You might recall that one time I shared that I actually love heat. Living in San Francisco for a decade has turned me into a connoisseur of sticky. In my dream life I would get to walk around in a tiny triangle bikini top, even tinier cut off shorts and huge sunglasses with beads of sweat rolling down my cleavage in slow motion. New Orleans in July is the kind of place I could actuate that fantasy. It’s a portrait of chub rub, cotton dresses and mint juleps piled high with ice.
My friends just bought a home here in the seventh ward. After years of living in the Bay, they returned to their place of origin. A few months ago I got a text with a topless photo encouraging me to get my tits out to the bayou.
I’ve been to New Orleans twice before. The trips had been emotional (Katrina, history) and I wasn’t sure I was ready to come back, but I knew I wanted to see them and their new digs. So I booked the ticket and got here on Tuesday.
I had always taken the street car from place to place in the city, but this time I decided to walk it. That’s how you see a place, sense a place. Each morning I set out with a destination in mind — a cute coffee shop, a famous tomb, a witchy candle store, or somewhere I can expand my growing collection of mom jeans — and stop along the way each time I feel something tug at me.
My thick thighs, sweaty and strong, carried me from place to place. I met a master mixologist (self-professed “mixtress”) at a gathering of power ladies at the St. Claude Social Club who told me over boozy mint limeades that she never wears underwear. I met a monotone butch barista who didn’t enjoy smiling and talked about how much she hated the West Coast while she made me a rose cordial seltzer, how moving to Nola was like finding a prized gold tooth in a mangy old skull. I met a ferocious Scorpio who ate cheesecake-stuffed french toast with me while we chatted about our relationships to our mothers, to narcissistic men, to the Universe.
It’s my last day here, and I’m feeling unbelievably sad. Maybe it's the Courvoisier haunting my morning... The sun is so bright and I'm overwhelmed by the sense that I don't want to leave my friends and their adorable home with their Pit Bull/Corgi mix named The Bear and their Dolly Parton mugs that say "Irene" on them.
The man at the beauty supply shop down the street asked if he could occupy the entirety of my weekend as I purchased progressively cheaper and larger earrings. And I chatted with the owner of another shop who asked me where my parents were from, retorted amicably with the observation that I looked “Oriental,” and then sold me a pair of sunglasses that are bigger than all my insecurities.
This week is Tales — an annual event that brings all the nation’s alcohol purveyors and aficionados to the South. On Wednesday night, as we sat outside at a Marigny picnic table in the 9 p.m. heat, eating fries covered in pulled pork and cheese and something called “swamp pie,” my friend got an email inviting her to an exclusive Courvoisier-sponsored dinner. Always ready for a bougie experience, my face lit up like a Christmas tree.
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We were supposed to go together, but she was slammed with meetings. So I went out alone to the August Hotel and listened to the master blender discuss his palate while I got progressively drunker and more over-sharey with two of the founders of The Tenth Magazine, a zine that has become an archive of Black gay life (look them up).
It’s my last day here, and I’m feeling unbelievably sad. Maybe it's the Courvoisier haunting my morning. I slept in today, started crying while sitting on the toilet for my morning pee ritual. The sun is so bright and I'm overwhelmed by the sense that I don't want to leave my friends and their adorable home with their pit bull corgi mix named The Bear and their Dolly Parton mugs that say "Irene" on them. I will miss their little quarrels, which are solved when my more serious friend says “I'm sorry” or my softer friend makes some caring curry.
Leaving Louisiana means going back to a place that’s colder — climactically and culturally. My chub rub will appreciate the cool down, but I am not looking forward to returning to a place that’s so dry. There’s something about New Orleans, so hot and haunted, that pushes me into my body and the precious tenuousness of my humanity.
The small tearing and wearing down of the red skin between my thighs reminds me of something I crave. Something that temperate weather and pristine places just don’t give a body.