I'm starting my New Orleans blog with a story about leaving New Orleans. The flight out of MSY predictably has more interesting characters on it than the Chicago-London leg that I take a lot.
This encounter took place in 2011, and remains one of my favourites. I wrote it down as close as word for word as I could get it as soon as I could. Humans. You have to love humans. Here's the entry that I wrote in my journal, and the conversation that made leaving New Orleans a little easier, for once.
My final conversation with a New Orleanian on leaving for a few weeks turned out to be one of the more surreal, and as you can imagine, that’s up against some pretty stiff competition.
Willy is an amiable young man from the West Bank, and has the misfortune to be sat next to me on the New Orleans-Chicago flight I took on Monday morning. I'm probably one of the few people on the plane that was annoyed it was taking off at all (as always when I’m leaving NOLA), so I was never going to be the best company.
Despite my conversation-repellent body language, he nevertheless broke the ice, saying he was going to Chicago to see his family and asking me where I was from as he’d “never heard a weird-ass accent like that before”.
What followed was maybe the most disjointed conversation I have ever had, a case of verbal pinball that left me spinning, but amused. Here’s how it went:
Willy: “Where do you live now?”
Me: “New Orleans sometimes, but I’m based in London.”
“Can you get Courvoisier there?”
“You know. Courvoisier cognac.”
“Oh. Yes. I think so.”
“Do they have brothels there?”
(I mishear this for “brothers”) “Er…what?”
“You know. With prostitutes.”
“Oh. Yes. I think there are some. They’re not legal, though.”
“How close are you to Amsterdam?”
“About a 45 minute flight.”
“They have them there, right?”
“Do you have highways in London?”
“Um. Yes. We call them motorways.”
“Nice. Those brothels in Amsterdam are legal, right?”
“I’m not sure. I think it’s decriminalised.”
“Yes. You got someone picking you up in London?”
“Er, no. I take public transport.”
“Man, you’ve got it aaaaaaaaaaaall worked out, haven’t you? All worked out. In advance.”
“Er, I guess so. I’ve done the journey a lot.”
“And you’ve been to Amsterdam?”
“A couple of times.”
“Man, you’ve got it aaaaaaaaaaaall worked out, haven’t you? Aaaaaaaaall worked out. I work for Wolfgang Puck.”
“Oh, that must be great.”
“Yeah. We got soups, pasta, burgers, salads, sandwiches, chicken salad, veggie pasta…(goes on to list what sounds like the full menu of a Wolfgang Puck outlet). You should try it some day.”
“I’ll try and do that.”
“Man. I’ve GOT to get me a plane ticket to Europe. What do you pay?”
“Well, it varies a lot depending on when you travel. It’s usually between…”
“I’m going to Amsterdam. For the Cour-vois-i-er. Man, you got it aaaaaaaaaall worked out, ain’t you?”
"Oh yeah. Aaaaaaall worked out.
His curiosity sated and seemingly satisfied at how much I had things all worked out, he retreated into his magazine and didn’t speak the rest of the flight. Which was a shame. I had so many questions.