“All people here do is brag about how little sleep they get.”
This stopped me in my tracks. Usually, my mornings at Annenberg consist of controlling my quaking hands so my coffee doesn’t spill and making up fake lives for other breakfast-goers. The person two tables ahead preps for a marathon this weekend, picks at their egg whites and grilled chicken. The kid with the headphones and a laptop is furiously scribbling the answers to a p-set due in 10 minutes. I was beginning to marionette an alternate reality for the girl sitting diagonal to me, but her conversation piqued my interest.
Quick pro tip: Do not question the presence of hand grenades and fishbowls in the absence of both war and fish on Bourbon St. Well, the absence of war might be an overstatement, and surely the Mississippi is being exhumed of crawfish at an alarming rate (and somebody should do something about that)—but the New Orleans experience is incomplete without a night well spent in the presence of jazz, oddly-named drinks, and a conversation with the locals. They, at first glance, may simply blend in with the New Orleans backdrop, but give them a chance to peel the night off their backs and they may prove themselves a different person.
The last part is a hidden treasure that the flashy brochures keep hidden beneath the centerfold. The French Market, Café du Monde—all of these sights screamed tourist. Walk into the streets and take a picture of impromptu street performers, try the King Cake, hope to find a baby Jesus. Leave the city with photos and a full stomach but you’re still the same; tasted the city but haven’t found the baby Jesus just yet.
“Tú eres una mezcla de cultura, lleno de oportunidades que tu familia no tenía. Usalos, y olvide el mundo. Solo es ti que importa.”
My grandmother sits me down firmly and tells me this, but I can’t hear her. "Você é uma menina branca, que não entende." I can feel the bricks of the stoop biting into the back of my five-year-old knees as my eyes smart, hurt by the insults of the piragua vendor at the corner who sneered, jeering that blancitas weren’t allowed in this part of Newark. "Eres una blancita que no entiende nada." My sister saunters towards me, her olive-toned hands cradling her red shaved ice, and my face begins to burn, marring the constellation of freckles on my face, in the hopes I could grow up one day to look like her—Hispanic.