"High on the places I feel calling my soul is Bay St. Louis." Visiting writer, artist and entrepreneur Nan Parati has been coming to the Bay for nearly twenty years. She has her reasons.
- story by Nan Parati, photos by Ellis Anderson
First you’ve got Larry Jaubert's and Ellis Anderson's big-ass front porch where birds build nests in the hanging plants and talk smack to you while you read. And then if they don’t yell at you, Ellis does, telling you to stay quiet as she wants those birds to think it’s their porch. Have you ever read Minrose Gwin’s “Queen of Palmyra”? Read that on their porch. All y’all! Come on over! It’s a big porch; Ellis and Larry won’t mind!
Then you’ve got your restaurants on the beach. My particular favorite is any one of them where you can sit outside and feel the Gulf while you eat. We have oceans in Massachusetts, but they come with ice at the Jazz Fest time of year and it’s a whole different experience.
Once at the Buttercup (not on the beach but a great place to eat nonetheless) the waitress asked me if I needed any civilware. I love that and have since trained the waitresses at my restaurant to use the same word when passing out utensils. You can’t call customers “baby” up North, but you can use the word “civilware.” It’s my own quiet toast to colorful Southern speech.
Then there are the big-ass trees out in front of the church on Main Street. I just like those trees. I even liked them before Katrina. They have a lot of character and Spanish moss.
Oh! While you’re at Ellis and Larry's house, take a nap on their guest bed and then wake up and look out the half-a-wall-sized windows at the giant oaks outside. They’ll induce you to write your own book.
Then you’ve got your trains in Bay St. Louis and how they blow their horns in the wee hours and make you feel like you need to get up and go someplace far away into the night and meet some kind-hearted strangers somewhere. You’ll stay with them for awhile and then you know you’ll have to be off again. All of that in a train horn, heading across the bay.
Then there’s all the people you meet when you go out on Second Saturdays. Good-hearted, well-intentioned people dressed in festive colors. The men are all quiet and the women talk like they belong in a Minrose Gwin novel read aloud on Ellis and Larry's porch. The Bay St. Louis accent is different from the New Orleans accent and it’s charming in its own very Southern happy way.
Then get yourself some bread from the Serious Bakery place. Get the one with all the seeds. It’ll keep you regular.
Oh! While you’re at Ellis’s house, go with her on a dog walk. She’s got one or two or 12 dogs hanging around her house now and always has. While you’re on the walk, amble on over to the beach and see what washed up. Once I found a nutria skull that I took back to Massachusetts and gave to the local trapper-guy who holds animal-skull-identifying contests at the county fairs every year. Nobody ever guesses the nutria skull. He likes me for that.
And then after you’ve done all of that, you go back to New Orleans and get back to work, but with your soul soothed and all your fears carried out to sea at sunset. If you can, get two or three trips like that in a year, but even if you only get one, it’ll do you right.
Guest columnist Nan Parati and Cleaver editor Ellis Anderson have been friends for more than 40 years. Nan's early beginnings as a creative entrepreneur are the subject of Ellis's "Coast Lines" column this month. Click here to read!