New Orleans smells like piss, shit and powder sugar. I came here on Monday afternoon, shortly after I wrote that last blog post about Memphis and travelling through Mississippi by train.
It’s weird with American state borders. Hardly any of them are natural. Once upon a time someone drew on a map with a ruler and decided what state was which. So shortly I after I had written what I wrote about Mississippi we crossed the magical ruler border to Louisiana and suddenly I was in another world.
The train went across a massive swamp, there were turtles sitting on logs, I saw a bald headed eagle in a tree top and footprints by alligators by the muddy shore. There were houses on high poles in Lake Pontchartrain and the sun was shining ever so brightly. A man who just had come out of prison sat next to me on observation deck and started to talk to me. He wanted to share his hamburger with me. I was very hungry since I hadn’t eaten all day, but I told him I was full. He got a little offended, but apart from that we got along pretty well.
The day before I left Memphis I didn’t know where to stay once I got to New Orleans, but a Facebook post changed that. Hennessy Williams, skater for Big Easy Rollergirls and coach for New Orleans Brass Roller Derby (the men’s league in Town) knew someone who knew someone I stayed with earlier on this trip and even though she was gonna be out of town for half of my stay here she let me stay at her house. How amazing is that? I love the roller derby community!
She lives right in the French Quarter which is just everything you imagined New Orleans to be: colorful wooden houses with french balconies, really good musicians at every street corner, jazz at every bar, and the smell of piss, shit and powder sugar of course. The piss and shit probably come from all those horse carriages which guides tourists through the French Quarter, but probably also from all the young boho/troll/punk/traveler/drifters who seem to take pride in being as dirty as possible. They are quite cute though, with their dogs and their guitars. They kind of remind me of the street punkrockers in Berlin. But these have a ”Rasmus pa luffen”-touch.
I couldn’t be bothered uploading a video of street musicians even though I have plenty. So this crappy picture will have to do.
The powder sugar smell doesn’t come from horses or drifters, but from those beignet cakes covered in it that are so popular here. They are pretty good, but mainly like a doughnut, you know: deep friend and covered in sugar.
My first impression of Nola, as they call it, was good – don’t mistake the smells for being something bad. I loved it so much I started to cry when I had my first meal here. It might have been from me not eating all day, or from the fact that I accidentally walked in to a fancy restaurant and it felt very depressing eating there by myself. Yes, I do cry a lot, so I know it doesn’t necessarily mean anything at all.
The days here have passed very quickly. The first two were warm like Swedish summer days and I just strolled around and looked at everything pretty. And almost everything is pretty here so that takes quite a while. I even bought my first Christmas presents for the season, that is probably a new record. I have hardly taken any photos. Sometimes when everything is pretty I find it hard to decide what is worthy of documenting and I end up documenting nothing.
Some not so good attempts of trying to picture all the pretty.
I took the streetcar to a fancy neighbourhood with huge houses and oaks with Spanish moss and pearl necklaces from endless of mardi gras parades dangling of them. I took another streetcar to some cemeteries. Here everyone is buried in a mausoleum because you can’t bury people underground because of the swampiness. The ground on all of these cemeteries is covered in seashells. I love cemeteries, especially dramatic ones like these. I walked around there crying (surprised?) looking at all these mausoleums filled with the remains of families that have lived in this city for hundreds of years. When I die I want my grave to be majestic. When my brother died that didn’t seem like the right thing for him, so we spread his ashes in a waterfall. But if I die before you – please remember what I am writing now. I want a mausoleum with statues of animals on my grave, I want flowers – both real and fake, and I want it to feel kind of spooky.
Since we all have to leave this earth, why not leave something classy behind.
I have also played roller derby in Nola, ofcourse. This whole trip is about roller derby and I havent yet visited a place without skating. I went to two practices here, one was a scrimmage and probably the most fun so far during my time in USA. I can’t really say what made it so much fun. It was just a great atmosphere and I jammed and scored. It’s always fun to score and since I don’t do it very often it’s a big adrenalin rush of feeling that you for once in your life is doing something good. The second practice was mainly about weaving and doing sharp cuts. Technique drills are always good and you really cant practice them enough. But a 45 minutes of squatting and lifting tractor wheels of skates (I am not joking. We lifted tractor wheels, and I tried to act cool and decided to take on the wheel that was twice the size of the other wheels) and 1 hrs and 15 minutes of technique killed my legs. I haven’t been able to walk properly all day. And I know it’s gonna be even worse tomorrow. Luckily the only physical activity I’m doing tomorrow is kayaking, so it will be all upper body. We’re going to a swamp and I’m so excited about seeing alligators and turtles.
I have prepared myself for the wildlife awesomeness by going to both the zoo and the aquarium. One of the BERG- roller girls work at the zoo and could give me and one other person tickets to both places. Which was great because the summer heat that I enjoyed so much during my first two days here quickly turned to Gothenburg weather with five degrees Celsius, wind and rain. Apparently that’s what the weather is like here: summer one day, horrible the next. Not really trustworthy.
The other person I brought to zoo and aquarium was Killa, a male roller derby player that Hennessy Williams hooked me up with since he is kind of new in town and had two days off work. Apart from going to the zoo and the aquarium we have visited voodooo priestess’ Marie Laveau’s grave, had Cajun food, looked at remains of Katrina and done all sorts of touristy things. Apparently I have made him do more exploration of New Orleans in a couple of days than he has done in two months. So even though I’ve been feeling like a lazy tourist I’m apparently still active enough to impress Americans.
Are comments really necessary?
The Katrina remains were interesting. It has almost been 10 years since the hurricane and in the neighbourhoods that was hit hardest there are still houses lying on the ground in big piles of planks. Other houses are abandoned and have big holes in them. Every now and then you see an old staircase made of bricks that once led to a house. At the same time as these remains reminds us about the past there is a hopeful feeling in these neighbourhoods: New built houses, community gardens and such. But I felt the threat of future disasters. So much of New Orleans is below sea level. There are levees to protect the city from flooding, but when you are standing on the levee you can actually see how much higher the water on lake Pontchartrain is than the surrounding land.
I mentioned to Killa that I was getting sick of eating out every day, almost every meal. He took those words to heart and brought me yellow fin tuna he had caught by himself and cooked a really nice meal for me. I’m sorry dad, but that might have been the best fish I have ever had. I still think you are the best cook though. It’s just something about really fresh tuna… I think we ate about half a kilo fish each because it was so good and the piece was so big. Even the food they kill for themselves here is big. I am also becoming bigger. My jeans are way tighter than they were when I came here five weeks ago. Just like i feared. I don’t know why I am becomming so obsessed with my body, but I am. And at the same time I can’t really bother about being healthy while I’m on this trip which I planned for me to enjoy to the fullest. It’s a weird duality and I don’t know what I really want. Or who I am – in any aspect of life. One of the reasons I made this trip was to figure out things like that. I don’t think I have figured out anything new really, apart from that I’m getting closer to do god hockeystops.
Big tuna cooked by an american coast guard.
This blog post turned out really weird and unfocused. I don’t really know what happened, or maybe I do. I went to a party half way through and came back after the party and continued writing. Tomorrow night I’m leaving for Florida. Hoping to be able to write something with more substance on the 14 hour long bus ride there…
Lots of love,