A few weeks ago, I made plans to go down to New Orleans this past weekend when I found out that a bunch of dear friends from school were going to be in town. Although I’ve only been to New Orleans once since Karl and I met, the city has always had a special place in my heart because of my many trips there when I was a baby gay. So, the combination of a mini-reunion and a jaunt down my own gay memory lane in a city literally moldering in the past was irresistible.
Flying in on Friday, I planned to spend that night on my own, going back to the places that served as the backdrop of some of the anecdotes I’ve dined out on for years. So I checked into my hotel, did a little Duco job on my face, and walked the three blocks to Café Lafitte in Exile. Two blocks down, one up. The place wasn’t particularly crowded when I arrived, so I walked down the wall to the end of the bar and took a stool.
Coming from Dallas (with its rather deplorable habit of tearing down old buildings and redoing the ones they don’t tear down), it was almost spooky to be in a place that hadn’t changed all that much since the first time I was there at age 18. Except for the five or six HD screens scattered around, it looked the same. And even those screens were inside gilt frames, distressed if not antique, this being New Orleans after all.
In that context, it seemed to be a good idea to do something utterly 21st century that I’d never done. I checked myself in on Facebook. Not so much to make my friends pea green with envy, but to leave a trail for the authorities in case my night out alone in New Orleans went really, really wrong.
The bartender was most attentive and after finishing my last drink (it appeared without my ordering it, that’s how attentive he was), I complimented him on the symmetrical arrangement of his facial piercings and headed down to the Bourbon Pub.
A smallish crowd was gathered on the sidewalk peering in to watch the dancers, but without paying the cover. Dancers were not part of the Pub in my memory, so I was more interested in checking out the drag show upstairs, which included everything from “All That Jazz” to Gladys Knight to Missy Elliott. (At least I think it was Missy Elliott.) After the show and one trip around the downstairs bar, I was ready to head out.
Back on the street, I thought for a minute or two about going to Oz across the street, but Oz wasn’t part of my memory tour so I opted to watch the dancers for a bit from the sidewalk, without paying the cover. Thinking that I should have one last drink to cap the night, I went back to Lafitte’s and was able to get a stool in the same spot where a gentleman from Mississippi introduced me to white Russians many years ago. I don’t know whether or not he was related to Bill Cosby, but I haven’t had a white Russian since.
Done with the nightcap, it was time for the three block stroll to my hotel. Two blocks down, one block up. Now, that should be one block down, two blocks up on the return. My little miscalculation only cost me a couple of extra blocks, but enough to make me glad I had checked in on Facebook earlier. It was the French Quarter after all.
The rest of the weekend was spent with my friends, catching up, reminiscing and making new memories. It’s so lovely—and important—being with people who remember the same things you do. Particularly when their memories provide Rashomon-style additions to your own memories, and which will—no doubt—work themselves into that set of anecdotes.
It seems to me that memories are that part of the past that we don’t share, while anecdotes are memories—sometimes embellished for entertainment value—that we do share. So, you may hear the one about Craig’s first solo Uber ride—“Milton? You’re not Milton.” Or, the one about playing Cards Against Humanity. Because dear friends and old stories (notice the careful placement of those adjectives) just go together. Like red beans and rice.