The Louisiana Bucket List
We've put together a handy list of ten things everyone living in Louisiana must do at least once before they die, most of which probably aren't what you'd think.
Sure, “eat crawfish yourself” might seem like the more obvious thing to do, but let’s face it. If you already live in Louisiana, there’s no way you’re getting out of here alive without pinching a few tails and sucking some heads before you go. But one of life’s great joys no self-respecting Louisiana resident should miss is feeding crawfish to a yankee. Don’t give them any hints or warnings about what they’re getting themselves into, either. Just line your kitchen table with newspaper, then quietly dump a mess of crawfish in the middle. Bonus points if you film what happens next.
Louisiana has one of the highest state and local sales tax rates in the country, and we’re all so used to paying it (along with having the state raise it every five minutes) that going somewhere and buying a pair of shoes for $45.99 that actually costs $45.99 rather than over 50 bucks can be pretty shocking. And amazing. Sure, it’ll make coming back home to our 9% average combined sales tax rate a little difficult, but at least you’ll have a new pair of shoes. And you don’t have to live in New Hampshire, either. So there’s that.
There’s no better way to appreciate where you’re from than by sampling someone else’s take on your culture – which goes double for food. Travel anywhere outside Louisiana (even if it’s just across the border into a neighboring state), find a restaurant, and order something that has the word “Cajun” in it. Chances are, whatever you order will just come out with a bunch of Tony Chachere’s dumped on top of it. After experiencing that level of disappointment, coming back home to a good plate of jambalaya will never taste better.
This is a weird one, but anyone who’s stopped into a convenience store along I-10 in Florida knows that it’ll be chock-full of alligator this and swamp that. It’s kind of like how walking into a Saltgrass knocks you over the head with EVERYTHING TEXAS ALL AT ONCE, but with swamp culture. Yeah, I know Florida’s a pretty swampy state too, but it hasn’t earned that reputation like Louisiana has. When most people think of the Sunshine State, they tend to think of Disney World or the Golden Girls more than alligators and marshes. People call us the Bayou State for a reason, you know: because we’ve earned it. The closest thing we have to Disney World is getting lost in the Atchafalaya, and our Golden Girls have names like Phil, Si, Willie, and Jase.
Taking your car to another state and just driving around for awhile is crucial to developing an appreciation for just how awful most people drive in Louisiana. Now, I’m not saying that we have the absolute worst drivers on the planet here or anything, but that’s probably only because no one’s ever done a formal study. I’m not sure what caused everyone in Louisiana to think going the speed limit is something that happens to other people or that using your turn signal is how the devil gets inside you, but there’s no such thing as defensive driving in this state. It’s all offense, all the time – and if you think any differently, try to change lanes while going the speed limit and using your turn signal. JUST TRY IT.
You owe it to yourself to experience an actual winter when weird white stuff falls from the sky and people wear things like heavy coats and something called mittens. Sure, your friends up north will make fun of you for not being able to tolerate the cold very well, but the jokes on them. You can always layer on more clothes and jackets to keep warm, but what about when they come visit you during a Louisiana summer? You’ll get the last laugh as they slowly shed their clothes in a futile attempt to cool down before realizing they’ll never be naked enough to not sweat their faces off. Revenge is a dish best served swamp hot.
I’m not saying you should cross the border and litter or pee on the Alamo like Ozzy did or anything, but everyone in Louisiana should mess with Texas a little bit, at least once in their lives. Everyone in East Texas likes to pretend they’re basically West Louisiana, but we’re really just back down to the “dump Tony’s on everything and call in Cajun” scenario again. Fun things to try would be telling them their BBQ stinks, or that there wouldn’t even be a Texas without the Louisiana Purchase. Just make sure to leave before they realize what’s happening and start throwing sharpened Lone Stars at your head.
You know and I know that there’s really no such thing as an inappropriate time for zydeco music as far as we’re concerned, but the rest of the world doesn’t quite get that. Wait for a somber occasion that demands respect and decorum, then hop over to cajunradio.com and blare a little Wayne Toups from your iPod. (Do they even still make iPods?) Nothing spices up a stuffy, formal wedding quite like a little accordion music, for example. For maximum effect, make sure to hit Play right before the “you may kiss the bride” part.
From bungee jumping off remote cliffs to zip-lining across Las Vegas, an entire industry has been built around thrill-seeking, but the problem is that all those things cost money. Here in Louisiana, you can get the same adrenaline rush by taking a drive over any of our crumbling roads as our infrastructure collapses, which goes double for one of our ailing bridges. Jefferson Parish alone has four structurally deficient bridges, but the one we’re most proud of is the I-10 bridge over the Calcasieu River in Lake Charles. With a sufficiency rating of just 6.6% out of 100 along with accidents and traffic jams piling up on it nearly every day, driving over the I-10 bridge is one of the scariest things you can do Louisiana, especially if you get stuck up at the top. By the time you get back down on the other side, you’ll never feel more alive.
You might think trying gumbo in another state would give you a greater appreciation for what we have here at home, but you’d be wrong. What passes for gumbo out in the savage lands beyond our civilized borders is an affront to nature and an abomination in the eyes of the Lord. Seriously, it’s not something you should ever do unless you want to run the very real risk of ruining every happy memory you’ve ever had in your entire life. If you’re ever traveling and just miss the tastes of home, don’t be tempted to order some in, say, Florida or New York, because all you’ll get is a steaming bowl of hot disappointment that will make you question every decision you’ve ever made that has led you to this sad, soul-crushing moment. So don’t do it.