited New Orleans in the 1970s as a teenager with my father. He and four of his friends coordinated their business trips to meet here several times a year. They did not bring their wives. They wound up their various meetings by late afternoon and drifted into the courtyard at the Hotel Richelieu one by one. Loosening ties and dropping jackets on the backs of chairs, they ordered double bourbons. By dusk, they were blearily intoxicated and ready for dinner.
When I tell people I’m a high school teacher in New Orleans, they look at me like I’m a few inches taller than I was before. They look at me like I’m a saint, but if they heard how hard I laughed at things I shouldn’t, they wouldn’t assume I was so pious. This past week one of students in AP Language and Composition said Drake was the type of rapper who wears a pad when his girlfriend gets her period so he can feel her pain. Inappropriate? Definitely, but it’s lighthearted compared to the vitriol I used to spit at my teachers.
Richard Goodman, a University of New Orleans professor of creative nonfiction writing, sits down with Jack Hope to discuss the new Storyville series — a collaboration between WWNO and the university’s Creative Writing Department.
Goodman has been at UNO for three years as an assistant professor to both graduate and undergraduate level students. Describing himself as a lifelong writer, Goodman also touched on some of his work, including his first book, French Dirt.
Storyville. What strikes me most when I hear the word or see it emblazoned across the chest of a baby romper is how weird New Orleans is. We have embraced the memory of a red light district that closed its green shutters almost a century ago as a source of pride. We’re nostalgic over prostitution. Maybe that shouldn’t surprise me, considering this city’s often-exuberant relationship with its own debauchery. But the way our city gleefully remembers Storyville has always sat strangely with me.