The text from my little brother came around six in the morning: we would meet for lunch at the Rib Room and then spend the rest of the day “filling our lungs with memories.” It was Tuesday, April 21, 2015, and a citywide smoking ban in bars was going into effect at midnight.
There’s a strong breeze from the South and petals are flying off flowering trees. We can smell the briny Gulf of Mexico. Dozens of new seedlings have been planted and braced so they can set roots. Audubon Park used to get the attention, but City Park’s spruced up and all promise. Covering thirteen hundred acres in Mid City, this has become everyone’s park.
The Country Club is a pale yellow, classic nineteenth-century Creole mansion with a grand front porch. Inside are fifteen-foot ceilings, polished hardwood floors, and palms in pots. People dine in the house’s rooms, and there’s a bar in the back near the pool where Anne, on her way to the bathroom, saw a naked woman ordering a drink.
A story from our Fiction Issue.
Full disclosure up front: I am a gay black man, a proud New Orleanian, thirty years old, five out of the closet, a decade on the down-low before that; bi-dialectal as every educated brother in this city must be, a code-switcher as needed; a poet in my spare time, in my unspare time a poetry teacher devoted to dead French guys and live black ones.
We sat cross-legged on the cement floor of a warehouse in the Upper Ninth Ward, not far from the train tracks. In the center was a small wooden house with singing pipes built into its walls. This was Chateau Poulet, a musical shanty about to perform for all of us.
New Orleans has a mercurial sensibility that allows it to simultaneously resemble only itself and any number of other places. The flow of the streets and speech, the cuisine and the history—it’s all distinctly of New Orleans, yet testament to the fact that this city was built on trade and traders (and the traded). What better place for EN MAS’, an exhibition stretched between here and there.
What was the year? 1986? 2008? Does it matter? What was the great offense? Same as last time, more or less. Some white shit. What was the reaction? One Negro leader or another—fill in the blank—stood in front of the cameras and declared we would do such things he knew not what! This said with a walls will come tumbling down certainty, same as last time, more or less.