If you ain't been there
Then you ain't been nowhere
The livin's lazy and the lovin's fine...
(Bourbon Street, from my phone, circa 2009)
My first trip to New Orleans was eight or nine years ago. A few of us stayed in Mobile and made a day trip over to New Orleans for the Mardi Gras. Bought some beads, had some cajun food, but never saw any... how shall I put this? Let's just say it would be akin to visiting the Louvre and not seeing the Mona Lisa.
This weekend marked my second trip to the Crescent City. Friday morning, the Darryls and I headed out for the Sugar Bowl. Wolfgang had volunteered to drive. But instead of his truck, he drove his old car which I hadn't seen in three years and didn't even know he still had. Evidently, his thinking was that it would be better on gas. So off we went in a faded red Mitsubishi Mirage with one windshield wiper. Fortunately, it only rained about half the trip.
We stopped in Mississippi for lunch and when we got back in the car, the check engine light was on. Wolfgang said it probably just needed water. Apparently, he knew there was a leak but hadn't bothered to mention that until now, three hours into our trip. At that point I was thinking, just let us make it to the game and we can rent a car to get back home.
We did make it to New Orleans around 3:30. By the time we found our hotel and got checked in, it was nearly time to start walking to the game. This was the first bowl game I have ever attended. And even though we wound up losing, I'm glad I went. The Superdome is massive, or maybe it just seemed so because I was up so high. And crowd-wise, it was almost like a Bama home game.
There was a lady behind us who had obviously imbibed several of the adult beverages that the Superdome had to offer. She kept imploring me to turn my hat around to make a rally cap, which I never did. Later on, after a particularly bad play, she grabbed me and said, "It's your fault. You're the reason for the season!" To which I replied, "I'm Jesus?" I don't think she got it.
After the game, we walked down Bourbon Street. It was crazy crowded. We found a place to eat--though I can't recall the name--and got seated on the balcony overlooking Bourbon. Spent the rest of my evening there, where I enjoyed a cup of gumbo and also, at long last, caught a glimpse of the Mona Lisa.
Saturday, we had lunch at Bubba Gump's on Decatur and then souvenir shopped for a bit. It started raining Saturday evening, so I was glad that I had packed the umbrella which my mother inexplicably gave me for Christmas. Though I don't know why she got it. I never carry an umbrella. I find them a little effeminate. Nevertheless, I figured since I ooze manliness in all other areas of my life, I could stand to show a softer, more sensitive side just this once.
We walked over to see the resplendent Saint Louis Cathedral, then had supper at The Gumbo Shop on St. Peter. I had a combination plate with jambalaya and red beans and rice, and a slice of pecan pie for dessert.
The downpour kept the streets nearly empty, and we spent the rest of the night indoors listening to live music. To be sitting in Louisiana listening to a band play Sweet Home Alabama, and hear about fifteen people yell "Roll, Tide, Roll!" when they got to the chorus, that was pretty cool.
We also enjoyed the dueling pianos at Pat O'Briens for a bit. The pianists were singing popular songs like Sweet Caroline and Vogue. But they were playing them at a hyped-up tempo. It sounded a whole lot like the Will Ferrell/Ana Gasteyer skit on SNL where they are the music teachers at Altadina Middle School. It was humorous, and fun.
We left Sunday morning, stopping to fill up with gas. And water. We decided to stop and have lupper at the famed Dreamland in Tuscaloosa. Despite all the Bama games I've been to, this was my first time eating at Dreamland.
As we got out to go inside, the car was smoking. And not in a "Man, that Audrina is smoking!" kind of way. Smoke was wafting out from underneath the hood. By this point, is anyone really surprised by this? Wolfgang opened the hood and discovered the problem. Apparently, Mister Goodwrench had forgotten to put the radiator cap back on when he added water that morning. The ribs were delicious, by the way.
By some miracle, we made it home. There's more, but I have a feeling New Orleans could take a lesson from its friends in Las Vegas. You know, sort of a "What happens in N'awlins stays in N'awlins" kind of thing.
It's impossible to go to New Orleans, or even think about it, without thinking of Katrina. As far as I could tell, the French Quarter showed little to no signs that Katrina had ever happened. There had been two murders in the 9th Ward on New Year's Day, so we opted not to drive through there. But going down I-10, nearly all the houses and apartments visible from the road still looked abandoned and as if they hadn't been repaired at all. Each a reminder of the catastrophe.
I guess I'll always be sad for New Orleans. But I'll always pull for it, too. New Orleans is a wonderful city with a way of making you feel at ease and right at home. I look forward to visiting again, because I learned something about myself this weekend. I really love art!
"Pour me something tall and strong. Make it a Hurricane before I go insane..."