I love New Orleans. I love it as I love no other city. New Orleans is altogether a different country. It’s European, North American, and African all rolled into one American city that shines like no other.
It’s the people who keep drawing me back. There’s the nail salon where I walked into a chorus of black ladies who told me their life stories while we had our toenails painted. There’s the bookstore where I wandered in at closing time and was promptly invited to stay for an evening book club discussion of Flannery O’Connor. How did they know Flannery O’Connor was my favorite writer?
There’s the lone trumpeter who brought tears to my eyes as he played “Amazing Grace” on the banks of the Mississippi. And then there’s the kind but tipsy gentleman who tried to help me brush all that powdered sugar off my clothes outside the Cafe du Monde. “Dahlin’, jes look at you! You’re a mess!” Where else in the world would you let a total stranger treat you like a little child and want to hug him for it?
Oh, those beignets at the Cafe du Monde! Clouds of powdered sugar cover the place like nuclear fallout. On our recent mother-daughter trip to NOLA this Easter, Lyndall’s top priority was getting a taste of that pure heaven of crispy fried dough smothered in sweet powder. We made a beeline past the sign that told us to PLEASE BE SEATED! straight towards the only empty table in this most historic of Jackson Square establishments. A waitress was wiping all the sugar up as we descended upon her.
“May we have this table please?” we asked, all bright-eyed and drooling.
She looked behind her. “Were y’all in the line?”
There was a line on the other side of the Cafe du Monde that extended all the way down the block. We had to confess–we’d come in at the other end.
“Y’all are supposed to get in the line,” said the waitress, shaking her head.
But this is The Big Easy. Nobody gets too upset about these things.
Never mind, though,” she said graciously. “Y’all are here. Go ahead and sit down.”
Really? So we did! We kept waiting for somebody to drag us away, to yell at us, make us feel guilty. But no, not in NOLA. There’s other things to get upset about in life. Like hurricanes and gun crime and bigotry.
Lyndall and I celebrated Easter at St. Augustine’s, the first free black church in America. There is a cross there made of chains and shackles once used on slaves. During the service, we made a human chain of raised hands as we sang together at the end of the Lord’s Prayer, “…for Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory forever. Amen!” All of us, black, white, European, American, African, freed from the chains of sin through Jesus Christ. We don’t have to stand in line for a cup of God’s grace. He gives it for the asking.
Just another reason I love New Orleans.