My journey to jelly hasn’t been an easy one. See when I was a kid, I always knew I was destined for something. Perhaps that is where all of my problems started. In order for me to tell this story, I have to take you all the way back to the 90s. The utopian era.
My relationship with alcohol began at a young age. Don’t gasp! You see I’m from New Orleans, a place known for Mardi Gras, drinks, and at the time, murder.
I grew up in what was considered the most dangerous ward in the most dangerous city. And I was oblivious to it all. (Granted we all knew to watch out for certain men, and when an adult make all the kids go inside it meant somebody was dying that day. But for the most part, I functioned differently from my peers. I was strange. But I was funny too. At least I thought I was.) I was a kid who lived in my own mind. I found solace in my imagination, and I had a moral compass that would get me bullied.
I can recall my first day of kindergarten. I wasn’t particularly excited, because abhorred mornings. My backpack seemed too big for my small body. (I’ve always been on the short side.) In the morning, our instructors would have us line up to receive “breakfast tokens.” They were actually red, translucent, bingo chips that we used in class. As I stood in my place waiting, another little girl (well she was taller than me) decided to skip me. All I could think was, “she tripping hard.” So immediately I tapped her on the shoulder and said, “you can’t skip.” No sooner than I said that, she turned around and punched the sh*t out of me square in the face. I was seeing lights! (I mean damn you was that hungry, head ass.) From that moment I knew my elementary school experience would consists of ass whoopings.
Fortunately, the bullying was not quite as bad as I foreshadowed. You see I went to school with like 10 or so of my cousins. Gang gang! Now that did not mean they would always stand up for me or even cared, but who really wanted to test their luck? (Also many of them were a lot younger too.) I was a teacher’s pet, nerd, and know it all. At least that’s how I was perceived. A recipe for getting bullied. However, I did not think I knew it all. In fact, since youth, I always felt I didn’t know enough. It also probably didn’t help that I would go around calling myself “the chosen one.” I was wild for that or was I? I spent most of my childhood being scared and afraid, at the same time trying to pretend I wasn’t. My mind was the only place that I actually felt safe. I felt who I truly am was being judged or getting me hurt, so I had to push it down. Not all of it though. For some reason you can’t really turn off the real you. It just seeps through the cracks of your facade, and continuously makes a debut. How you doing?!
I looked forward to the weekends. It was a break from the constant anxiety and of possibility getting choked up in the bathroom by the light skinned b*tch with the mustache. Fridays were the best! Me and my cousins would wait for each other after class, and walk as a big group. Big book sacks on, all smelling like outside, walking through the St. Bernard Project.
On Fridays, the St. Bernard felt like one big community block party. Walking through the courts, there was always someone sitting on the porch playing music from their project. (How that song went, “if ya p*ssy smell like onions oh yes h*e I’m talking to you.”) Children ran inside to jump out of their school clothes to play. Girls gathered extension cords for double dutch and played hand games. “Mail man, mail man, do ya duty!” Y’all know the rest. Boys collected cold drink tabs for spinning tops. Our trek was kind of long, because my auntie stayed in the back of the project. (Gibson St., the same project, her sister, my grandma lived in, and their mother before them after coming to New Orleans for a better life from the country.) It didn’t matter though, because we knew every Friday was a card game. And every card game meant we ate good, because it was a supper too. When we walked in the door, my uncle would be scaling fish, while my auntie fry’em up. I’m smiling just thinking about it.
Card games were special, because we pretty much got to do whatever we wanted, as long as we stayed out of the way. Sometimes, we would even host our own card games playing for candy money. I lost every time. (Even as an adult I don’t
gamble.) There was a lot of laughter, sh*t talking, and smoke in that mustard colored kitchen. And amongst it all was that damn ice chest.
As kids, we did sneaky sh*t. Sometimes, we would steal a cigarette from an ashtray to smoke. (The reason I hate cigarettes now.) And sometimes, we would stick our little fingers in that ice chest to purloin one of them delicious ass wine coolers. If y’all don’t know anything about New Orleans’ parties, especially back then, baby we always had wine coolers. In fact, if you were like me and my cousins, your first drink was a wine cooler, while you were only in grammar school.
My whole life I grew up around alcohol, and having access to it. Hell my grandma would let me have a beer, as long as I didn’t tell my “maw.” Even my daddy sister got me and my cousins tipsy one night on wine from this big ass glass jug. Although, I had access to alcohol, I became disinterested in it around the age of 8.
I need to note that I did not live in the project. I grew up in a neighborhood directly across the street from it, near the youth jail. Now that’s not shade, it’s just facts! My maternal grandmother, although from the project, owned a house that was a double. We lived on the smaller side. Inside the house was a door that allowed you to go between sides. So I would spend most of the time with my grandma. Both of my parents worked and they were young. At the time, my dad was making a name for himself on the New Orleans comedy scene. He went by “LD,” because his jokes were Low Down. Or maybe it was his initials. I mean who really knows these things right? But my parents went out a lot. Consequently, my grandmothers played a big role in raising me. During school time I was with my cousins in the project. On breaks I would go to Mississippi to be with my paternal grandmother.
Anyways, my grandma had a bar in the house. It was this big wooden cabinet structure, complete with dusty cocktail glasses and fancy shaped bottles with brown liquor. There was also a wine rack, and then there was Crown Royal. It was mostly for show or if she had guests. I never recall her drinking hard liquor. Her thing was mostly beer and cigarettes. (I put that to an end when I kept hiding her fresh packs. I think it was Kool filtered kings, but it’s been so long I can’t recall.) Nevertheless, one day I was home alone, not uncommon for a kid in the 90s, and I decided I just had to taste the Crown. I remember squatting down between the bar and the day bed of the den, constantly looking over my shoulder. You know just in case. Before I “taste”
anything I make sure it has been opened first. And that day I was in luck! I nervously untwisted the cap. Then I carefully pressed my lips against the bottle’s opening and almost died! That was the nastiest sh*t I’d ever tasted. And my damn lips were on fire. “Who would drink this?” I thought. After that I was done with alcohol, well hard liquor. I would NEVER try it ever again. Well at least not until I went to college, when I experienced one of the darkest eras of my life.