By Meredith Webb
The word Parish invokes feelings of holiness. Of do-gooders, church goers and all things heavenly and chaste. It is parishes the state of Louisiana is comprised of. I learned this and many other interesting tidbits upon visiting the Southern state not many moons ago. And as that rickety old Greyhound from Jacksonville Florida pulled into the station I was soon to find Baton Rouge was not at all a parish in the biblical sense.
I was traveling the East Coast of the United States by Greyhound and had arrived in Baton Rouge to visit a pair of crazy Louisianan boys who had been my neighbors on a recent sojourn in Guatemala. If their behavior whilst living next door to me was anything to go by this would be one wild ride. They welcomed me with open arms and showed me what true Southern hospitality was all about.
My host was still working full-time when I arrived so until then his little brother was to be my tour guide, and he had me in his sights from day one. Cruising around town with a boy 5 years your junior drinking, smoking and visiting live mascot tigers named Mike is not a bad way to spend your first few days in a foreign town. And when my host finally finished for the week he upped the ante on his little brother somewhat.
He took some pride in showing me both historical and political parts of Baton Rouge – but seeing as he was now on vacation threw a little bit of GHB into the mix just to keep things interesting (for those not in the know GHB is a CNS depressant, illegal to use recreationally, but when doing so produces states of euphoria and aphrodisia). Standing atop the State Capital looking over the vast expanse of Baton Rouge whilst on recreational drugs certainly did make politics seem much more interesting.
However there were sporadic times of calm when I was left in his house to my own devices. Having a love for all kinds of food – and undoubtedly one of many hangovers – I one day ventured forth 2 blocks West of his abode across a busy 4-lane highway to sample the delectable delights of a place called Sonics. Walking back to my friends house it did seem odd that there were no sidewalks to be seen on either side of his street, and as I wandered, pondering this very thing a car pulled up next to me and demanded I get in. It sounds scary, but no. It was merely my other dear old Louisianan neighbor and the house mate from the lodgings where I was now staying. Once in the car they balked at how ridiculous it was for me to have walked those 2 blocks, and that I may have most certainly been raped, kidnapped and/or killed had they not come along at that very moment.
To this day I am not sure how true any of these warning were, however I was from then on known around town as the ‘funny Australian girl who walked to Sonics’. They also felt the need to impress upon me the importance of self defense the American way, making me see, touch and hold one of their hand guns which happened to be safely stored under the driver’s seat. Being from a gunless nation and having never held a gun, I admit this was quite exciting. And though all the papers and permits for said firearm were in order I still felt the rebel. An outlaw. A gung-ho GI Jane. Primed and ready for anything should shit go down in this private, plush suburban lounge room.
Having received a pep-talk on where not to walk and where to find an available handgun at a moments notice I was deemed ready for the mother of all Louisianan day trips – N’Orleans. As a guest at my host’s Aunt’s federation mansion on the outskirts of town we started off amicably and ventured forth into the sticky night air. We came upon a famous bar where I was told I must take rite of passage and sample the Hurricane – a vicious cocktail tasting of nothing but tropical juice but packing a punch like no other, plus I got to keep the oversized novelty glass. And after that my friends, there is nothing.
I know I was in N’Orleans. I know I walked the streets. I have photographic evidence of me being there, laughing and hugging my friends, drinking shots from other girls mouths and posing with Policemen and their squad cars, but if it weren’t for those photographs I would have no recollection of the experience whatsoever. I am told I got drunk, went crazy, and ended up passing out on my hosts Aunt’s toilet. And the piece de resistance? The icing on the cake? I carried that oversized Hurricane cocktail glass all night – drunk – throughout the streets of N’Orleans only to get it home, awake in the morning, stumble blindly down the front steps to the car and then drop it. Smashing it into a million pieces on my final trip down their front steps.
We drove from N’Orleans all the way back to Baton Rouge hungover as hell on what happened to be Thanksgiving morning, arriving at sweet Grandma’s house in a sorry state, only to be blessed with the most amazing spread of food I have ever seen. Turkey, stuffing, collard greens, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie – you name it, she’d bake it. And could I eat it? Hardly a mouthful. My efforts from the previous night had slain my senses and stomach so that the mere smell of food made me weak at the knees and nauseous to the bone. But I did it. I ate. And I drank. Even more. I don’t know how but I managed to behave like a normal, fully functioning human being. I watched a football game I understood none of and had absolutely no interest in, I sweet talked the relatives, I praised the fine Southern cuisine. And finally I made it back to my bed to die a slow and pathetic death.
But cry not for me, as I was born again! The remainder of my time in Baton Rouge was a wonderful haze of alcohol, crawfish, GHB, oysters, tailgating, warding off advances from my friends little brother, more alcohol and GHB. Right down to the final moments when my friends aforementioned house mate drove me back to N’Orleans to catch my next Greyhound, the whole car trip billowing in a mist of thick blunt smoke making me fuzzy-headed and bleary-eyed as I watched the menacing storm clouds roll over the bayous.
But as sexily sinful as Louisiana was it by no means stood alone. My N’Orleans experience was repeated only days later in Charleston, South Carolina. And in Asheville, North Carolina I did things in a hot tub that no girl should ever do. Not to mention the dancing on bar-tops in Charlottesville, Virginia…
So it appears even for an innocent tourist wandering through the South is well and truly full of sin. It’s in the sweet smell of the balmy night air. The shaded shadows of the weeping willows. The heated back seats of the eye-high SUV’s. But you see my friends, it is the sin which draws you in. And what goes down in the South, stays down South…
Meredith is an excellent wordsmith with perpetual writer’s block. Originally from Sydney – Australia, followed by Guatemala, London, and New York City. Like what you see? You can find more of the same available at https://www.tremr.com/merriwebb.