Dear Residents of and the City Called New Orleans,
Many many years ago y’all stole my heart. Your city is my second favorite in the entire world (#1 going to Chicago, my home) and I often refer to your city as “other home.” I never feel lost in your city, even when I don’t know where I am or where I’m going. Your entire city, with its grit, grime, music and culture makes me feel comforted and at home — at ease even.
Sure, I’ve been to bigger cities that resemble my own big city, but New York and Los Angeles will never hold a candle or place in my heart the way your city does. You can literally draw a straight line between Chicago an New Orleans and our greatest heroes have traveled that path to and from several times. Chicago’s musical legacy is also New Orleans legacy as it is Memphis’. The triode of these three cities make up American music regardless of style or color.
The first time I ever stepped foot in your city was not unlike many others first visits — I was in town for Mardi Gras. It was several days of pure joy and from that moment on, I spent the rest of my life (thus far) trying to carry those feelings of joy — the spirit of Mardi Gras to those I love and those who need it.
There was a moment in 2013 where I was looking for direction and insight and I was feeling very emotionally lost. My wife and I were trying to have a child and not having success. I went to New Orleans for Mardi Gras (not my first time), hoping to find a few pieces of of the puzzle. One of those pieces that fell into place was hearing and seeing Bounce music live.
I’ve struggled with identity and gender my whole life — literally since I was a kid. Male and female never fit right. I didn’t (and don’t) belong on the gender binary. Through Bounce music, I fell down a rabbit hole of gender identity which lead me to fully understand non-binary/gender queerness and in turn explained every fucked up feeling I had growing up. When I realized that I wasn’t in fact a “he/him” and dressing as a “she/her” felt like a costume, a giant weight was lifted from my shoulders and heart. I came out of that haze of sadness and uncertainty as a “they/them” gender queer, non-binary trans person. All because I saw Katey Red spit rhymes on Mardi Gras day.
To the wonderful people of New Orleans — from trans Bounce rappers to woman at the register at the Walgreens on Canal Street who greeted my drunk ass with a big smile and a hearty “how’s your momma and them” while I was buying a bottle of water. From the NOLA beat cop who once told us where to find a sweet hidden goth/vampire bar to TOAST, the ghost tour guide who was a Chicago ex-pat. From the excited rockabilly girls who talked my ear off about Rocky Horror to the gutter punks on Decatur Street who were excited about my ABBA/Dark Throne mash up shirt. From the wonderful and talented Meschiya Lake who makes some of my favorite Jazz-punk to Hollise Murphy (rest in peace, brother) who came up to me and introduced himself because I was wearing a Los Crudos shirt and talked to me about Chicago hardcore — thank you for being who you all are. I feel honored and lucky to have existed on this planet at the same time as you.
PS – Instead of a mix tape or listening list, I suggest you dig into the history of New Orleans music, because it is the roots and beginnings of all American music. Every note every one of your favorite artist sings or plays goes back to Congo Square, the birth place of not only jazz, but American music.