The days and nights of Zelda in New Orleans, part 3 Thursday, Jan 28 2010 

I’d made arrangements to meet up with Vanessa, a girl who I had met online. She was working that evening, so we’d have to meet up late. Well, New Orleans is a town where things do not start early, anyway. A mix of outfits for tonight; the jeans and boots from Thursday night with a black and purple print t-shirt from Kat Von D, the black PVC bomber and fingerless driving gloves. Oh, and the new hat.

I was out of the room about nineish, and had not heard from Vanessa yet. Took forever to find parking-had to resort to a hotel garage and their overpriced rates. I really had no plans at the moment, so I found something to eat and then dropped into some of the bars I used to go by. Most haven’t changed-for good or bad. Eventually I decided I was ready to go back, until I got a message from Vanessa. We decided to meet up at John Pauls on Elysian Fields. It’s a location that has been a dozen other bars, but I had not been there since it changed owners. I arrived a bit early, got a soda and chatted with some of the locals. It’s sort of a neighborhood bar, except the clientele is gay and they do drag shows there.

Vanessa arrived, and we really got along incredibly well. She’s the kind of person I wish I had known when I was living in New Orleans-fun, smart, confident. I’d have been a lot happier! We talked and had drinks until I had to leave about 3AM (something else I miss-no closing times), went back to the hotel and got some sleep before I had to drive back to Dallas that day…

So, what have we learned Zelda?

Well, what we’ve learned is that New Orleans is one of the best places a tgirl can visit. It’s a city where people really are accepting. The French Quarter is perfect for a day of shopping, eating, meeting people, and relaxing. You can walk it easily-just remember to wear comfortable shoes. In Spring and Fall, the weather’s moderate enough to be comfortable. Winter’s are usually mild. Summer, you may want to avoid unless you enjoy high humidity and heat even in the evenings. In the off-season hotels are not too bad, and if you find one with cheap parking all the better. The streetcars will take you down St. Charles and the Garden District with Magazine Street’s shops and dining nearby. A car will get you to many parts of the city, though the roads are rough and parking is sometimes a problem.

Some of the best little shops are in New Orleans. The food’s great, and you’ll find that there is more than “Cajun” cooking-almost every cuisine is represented, and the local Creole cooking is superb. Live music is a big part of the city, and you’ll find a wide variety of clubs. There is a large, active LGBT community (though the T is not so much) that enriches the city. And the people? I had two random encounters with people who I spent at least ten minutes talking to. There’s an openness there, a shared love of the city and knowing that things are always changing.

The city itself has an energy to it that I’ve never felt anywhere else. It’s a living place that you’ll either love or hate but never feel indifferent to.

It’s also got the most underwhelming transgender community I know of. I came of age in New Orleans as a transgendered person, and I am thankful that I had the people I did who helped me come out and who cared about me. Even when I was not exactly the shy retiring type. A few days ago, I got an email that Gulf Gender Alliance-my “home group”-is closing down due to a lack of members and activity. This group was suffering before Katrina; after it, it was only a matter of time.

There are quite a few Tgirls in New Orleans. Not that you’d know it most of the time. There are a number of drag queens and working girls out there, but crossdressers are rare. Most CD’s seem to be either closeted or won’t go out locally. The most-cited reason is a fear of being found out. New Orleans is in some ways a small town, where neighbors know each other and what’s going on around them. There’s a bit of conservatism in the business community. So yes, I suppose there is a real fear of being “outed.”

So I’d go to group meetings (when we were still meeting in Kenner at a hotel) where girls would show up, dress for the meeting, then change to go home. They couldn’t even consider going out! And that attitude seems to still be there. I asked a few people I knew if they’d want to go out and they’d always say no. Which is how I developed a certain fearlessness-I wanted to go out, I did, and I took the BS when it happened. Made me a better person, but still I’d have loved to have had someone to go out with…

New Orleans is such a great place, and if you’re living there or nearby, you are missing out on so much! There’s so much to do, so many things to see. I know people who live in cities that have fewer opportunities but get out. What’s your excuse?

I do know that people expect others to organize things for them. Guess what? YOU need to be the person! Get off your pretty little butt and seek out people. Or just go out one day and have coffee at Community Coffee House on Royal in a cute little outfit and be happy. It doesn’t take much, just a desire to be real.

Okay, I’m off my soapbox now. I just need to get back again…

The Soul of New Orleans Wednesday, Jan 27 2010 

A great video narrated by Wright Thompson about the city and the Saints. I can’t embed it, but you can see it here.

The days and nights of Zelda in New Orleans, part 2 Monday, Jan 25 2010 

So we left off with my going out to my car (through the lobby, thus giving the desk clerk a nice view of my backside), driving off and realizing I’d left my room key…in the room. Oh well, get another when I go back.

The sky was overcast, cool and slightly windy at times with rain threatening. Not a typical January day, but what’s a typical day now? The drive to the French Quarter was uneventful, and I found a parking space in one of the lots near the river. I’d even managed to park close to the French Market. Half the Market is an open-air produce market that’s been in business for over two hundred years. The other half is a big flea market that’s stuffed with tourist stuff, music, jewelry, etc. I wandered through the market and found a nice little fleur-de-lys necklace and of course we haggled over the price. Somehow, paying list down there feels wrong…

I did not have any real plan, other than a few places I wanted to drop in on. I sort of wandered up the Quarter towards Bourbon and Conti. If you’re looking on a map, you’d say I was going southwest. Which is right, but wrong. See, directions in New Orleans are based not on compasses but water-Lake Pontchatrain and the river. The lake forms the upper boundary of the city; anything in that direction is Lakeside. The river flows around the lower part of the city and to the eastern side then south to the Gulf of Mexico. Thus, heading along the river’s mouth is Downtown; away from the flow is Uptown. Of course anything directly on the river is Riverside. And the other side of the river from New Orleans? That’s the West Bank; trust me, it’s easier if you go along…

I window shopped, found a plus size shop near Jackson Square that had a cute dress (but not in my size). I found the place on Bourbon I was looking for, but the person I wanted to see wasn’t there anymore so I started heading back down Bourbon to end up on St. Philip and Royal. I was at the corner of St. Ann and Bourbon, and the woman running the Lucky Dog cart asked where I got my skirt. Now, Lucky Dog is a New Orleans institution-hot dog-shaped carts that serve dogs that you’ll eat happily when drunk but probably shouldn’t sober. The vendors are…colorful. Anyway, I started talking to the woman (who called herself Raven) and it was a half hour later before I left. That’s not unusual-you’ll get into a conversation with a total stranger and find out things you never knew. This doesn’t happen in other cities…

I finally got to Fifi Mahoney’s (Royal and St. Paul), which was for many years my wig and makeup source. Marcy, the owner, was in but really busy so we did not get to talk much. The shop’s the same-funky yet fun, with a big wig selection that goes from cheap costume to wild custom made pieces.

I ducked out and went across the street to the Community Coffee House for a latte and cinnamon roll. New Orleans is a city that loves coffee; the native brew is strong, dark, and will jumpstart dead Battlestars. The traditional place for cafe au lait is Cafe du Monde-which also has those deadly beignet (a fried dough sort of like a holeless doughnut) which exist to get powdered sugar all over your outfit. Starbucks has had an uphill battle fighting established locals like Community, PJ’s and Rue de la Course and the indys.

After refreshment, it started to rain, finally. Fortunately I’d brought my umbrella in my bag and managed to not get too wet. Another trip back to the flea market because I decided that the hat I’d seen earlier I just had to have, then back to the car to end the afternoon. Driving back to the hotel I decided to take a roundabout way down St. Charles, which is still one of the prettiest streets but the roads are terrible. When I got to the hotel, I walked up to the desk with my ID and asked for another key; the clerk was very professional and I was off to my room with my bags and time to get ready to go out later and meet my new friend…

The days and nights of Zelda in New Orleans, part 1 Wednesday, Jan 20 2010 

The last time I was in New Orleans was last spring. The last time I went out en femme in New Orleans was the weekend before I moved to Dallas-three and a half years ago. The last time I’d gone out in New Orleans during the daytime to go shopping I can’t remember. So, when I had an opportunity to spend a couple of days in the city, guess what I did?

I drove to New Orleans Thursday, making a few stops on the way. I got a room at a hotel in Metairie, which was cheaper than getting a room in the city. Getting ready took less time than usual, but of course it took me longer to pick out something to wear. It was not very warm out that night, so I decided to for something a little warmer. A white print t-shirt from Seven7, Ashley Stewart jeans tucked into boots with a black faux biker jacket and a pair of fingerless black leather gloves. I couldn’t find my boot socks, so I just forgot about it. Big mistake. Drove down to the Quarter and found a parking space very quickly, which should have been a sign. Tried a few of the bars I used to go to, and they were pretty dead. Also, I was developing a nice blister on my toe, so I gave up early and went back to the room.

And I was having doubts about going out Friday en femme. I didn’t think I’d have enough time to get ready, and if it was pouring rain did I really want to get wet and miserable. And Friday morning, the weather was very gloomy. I got up, had breakfast at IHOP, stopped by Target to get some pads for my blister (thank you, Band Aid!), went back to the room and decided that I’d come this far and not doing the one thing that was going to make me very happy was WRONG! I did my makeup in close to record time. For those who have witnessed me getting ready, you know I can take forever, but I found some shortcuts and got a great look fast. Since I had not really done much the night before, I wore the t-shirt again. A black mid-calf skirt, broomstick style with a lace inset, black mid-calf leather Converse Chuck Taylors (going for comfort if I’m doing much walking today), with black and white striped tights. A black PVC bomber jacket, and the gloves from the night before (I really like how they look, okay?). I grabbed my Sephora/Kat von D tote and stuck a little umbrella and my purse and a few essentials in, checked myself in the mirror and made my way out to the car…

To be continued.

Oh, by the way. Friday, Mar 21 2008 

Today’s my birthday. Nothing special going on. Going to New Orleans for the first time by myself since I moved away almost two years ago.

So, yah, that’s it. Oh, here’s a video: