Upon our return to New Orleans, we had a bit of laundry to do, so I made my way to a nearby laundromat. This place was flooded, but it finally re-opened during our absence. The proprietor was hanging out in front, listening to Earth, Wind & Fire with his dog. I congratulated him on his renovation. We got to talking and eventually he offered me a cold beer. Then he offered me the remainder of a marijuana cigarette. Then a cop came out of the laundromat and stood next to me. I was nervous, but played it cool, and nothing happened. I guess this is the city’s way of saying, “Welcome back to New Orleans.”
For the record, drinking a can of beer on the street is legal here. Marijuana is not, but believe me when I say that marijuana is not the problem drug here. Heroin, cocaine and, yes, alcohol are our big problems. Maybe crystal meth too.
In the past I would have found this experience amusing and even charming, fodder for a good story. I still feel that way, sort of, but I’m also a little unsettled by the whole experience. Part of me wants to say, “This is why I love New Orleans.” But part of me also wants to say, “This is highly dysfunctional.” I’m caught between these two contradictory responses, and I don’t know how I feel. I can’t find the dividing line anymore.
As a rule I don’t like to drink beer in the morning but in this case I made an exception.