“Only New Orleans is real… [6]

Shaylee Edwards
4 min readDec 14, 2021


Original photo, New Orleans 2021

This is the one I got with the $5 bill I had left in my jean shorts pocket. The metal-cutter, who I’ll ask this weekend if I see him if it’s ok to use his name, because, actually, this is probably true for all the characters I’d first-name-name here — New Orleans is a small town. You don’t need much of a description to find someone. There’s a drug dealer on my street that if I gave one more piece of descriptive information about anybody who lives around here would know who I’m talking about. Actually, they probably would know with what I said just there. He’s not my example of the small-town’ness though, this is — he did a background check using his street sources on a guy he saw me walking with without even knowing his name. That’s how small this town is. I guess it’s fair to say he did that because we have a good relationship and he was looking out. Not because I buy drugs, but because when you pass somebody on the street every day, why wouldn’t you have a good relationship?

I’ve been thinking about him a lot lately actually. See, there was a string of events that happened, in which he was tangentially involved, that resulted in my window being broken. Nobody broke in. It just jumped down and shattered. More accurately, it jumped down and shattered in the middle of a text I was writing. I didn’t send that message. Anyhow, I’m waiting for a replacement window and in the meantime, I have cardboard fitted over the frame. Four layers of it and might do more because noise does travel. That’s why I’ve been thinking about him.

He’s on my street with his crew and they started to set up outside of my place at night with a new speaker. Which likely isn’t random either. But anyhow, man, does that beat carry. I’m not sure what it is about the streets of New Orleans, but light and sound do funny things in them. It’s almost like they travel independently of the regular laws of physics. I’ve never seen this in any other city but it’s gotta happen — sunlight is reflected off of windows onto other buildings so that it speckles them. For the afternoon, a regular tan stucco building gets to wear golden spots. It’s wild. And there’s a guy at the corner of the street who wears an umbrella hat, usually rainbow, today camo, with a megaphone and a bible who tells the people of Canal Street about Jesus and what they can do to save their souls. He also has a speaker. For the megaphone. And between sermons, he plays 90s r&b and a surprising amount of Celine Dion. I’m somehow able to hear him in my apartment, too. Even when I had windows.

Anyhow, the guy with the speaker — some rap music can hijack your nervous system. The beat is hypnotic and ragged and will stress you out. Unfortunately, if you don’t know what a natural state of calm is or you forgot what it is, you won’t notice that. But I spent a lot of time climbing out of chaotic environments and am happy to say I finally made it and now, finally, know what peace and safety feel like. // Note while editing: I had to laugh. I said that in the middle of a story about a drug dealer set up across the street. Well, if that doesn’t say some stuff. // Peace and safety does not feel like rap music. SOME rap music. Maybe there’s a name for that kind. A sub-genre. So this stuff is pouring in through my cardboard and making my heart race and my mind agitate and I think, “Come on, man. I’m tryna work here. I live here.”

Not much after that, I see his side. So is he. And a lot of people might rip him down. Rip down that life. Especially people who have been hurt from it or have only seen it on TV. But is it /him/ that’s the problem? Is it /them/? Nah brah. Not as far as I can tell. So I started to think about how would you or could you bring somebody who lives outside of the system, has never been respected within it or properly equipped to function in it, inside of it? Can you bring somebody in? Maybe. Maybe some. But I got to thinking about how it’s tough to play that game. The system game. The system game sorta being modern society and all of the pillars that prop it up and make it so. Not tough for everyone. But if you have some artistic bone in you, some resonance with your soul, not the soul anyone taught you to have, the soul you found on your own, then you know what I’m saying. You feel like something’s not quite right. You probably think it’s you. Something’s wrong with you. But it’s not you. It’s the system. It’s hard to say that to some people because they think the system must be right and well-functioning because, well, the system said it was.

And I didn’t mean to come here but it does fit where I was going. And maybe it does tell better than I could have with a story about the metal cutter being a magical creature — Things aren’t what they seem.