February 27, 2012
If you really know New Orleans, then you know the really unforgettable moment of last weekend was the re-opening of Mary’s on Rampart Street.
If you live in the French Quarter, Treme, Marigny or Bywater, last weekend was one you won’t soon forget. Now, those whose understanding of our great city begins and ends with stereotypes will say, “Of course, it was Krewe du Vieux.”
And it was. This year’s parade even offered up my best (thus far) Carnival line. A woman standing in front of me cheerily turned to tell me that this was her first outing since the double mastectomy she had “just” had (and from the looks of the scars which she also gleefully showed, she really did mean “just). She said her doctors didn’t want her to come because she was still “on drugs.” To which she told them, “You do know this is Krewe du Vieux, don’t you?”
So, yes, KDV and its revelers were unforgettable … in a completely irreverent, forgettable way, as all good moments are.
But, if you really know New Orleans, then you know the really unforgettable moment of last weekend was the re-opening of Mary’s on Rampart Street. Now, I should pause here before my fellow gay boys (and the women who love us) get swept away with visions of ’80s videos, lip-syncing drag queens and disco balls, and explain that Mary’s is a hardware store. No, not that kind of hardware store, but a right respectable one that is part of the Ace hardware chain.
And it is fabulous. For three reasons.
First, Mary’s is fabulous because it marks the return of a hardware store to our neck of the woods. And even a gay boy like me who has a black and pink tool box and thought a drill with a chord on it was chargeable, even a gay boy like me occasionally needs nails and bolts and bits and such (even if I don’t have a clue what to do with them).
Plus, in NOLA, every hardware store has glue gun refills … a much-needed item this time of year. In other words, if you live here, you can find a Carnival any day. But it’s not every day that you can welcome a hardware store back to your neighborhood.
Second, Mary’s is fabulous because, well, it’s fabulous. Not just because it has that squeaky-clean new smell. It’s fabulous because of its second floor, which is a mecca for all things home goods. They have Le Creuset; they have Riedel; they have fancy brands of fancy things I didn’t even know I needed and most certainly can’t pronounce.
Mary’s second floor is so fabulous that even my friend who was visiting last weekend from New York City (Upper West Side, no less) was impressed. He even called his Upper West Side boyfriend to say so. Rampart Street: the Upper West Side of the Delta. Who wudda thunk?
Finally, Mary’s is fabulous because it is but the latest success story in this city’s most recent chapter of revitalization. Don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot wrong here. But, it seems to me that a lot more is right.
Because while Mary is betrothed to Ace, the fact is that what makes it such a welcome addition are the people who work there, the decision to dedicate a huge part of its second floor to the Krewe of Barkus, the inventory that includes Bloody Mary and Daiquiri mixers. And those things have nothing to do with Ace … and everything to do with Mary.
Because it’s Mary who brings the simple touches, the celebration of community, the commitment to customize in a deceptively uncustomizable world. It’s Mary who represents everyday people, doing everyday things, in everyday ways.
And it’s those everyday people … people who know all too well that you can’t trust or wait or depend on government … who are bringing New Orleans forward. Even in the simple act of opening up a hardware store. On the Upper West Side of the Delta (or would that be the down river/river side?).
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