Dig Baton Rouge

East of the River

By Katie East

Playing host in your city can range from an exciting honor to a dreadful chore. Whenever friends, or even random acquaintances, come to town it’s up to you to play tour guide. Sometimes, it’s a great excuse to act like a tourist and see your city with new eyes. Other times, it makes you realize how little you love about your town.

I’ve lived in three cities and have had to play tour guide approximately 6,000 times. I think your enthusiasm for showing off your city is a good indication of where you’re supposed to live. If your heart’s not in showcasing it, then your heart’s probably not in it at all.

I have a love/hate relationship with Baton Rouge. I do best when I’m not living in Baton Rouge but am often visiting. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and I know I can’t stay away too long. Showing people around when I’m in town, as opposed to when I live here, can make all the difference in my enthusiasm.

When I live in Baton Rouge and someone comes in town, my usual response is: “Eh, there’s nothing much to do here except eat and drink. There’s a creepy doll museum if you’re into that.”

Most recently, I housed some New York comedians in Baton Rouge while I was living in New Orleans. After having a great show at Chelsea’s, I felt remiss I only had a couple hours to show them around.

“Next time I’ll walk y’all around the campus and you can see Mike the Tiger. Oh, I’ll show you Spanish Town and the Capitol too and we can get lunch downtown. Did you know we have the tallest Capital building in the country?”

Some of those facts bore BR lifers but a lot of this city is unique and charming, even to touring comics who go all over the world. Our city is beautiful and filled with fun things to do if you know where to look.

Some young BR natives are quick to say there’s nothing to do around town. One phone call with my Mom and I know that’s not true. My Mom has 2-5 amazingly fun things to do on her schedule in Baton Rouge each week. Her social calendar is more packed than a Lady Antebellum concert in Lafayette.

Your city is what you make of it; it’s a reflection of your affection towards it, not how interesting it actually is.

My relationship with New York City is a great example of this. NYC is another city that I love but should never live in full-time. When I interned in New York I had eight people stay with me in a three month period. I think I barely attracted that many visitors in the subsequent five years I lived there.

Those first few months were magic: the city was new and exciting and filled with possibilities. There seemed to be endless things to do. Once New York was my permanent residence the task of hostess became a burden.

I’d always feel pressure to find fun things to do that were easy on the wallet. New York is a great place to visit if you have money (AKA when my parents were in town) but for struggling 20-somethings it takes some creativity to find the fun.

Each morning with a guest I would start the same routine. “What do you want to do?” I’d ask.

“I don’t know, what is there to do?” My guest would respond.

“Um,” I’d say while wracking my brain for the coolest thing the city had to offer. “Eat and drink?”

Inevitably, I’d end up bringing people on the free Staten Island Ferry to glance at the Statue of Liberty while chugging tall boys before the ship docked. Or, I’d take them on my “Katie East Cheap Eats East Village Tour.” Which, by all accounts, was an amazing. After that though, I was out of ideas on how to spend our time.

Did my lack of eagerness to show off arguably the best city in the world say something about the city itself? Absolutely not. It said something about me being there. And I wish I would have listened sooner.

Now, living in New Orleans, I play host to friends all over the country at least once a month. And though many people would argue that eating and drinking is all there is to do in the Big Easy, I am never at a loss for fun (and cheap) things to do.

A lot of my acquaintances who visit are blown away at my innate abilities as a tour guide. It’s easy to show off your city when you love living in it. Playing tourist is my favorite way to reconnect with New Orleans when I’m unhappy with the job market or absolute pitiful local government practices.

If showing people your town musters up feeling of apathy or disinterest, get out. Life is too short to spend it somewhere you don’t like. Your relationship with your city is as important as the ones with the people in your life. Your family would probably rather uproot than have you resent your life stuck where you are.


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