Sunday, July 27, 2008

More Essence in New Orleans

Po boy Views
By
Phil LaMancusa
Blame My Mama
Or
The Essence Primer
Welcome to Essence! Boy, do we have a time in for you, and yes, you may make it back to wherever you come from in one piece. I hope so.
Some have been here before. Many have not. This column is to try to school you on the ways of the Big Easy and how to avoid growth experiences that you may wish to postpone, possibly for some future incarnation.
Fact one: everyone in New Orleans is running a hustle of one kind or another, it’s how we make a living. You see, out of town visitors are basically our only source of income. From experience I can swear that our folks will accept your last nickel whether you are willing to part with it or not. Don’t feel special, we do the same to each other and we smart locals have perfected the art of simultaneously holding on to our wallets, watching our backs and not believing everything we’re told by strangers. But, being the homicide capitol of the country indicates to me that not all of us are quick studies.
I’m told that it is refreshing to find such a major city steeped in black culture and as you see us going about our daily business you may want to consider that with our quaint third world attitude, a certain plantation mentality can sometimes be seen slipping through the fa├žade. But face it, you probably can’t offer better where you come from, hey? But, we are special; we rock twenty four seven, you can drink in public, gamble your hard earned away and go to church, oftentimes on the same street. They say that shame and pride are two sides of the same coin; you’ll be hard pressed to find that coin in any of our pockets.
Oh, there are optimists here…somewhere, and if you see trash on the street, people spitting, car music blaring and the occasional sound of gunfire or sirens; please be assured that we don’t like it any more than you do, but we weren’t taught any better manners. Blame it on the lead-based paint.
You may think that we can’t find correct fitting trousers for our young men. Not true. Wearing pants six sizes too large, holding them up by the crotch and walking as if you have diaper rash is a ‘style’. Why? Got me! There is an elected official that has proposed a law against it and we don’t know which is the more ridiculous.
As far as national averages are concerned we rank just above an andouille sausage in intelligence here; although, I would not live anywhere else even if you could find me a job. And yes, unemployment is an issue here, so we’re building more hotels and expanding the convention center to put more unskilled locals to work, of which there are more than a few.
Speaking of personal safety, take a lesson from the natives: don’t wear beads, walk on unlit streets, get drunk in pubic or consider that friendly stranger your new best friend. Don’t take money out in an uncontrolled environment; I keep different denominations of bills in different pockets to be ready for different purchasing situations: I don’t pull out a wad of twenties for a cup of coffee or a pack of smokes. ‘Nuf said.
Drinking alcohol here is expected, encouraged and invited at every turn you take and with that comes an element of our population ready to take full advantage of your lack of experience and vulnerability. And I know that it would be really cool to follow your new friend up the street for ‘a little something extra’… don’t. I’ve found more than a few discarded wallets on the street on Sunday morning, not surprisingly with out of town driver’s licenses and no money.
Speaking of driving, you may also may want to know that this city makes an awful lot of money on parking tickets and the towing of illegally parked vehicles. Read posted signs and under no circumstances park within twenty feet from any street corner. Period.
Also, on our streets you’ll see and smell urine, blood, vomit, syringes, condoms and glass from car break-ins; it’s something us residents have gotten used to, would like to change and don’t often boast about. When you have tourism, poverty and ignorance in the same mix, it’s bound to happen. Consider us a dysfunctional Disneyworld.
You really have the opportunity of having a wonderfully great time here, there’s music everywhere, gaiety and laughter; just don’t get stupid on us; you can get yourself hurt and somebody can land in jail.
Now here’s my disclaimer. I write this column monthly and I am fortunate to have editors that allow me to air my views about this city and related subjects. More than once I have pissed someone off and I’ll apologize in advance if this be the case with you. Once again I hope that the powers that be will read me and ask me for suggestions, so far as I know they haven’t and I’ve given up expecting them to. I love this city, but as I tell people, living here is like taking a warm bubble bath with a martini and a snake.
Everyone that I know or have talked to can relate an experience with someone unlawfully or inconsiderately interfering with their peacefully inclined lifestyle. It’s a fact of life here. For a glowing example I suggest that while you’re here, pick up our daily newspaper and read the Metro section. You will see our daily reports of crime and in the obituaries see another one of our citizens felled by violence. Multiply that by three hundred sixty five and you have the Big Easy quality of life.
So go and enjoy the Essence Festival. Attend a motivational seminar, it’s the only time of year that we have them on that scale. Then go home where often as not you may not have to lock your house, your car, your bike or your heart. Just for God’s sake be careful out there.

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