At first, I wasn't excited about riding the Metairie Road bus. Last week, after shopping for the Mother's Day Gift Guide, I cried while waiting on RTA's Kenner Loop (the Stop ID signs are inaccurate and the automated system can't locate the stops along the route) and JET's Veterans bus (after the 6:14 p.m. bus, it doesn't come again until 7:47 p.m.) and I promised myself I'd hold off on non-New Orleans routes for a few weeks. After all, it was my birthday and I wanted to relax a bit while I had the chance. I also wanted to avoid racial tension, since friends of mine had a bit of a race riot on my Facebook page on Saturday. However, a Twitter conversation with a friend and a productive editorial meeting gave me a smidgen of hope.
I don't know if I was subconsciously expecting to see a cross burning or someone on horseback donning a white, hooded robe, but I felt racially uneasy about exploring Old Metairie: The anti-Semitic white supremacist group and headquarters of the Christian Defense League, New Christian Crusade Church, would still be operating out of Metairie had it not been for Hurricane Katrina, and we can't forget about former Louisiana state representative and Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, my late mother's John F. Kennedy High School classmate, David Duke. Combined with my fascination with the Klan's rebranding (to appear more pro-white and pro-Christian, less anti-minority and anti-Semitic, terms such as "Ku Klux Klan" and "Grand Wizard" are being replaced with "Knights Party" and "National Director," respectively) and mentally replaying a story a friend told me about going to a heavy metal concert at an LSU club as an undergrad, which ended with a Nazi salute and dramatic display of the rebel flag, I was suspicious of even the smallest details.
Thankfully, I only experienced one possibly racially-motivated snub: While I was cutting through a parking lot, a lady in a Lexus locked her car doors when I walked past. I say "possibly racially motivated" since the last time I wore my floral tiered dress with lace trim, a Vietnamese shopkeeper felt threatened by me.
Being able to ride the bus to the end of the line and back without having to switch buses and having local, non-chain businesses to explore made my Metairie Road bus adventure way better than my Veterans Memorial Boulevard bus adventure. Also, bus driver Rev. Turner was kind, funny and knowledgeable, the way bus drivers are on sitcoms. Actually, I felt like I was on a sitcom for my entire Metairie Road bus adventure—minus when the lady locked her doors at me; it smells great, everything is in the neighborhood, people are friendly, there are beautiful flowers everywhere and there's no trash on the ground.My Twitter friend
suggested I take the Metairie Road bus so I could stop at Sal's Snowballs
(1823 Metairie Ave., Metairie, 666-1823). Admittedly, I'm a snowball junkie—I even made a spreadsheet so that my snowball buddy and I can judge all of the snowball stands in the greater New Orleans area.
Sal's met my snowball criteria: ice had no clumps but wasn't overly soft, syrup was tasty, service was great, there were places to sit (tree stumps that made me feel like Cindy Bear
!) and there were no ants or flies. Since the snowball litigation
, I like getting contested flavors like Orchid Cream Vanilla and Silver Fox. This time, I tried White Chocolate and Chips.
My next stop was to Majoria Drugs
(1805 Metairie Rd., Metairie, 835-7211; www.majoriadiscountdrugs.com), a small pharmacy with a remarkable inventory. Aside from the products my grandparents trusted such as Lava and Octagon soaps, Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder and Lavoris mouthwash, there were higher-end brands like Bed Head, homeopathic remedies, specialty products and geriatric medical supplies. More importantly, there's old-fashioned customer service. Ms. Chetta
has served as the greeter at Majoria Drugs for 14 years today, after growing restless at home following her retirement from J.C. Penney. Ms. Chetta loves seeing familiar faces and helping new customers, even offering cooking advice to clueless husbands: "Ya shoulda soaked dem beans before you came here!"
While walking through a strip mall, the window at MJ's Metairie (1513A Metairie Rd., Metairie, 835-6099) caught my eye. I told the clerk that I was with Gambit
and was looking for something interesting in her store. She replied, "Oh well, you're gonna be in trouble then."
Startled, I told her I wasn't planning on writing anything negative and that I really just wanted people to know about her store. She replied, "Well yeah, but you're gonna be in trouble 'cause we have too much cool stuff!"
She wasn't exaggerating. MJ's has everything
NOLA-centric: shirts, housewares, shoes, jewelry, baby gifts, flags, etc.
The final stop on my Metairie Road bus adventure was to Nor-Joe Import Company Marketplace
(505 Frisco Ave., Metairie, 833-9240; www.norjoe.com), where the people were as captivating as the products. When I met Viviana, an employee of the grocery, I noticed she was reading Ernest Gaines' A Lesson Before Dying
. I asked her if she was reading for school, and she replied, "No, I'm trying to get rid of my accent again so I sound normal when I speak English. Spanish is my first language and I've been around too many Spanish-speaking people lately, and I'm picking up the accent again. When I first learned English, I was taught to read aloud so it sounds right."
When I told her I have trouble rolling my R's, she suggested I try Rosetta Stone and reading Spanish books aloud to myself, since those are more natural ways of learning Spanish—which I will be doing soon, so I can stop sounding super American at the bodega. Nor-Joe has a wide selection of European—mostly Italian—imports including spices, packaged deli goods, wines, olive oil, dried fruits and candy. There's also a shady patio outside where customers can enjoy their muffalettas and San Pellegrinos. A really cute older couple came in as I was leaving, and Viviana offered them a sample of eggplant in olive oil. The wife says to the husband, "Hey, come over here and try this, it's really good. It's eggplant in olive oil."
The husband comes over and says, "Oh, well when I was growin' up, we called that (with an Italian accent) caponata. But I'll try it over here and see if it tastes the same...oh it does!"
I hope you enjoyed our bus adventure! Let's do it again next Tuesday! Here are some outtakes from this bus adventure.