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  • Once I decided I was in it for the long haul, I began looking for routines. As the fascination and pride associated with New Orleans' unique culture grew more familiar, it also took on its own brand of genericism; second lines and étouffée and Mardi Gras Indians-- the things that truly do make this city unique-- all began to feel cliche and overdone. They attracted me to the city, but they alone could not convince me to stay. My decision to make New Orleans a home (and not just a novelty hitching post on a pilgrimage for purpose post-college) was based on the reasons anyone would choose to live anywhere: you build community, the lifestyle fits your own, you fall in love.

    Among my pursuits for quotidian comforts were a neighborhood bar, a standard bike route to work, and a gym membership. My girlfriend, Laine and I were on the constant lookout for solid pub food. We didn't think we were asking much: just large, inexpensive portions of fish and chips or blue cheese burgers with fries at a place where a pack of camels doesn't come as a side or, alternately, where you feel out of place without a cummerbund.

    Driving down Carrollton Avenue one day, Laine and I both admitted that we shared the same guilty curiosity. Behind the guise of its oyster loaf and awkwardly formal white table cloths, we suspected that the Ye Old College Inn, a family run tourist spot, might in fact be our oasis of regulars, chicken tenders and perfectly dim lighting. We wanted a meal that anyone, anywhere in the entire country could be eating at the same time. To be unique is truly exhausting; we made a date.

    We rode our bikes there, precariously under the I-10 overpass. Sweaty, we sat at a high top and ordered two draft beers. The decor was everything we had imagined; appropriately campy with nautical rope and vintage life preservers mounted to the wood-paneled walls. We sat face to face, realizing our prophecy, destined to become regulars. We planned our summer travels and ordered burgers.

    The fries were a little soggy; my meat a pinnacle of mediocrity. Bit by bit, our conversation turned to bickering. We kept eating and we kept arguing. By the end of the meal, I was feeling bloated and intentionally excluded from Laine's annual family vacation to Cape Cod. Tipsy, I left the restaurant paces ahead of her and watched as the universalists at Ye Old flipped the chairs and mopped the floors.

    Somehow, through the fog of circuitous argument, it became clear that neither of us felt at all inclined to take on the bike ride home. Out of instinct, or maybe spite, I approached a small, 4-door Saturn sedan stopped at the light before us with my thumb out in front of me. At first, the driver and his friend, two young men, returned my gesture. Lookin' good. Thumbs up. Nice night. I came closer and motioned for him to roll down the window. "You goin downtown?" I asked him like I've been standing by the highway with my dip in my lip and and a spur on my boot my whole life. His face became very serious; "I can be," he stammered.

    Before Laine could refuse I was in the back seat and she had no choice but to follow. The car smelled of unwashed hair and Blink 182 was blaring through the speakers, by choice. Still unable to look each other in the eye, Laine and I fired questions rapid fire into the front seat. Our driver answered them with an urgent accuracy, like a game show contestant: he was in high school, his friend was silent, he bought the three pointed colonial hat he was wearing from a renaissance festival. He would be going to Tulane in the fall, he liked Ruth's Chris steakhouse, no he didn't know where the Treme was but yes he had a gps, yes he wore the hat every day.

    He dropped us off at my house, and we thanked him profusely. It was the only time his friend spoke: "He does stuff like this all the time," he told us.

    Fights are never about what they're about; I am writing this from the train on my way home from Cape Cod. At home, though, Laine and I are still looking for Our Spot.
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