New Orleans — BK and AK

The truck moves slowly down the narrow street, spraying it with a pungent mixture of citrus and soap. The morning air suddenly smells fresh – and utterly out of place.

I turn down a side street. The French Quarter is not meant to smell like Lemon Pledge.

The tale of New Orleans is told to death, which while tiring remains important – the world doesn’t waste words for meaningless cities. But while it owns a rich history spanning centuries, it now has a new timeline of demarcation — BK and AK.

I’ve travelled to BK New Orleans on several occasions, with trips to Jazzfest and Mardi Gras a compulsory right of youth, and remember its rawness and grimy nature as best attributes. BK New Orleans was edgy and uncertain, but didn’t seem to mind these risk and reward elements. It teetered while mocking teetotalers. 

A story. After my Nana died (yes I called my grandmother Nana), I inherited a dull silver pitcher which sat as a centerpiece in the cabinet aside her dinner table. She filled it with tiny jam and jelly packets I brought her from restaurants, a mixed selection culled from brunch outings. When she died, a large assortment of jellies remained.

One day, months later, I applied a silver cleaner to the pitcher, buffing it for what was the first time in decades. I marveled at how it gleamed with the new coat, and wanted to change it back at once. I still loved it, but it was no longer my grandmother’s pitcher.

AK New Orleans feels awkward and clean, eight years after it was engulfed in water.  It’s not the New Orleans I remember. I took a walk down Bourbon Street – a street I recall as being commercial but dingy – and was taken aback at how safe and shiny it felt. It was Disneyland with strip clubs. The surrounding streets, while still filled with oddities, kept this similar veneer – New Orleans as Mike’s Hard Lemonade. 

New Orleans light remains more intriguing than most any city I’ve seen, a testament to its enduring heritage. The strolling horns and voodoo shops, its lack of last call, a distinct lure of food. Walking along Decatur Street, I noticed a string of white spots marking a pathway several blocks long. It confused me at first, until I realized the flecks were white sugar, falling effortlessly from the parade of takeout beignets. 

This happens no where else.

A man sings Amazing Grace along St. Peter Square a little after 9 a.m. The Big Easy welcomes a new day eight years into its new age. It’s not the same, but remains endearing and close to my heart.

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