New Orleans, dancing with Brad Pitt

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I was going to dance with Brad Pitt. At least, in theory. Only did I not know that, when I came home sweating after my bike ride. Every morning I was avidly cycling through Magazine Street. The street that gently imitates the course of the Mississippi.

New Orleans – Dusty purple Jacaranda’s bowed their branches over candy pink Shotgun Houses and rusty Cadillacs. The nickname Shotgun Houses illustrates how easy it is to shoot someone at the back of the house while standing at the front door.

The houses were very popular shortly after the Civil War. Especially with young families. Only when Henry Ford introduced his eponymous car and people could afford to live further from work, the houses became synonymous with poverty and violence.

Magazine Street

But in Magazine Street the shotgun houses look like tiny museums. They accommodate small design shops, an alternative shoe store and some coffee houses. The row of bright colored houses followed me all the way to Whole Foods Market.

Whole Foods! This should be pronounced drooling. This chain is the epitome of culinary delight. Hundreds of square meters full of scented ecological vegetables, wines from all over the world, cheeses begging to go home with you. Extremely expensive, but arriving home just with one item feels like a party.

Jamabalaya

I put the okras for the jambalaya, a Creole paella, in the kitchen. Above the black dining table, the arms of the fan turned around lazily. Outside, on the street, Cubans with orange vests and white helmets were repairing a hole in the road. A pink post it, stuck to the wall of the dining room reminded me that it was almost  White Linen. 

We lived for two weeks in the Garden District of New Orleans. A homeexchange with a musician and his wife Judy. They mailed me on a daily basis from the homeless shelter next to my Dutch house. “Nice pubs you have here. Very authentic!” she wrote. It took me a few days to figure out they had actually entered the shelter thinking it was a pub and that they were enjoying beer with the homeless.

Audubon Park

My new neighborhood was also very authentic: wooden houses with lovely porches, gorgeous black men jogging by at 5.30 am on their way to Audubon park while I, disoriented from jetlag, tried to figure out whether the dog at my feet was part of the deal. I knew the five fat hamsters were. Every evening we let them run free on the Oriental rugs in turns.

With their thick bodies they ran, seemingly without plan, over the couch and some of the guitars. Peanut Butter  and Cupcake were my favorites until we had to liberate Cupcake from the intestines of a guitar and prevent Peanut Butter from drowning in the bath tub.

The original occupant, has left the house in a trail of yellow and pink post it’s. Everywhere I see them: ‘Do not open Unless you need a lightbulb, Although I doubt you will be bootable to find one.Keep Out! Total mess.” Of course I immediately pulled  the door open to just scarcely escape the attack of an ironing board.

White linen

Not all the colored post-it’s were warnings. There were  also tips. And White Linen was one of them. Although it took me a while before I figured out that it referred to a festivity rather than the insides of the cabinet against the wall.

White Linen is the opening of the cultural year in New Orleans and visitors are expected to come dressed in white. As in pre-air conditioning time. When New Orleans‘ sultry humid heat was countered by dressing oneself in linen.

 

“If you really want a cultural experience ,” Judy had emailed, “you have to go to the after party at the Contemporary Art CenterRumor has it Brad Pitt is coming to dance.”

Dancing with Brad Pitt

Dancing with Brad Pitt? I was trying to think of a reason why I would want to be dancing with Brad Pitt in the first place but I found none. Across the street,  in the blue house my neighbor was sitting on his porch. Popping red suspenders against a pink shirt. He looked like Eddie Murphy.

We had a chat earlier when he was about to get ready for his run in the park. In a typical forthright American way he told me he was a musician. And a broker. And a mailman.

A search through suitcases and the wardrobe of the residents leads to sufficient white garments not to arouse any suspicion with the locals. As members of a secret white cult party we leave the house that night to take the streetcar on St. Charles Avenue. The pale green vehicle with its wooden benches is completely filled with white dressed people. Gently we spree along the big houses, once owned by plantation owners.

Warehouse District

At Julia Street, heart of the Warehouse District full of museums and galleries, we get out. The streets are filled with music stages and cafes and the numerous musicians of the city treat us to wailing jazz and pounding salsa. Everywhere it smells of the rich spicy cuisine of the city: Creole, Spanish, French, Cajun.

Then I remember I should arrange tickets for the After Party if I want to  stand a chance to dance with Brad Pitt. But this is America. Here at the age of eighty you still have to flash your ID before getting a drink. So how would I get into a museum transformed into a nightclub with three kids?  The woman at the entrance scratches her chin at my question.

“Why you all, we never ever had kids here during White Linen but I guess it ain’t forbidden.” New Orleans clearly is not America. Quickly I buy five tickets and push the children inside before she changes her mind.

Gloria Gaynor

The museum is an old warehouse. Music is heard on all floors. Upstairs there is bar playing jazz. Downstairs, in the basement, Gloria Gaynor is surviving. The children are patted on the head and have their cheeks pinched. “Look Mom, Brad Pitt!”, my daughter cries suddenly. And indeed, there is a picture of him hanging on the wall above models of a housing project for the poor. Apparently Brad has put some money into the project.

Eddy Murphy

In the basement my children hide between tropical palms, while Donna Summer is doing something in MacArthur Park. And then I see him, my neighbor Eddie Murphy. “Hi you all! Having fun?”, he greets us enthusiastically. Happily he treats us to a lethal cocktail with the equally deadly name Hurricane.

We exchange chitchat about our stay when all of a sudden he stops and says. “I am so sorry, so very rude of me, but I haven’t decently introduced myself.” And he puts out his hand and vigorously cranks my arm up and down. “Hi, I’m Brad. Care for a dance? “And there I go on the dance floor of a museum in New Orleans, dancing with Brad.

Text: Anneke de Bundel – Image: Shutterstock

More New Orleans? Read:

New Orleans practical:

  • White Linen takes place 1st Saturday of August. 
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