I remember trying on masquerade costumes and headdresses with my mother and favourite aunt Yvonne, and watching the lot of skateboarders and break dancers gathering in the square down from Cafe du Monde. There we sat for hours, sipping chicory and eating beignets, observing scores of drowsy looking girls riding around in horse-drawn carriages with old men who smoked cigars in faded floral button up shirts. Countless street sweepers hummed or whistled or sang, not a single one of them without music.
I remember taking a photo of my dad with the “Huge Ass Beers” sign and strolling down Bourbon Street with Chris when he was too grumpy to appreciate the soul of the place. We tried every kind of food we could get our hands on, but what I most looked forward to was my favourite uncle Alvin’s famous red beans and rice with andouille. We have to put on our best poker faces around him because he tells the wildest stories. We can never decipher if he is pulling our leg or not until it is too late; until after he has gotten us.
I remember we used to drive down those long, winding roads canopied with weeping willows, past plantation houses and swamp marshes and Beware of Alligators signs on our way to eat at Vera’s. I loved to lean my head back and look out the window as the shadows passed over my face so quickly it made me dizzy. Uncle Alvin parked the car on the ferry to ride across into the city, and I felt like I was in an old French home movie.
We found a body floating in the Riverwalk as we were people watching with our toes in the water one particularly hot day. He was full of bullet holes and appeared to have been shredded up by a boat propeller. And I can not forget that little boy’s face on the news who was abducted outside the wig shop I went into, or the exact colour of that blue-black eye shadow I bought while it happened.
I remember the times we stayed at Grand Casino in Biloxi and spent hours making rounds, flirting with bellboys and pretending we were famous. There was this flamboyant soul singer in their Vegas show who grabbed our hands and tried to pull us onstage. Lord how he was so drenched with sweat, that it dripped all over us and onto our table and into our drinking glasses. Cari and I met an old lady that we helped a few times in the elevator, and later she snuck us into the atrium after she found out we were trying to get in to see Duran Duran. Their Greatest Hits album had just came out and we made my dad drive to every retail store for days until we finally had it in our hands.