I moved from New York City to New Orleans in February 2006. It was a shock to the system to go from existing in a highly functioning city to subsisting in one that was tattered and broken with residents haunted by PTSD. On my first day as a New Orleanian I walked out of my Elysian Fields apartment in the Marigny to Frenchmen. I was hungry and lamenting that I couldn’t just walk to the corner store in Astoria where the guy behind the counter knew my order and in moments I would be biting into an egg sandwich oozing with cheese and sipping on hot sugary coffee. My belly growled, letting me know that it was time to find satisfaction in the now, not my memories, so I popped into Cafe Rose Nicaud. Written at the top of the chalkboard menu was egg and cheese sandwich in swirling pink letters. Elated I ordered one and the person behind the counter said, “Oh, sorry baby, we don’t have eggs.” Aside from wondering why a person younger than me called me baby, my stomach and I were so devastated by the turn of events that we had to sit down. It would have been so easy to just take the sandwich off the menu, I thought. It was, after all, on chalkboard. This could have saved me heartache. Perhaps the woman behind the counter could see that this was an existential affair, my entire existence and my sentiments about my future in this broken city depended on me getting an egg sandwich. She moved around the counter and asked me not to go anywhere. I had nowhere to go but an empty apartment that was not in New York, so I said, “okay.” She came back with eggs and made me a sandwich with just the right amount of oozing cheese and toasted bread. I learned then the difference between the two cities I love most in the world. New York wouldn’t run out of eggs, but if she did, she sure as hell wouldn’t go get me some. New Orleans, a bit more frazzled and forgetful, would run out of eggs — I could depend on it — but she would run across the street to buy more so that I could feel at home.
Note: This piece was written for the New Orleans People Project