Thursday, February 19, 2015

What what it means to leave Louisiana means

I enjoy reading articles about what it means to be from or to live somewhere — mainly, I like contrasting myself to such lists. Here’s the latest one I’ve seen, 30 things no one tells you about leaving Louisiana:

1) Everybody will ask you what living in New Orleans was like

This is true in the sense that Louisiana is seen largely by outsiders as an amorphous wormhole. “I ate the most amazing Cajun food in Shreveport once!” More than a few times since I left Louisiana, people have asked if I'm from New Orleans. I always say, “No, I’m from about 100 miles away.” And they’ll say, “So, you are.”

Ian verdict: Absolutely

2) And you’ll forever be explaining that LA is not Los Angeles

It’s happened a couple of times, but I recall only one distinct instance — when I was on Lycos random chat sometime around 1999 (but I repeat myself), and somebody asked me where I lived. I had recently been to L.A. and fallen in love with California, so while I did correct that person’s misunderstanding, I also imagined how cool it would be to be a Los Angeleno. But that confusion isn’t common enough to where I forget a random incident from 16 years ago.

Ian verdict: Naah

3) They will try and fail to imitate your accent and it will be terrible

I don’t have an accent, and in fact that’s what freaks people out. They ask me why I can’t talk more Louisianan, to which I will reply in an exaggerated Cajun accent. They love it and I think it’s accurate, but actual Cajuns have told me it’s terrible. In any case, I can count on one hand how many non-Louisiana people can pull off any Acadiana dialect. I count myself with an asterisk.

Ian verdict: Yep

4) Then they’ll ask you why you don’t sound like their other Louisiana friend

This happens to me all the time. And like the Movoto article says, a 10-minute drive can make a huge difference. In my experience, so can blocks.

Ian verdict: Possibly the truest thing on this list.

5) Drinking on the street means brown-bagging it

I’m still weirded out by the idea of beer gardens, and I don’t even drink. Because south Louisiana at festival time, and New Orleans always, is pretty much a wide-open drinking area.

That said, I hardly ever saw brown bags and this entry isn’t even all that coherent. Drive-thru daiquiri huts being a thing of the past? Huh?

Ian verdict: Nope

6) When you say you’re from a parish, everyone assumes you’re super-religious

I’d say most people know that Louisiana has parishes instead of counties. And it’s not far off the mark for someone to assume a Louisianan is super-religious.

(Barely related side note: As a kid, I used to think parishes were everywhere and that counties only existed in the country. Thanks, Dukes of Hazzard!)

Ian verdict: Fail

7) You’ll have to explain the difference between Creole and Cajun

I’m usually busy explaining the difference between New Orleans and Shreveport, or LSU and Louisiana Tech, so if we get this far in the conversation, that’s a good sign.

Ian verdict: True

8) Small talk is the absolute worst

Well, that’s true everywhere. Being friendly does make that better, though.

Ian verdict: Fine, thanks

9) Everyone is an expert because they went to Mardi Gras on Spring Break

I’ve been to Mardi Gras in New Orleans only once — four years ago. I enjoyed it, but it did have a touristy vibe that was lacking all the times I celebrated it in Lafayette and Butte La Rose. So, yes, your experience may differ.

Ian verdict: Show me your truth!

10) You’ll never find decent boudin again

I don’t like boudin, so I’ll substitute this with Evangeline Maid bread and call it a point.

Ian verdict: Mmm-hmm

11) All other football fans are as fair-weather as they come

I’m sure every football team’s fan base insists the same thing. But I will say this: When I was a small child and I didn’t yet know anything about football, I knew that Saints game days were occasions for big parties. I had no idea they sucked, had always sucked and that everyone expected them to suck into the infinite future.

Also, I’ve been to Seattle for a Seahawks-Saints game, and their fanhood seemed to consist mostly of defacing Drew Brees portraits and smugly heckling Saints fans. Which isn’t necessarily an indictment of all fan bases (or all Seahawks fans), but I never miss an opportunity to recall that.

Saints fans love their team no matter how good or bad it is, and have shown how hard they are willing to fight to keep it. That enthusiasm doesn’t make all other fan bases fair-weather, but it is hard to match.

Ian verdict: Who Dat?

12) There is no replacement for Community Coffee

Another thing I don’t drink. But I used to drink Community iced tea and few teas taste like it, so let’s go with that.

Ian verdict: Bon

13) A whole lot of newspaper goes to waste

This refers to their use as tablecloth at crawfish boils, which to me is more recycling than wasting. Yet another thing you can’t do with a tablet.

Ian verdict: Docked for inaccurate wording, which I would have edited had it appeared in an actual newspaper.

14) Outsiders pronouncing Louisiana town names is endlessly amusing

Not just limited to outsiders, owing to Louisiana’s distinct regionalism.

(Anecdote alert: Once when a Lafayette radio station brought in a new DJ from out of state, a longtime local DJ grilled her on city names by having her pronounce what he spelled out. After getting several of them hilariously wrong, she caught on to the French tendencies. After getting the next couple right, she then was thrown “S-C-O-T-T,” which is pronounced exactly how it looks. She got it right, though I really wish she’d said, “Sceaux.”)

Ian verdict: Word

15) Everyone will think you’re calling them a famous singer

This refers to the endearing term “cher.” I learned surprisingly late in life how to spell this (either in middle school or possibly college), thinking all my life that it was “sha,” which is how my Cajun relatives pronounced it. (My mom also wrote it down for me as “Sha baby” when I was a little boy, so I took that as canon.) I was also surprised to find out it isn’t a widespread expression and, in fact, really really really pegs you as Cajun.

Ian verdict: Mais yeah

16) You have a much higher tolerance for creepy crawly things

I used to grab earthworms and millipedes by the handful and play with live crawfish, so yes. Though my tolerance for snakes is mostly born of learning how to spot the deadly ones during a hike in Missouri, so I don’t know if that counts. Later, I held a boa constrictor in Houma, so I’ll say yes.

Ian verdict: I’ll tolerate this

17) Tomatoes in gumbo is a crime against humanity

I don’t eat gumbo either, in large part because I like tomatoes in everything and find that elitist. Nevertheless, people tell me this is true, so let’s roll with it.

Ian verdict: Guilty as charged

18) You’ll long for warm summer nights at Louisiana music festivals

With all due respect to every other music festival I’ve been to, none as ever been as fun as the ones in my home state, which feel more organic somehow. Maybe it’s the lack of beer gardens and admission tickets.

Ian verdict: Allons a Lafayette

19) People are way too stressed out all the time

Depends. South Louisiana people can pass a good time and big-city people can be stressed, but I’ve lived in bigger cities where people are more laid-back day to day — and some of the most uptight people I’ve ever met live in Louisiana. In fact, I’d say that the state’s more conservative pockets put most major cities to shame with their social and financial pressures.

Ian verdict: Not

20) And no one knows how to celebrate the little things

Certainly correct in the sense that Louisiana has a festival for everything that has legs and/or can be consumed. But most other areas are capable of the same — the question is, will you, as an outsider, care about those little things? I can’t say for sure as a native, but Louisiana’s festivals seem to have a more universal focus than festivals in other states (which often require research on an outsider’s part to understand).

That said, this point is wrong.

Ian verdict: Little things mean a lot anywhere you go.

21) Ask your relatives to send you a king cake

A disastrous decision on my part this year, not doing that. Based on past experience, a king cake in a non-Louisiana newsroom is the fastest way to get everyone to like you.

Ian verdict: Yeah, baby!

22) You are not prepared for a real winter.

After living in Missouri and Nevada, I have a high tolerance for wearing shorts in cold weather. And by cold weather, I mean colder than Louisiana ever gets. I know how to drive in a blizzard and I can (sort of) put snow chains on my tires, two things I definitely did not learn in my home state. Hell, I didn’t even know you aren’t supposed to pour hot water on an icy windshield, because we used to do that all the time in Louisiana (because it wasn’t that cold).

The upside to Louisiana’s lack of real winter preparation is that, well, it’s almost never needed.

Ian verdict: The stone-cold truth

23) Rice and gravy is the perfect homesickness cure

Yet another Cajun staple I don’t eat. My uncle (who died when I was 10) had a running joke about this fact, working his attempts to get me to eat rice and gravy into every conversation. (For example, when he saw me playing Ms. Pac-Man, he said, “What’s she eating? Little plates of rice and gravy?”)

A better example might be every friend or relative of mine who ever lived out of state or country, who said they looked forward to rice and gravy or red beans and rice when they visited home.

Ian verdict: Rice on

24) Your Mardi Gras beads are the coolest gift ever

I don’t know about that, but the fact that this is an actual item in my closet …

… makes it hard to argue too vehemently.

Ian verdict: Throw that in the fact pile, mister

25) Louisiana snack foods are just better

It was a glorious day when I learned they sold Zapp’s chips in Missouri. Conversely, it was a sad day when I couldn’t get Hubig’s Pies even in Baton Rouge because the plant burned down.

Ian verdict: Mmmmffff

26) You’ll have to find a new way to fill any humid days

Or, even better, live somewhere where humidity isn’t a thing. Still, I was a porch child and miss that aspect of living.

Ian verdict: Six of one, half-dozen of the other

27) It’s hard not to go on the defensive

True in a sense. I used to be hyper-defensive even if someone said they were considering leaving. Then I left too, and realized there are some things worth defending and some not. As for living on floodplains, well, everyone lives somewhere dangerous, because all places are in some way. The question is, is it worth it? It usually is.

Ian verdict: Hey now … oh, right

28) It’s a whole lot harder to make friends

Absolutely the truth. Though it arguably makes for better friends when you do.

Ian verdict: Truesterisk

29) The hunt for a great beignet takes a while

Not if you realize early on that you probably won’t find one, and spend your time instead ordering Cafe Du Monde mix and making them yourself. Even then, you’re better off just traveling to the actual Cafe Du Monde.

Ian verdict: Beignets are delicious

30) You’ll realize just how beautiful Louisiana is

I love living in the mountains of Nevada and near Lake Tahoe, just like I enjoyed the mountains and crisp air of the Ozarks. But both of those places made me really notice the trees of Louisiana in a way I never did before. As much as I don’t miss sticky summer afternoons and thick clouds of mosquitoes, I still like trees and grass.

Ian verdict: Hug a tree if you’ve got one

Final verdict: 23/30, a good batting average. It’s nice to see a Louisiana list that doesn’t insist you have to be a gun enthusiast or a chemical disciple, or look down on everyone else, or be only an epicure, or be born in Louisiana, or constantly pine to go back, to love being from the state.

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