Laissez Le Bon Temps Roule
January 03, 2007

The pictures tell a lot of the stories. Partially because my words cannot do it justice, but also because I was obsessed with my new camera. You only saw a percentage of the pictures, as a good deal were deleted. A many of the side of Magoo's face as I snapped and clicked at random times. He of course was a good sport - knowing that there is that handy-dandy delete function. The excitement of it all had me up most of the night on Thursday. I also am terrible when I know the alarm is going to sound at an early, ungodly hour. Somehow that thought keeps me awake. So in an excited trance we made our way to the airport, to be confronted by our first (and may I say only) disagreement. This one over the ever important use of my credit card to check into the flight. It wasn't working. Enough said. We agreed that we would not get pissy (well I am the pissy one) and we would not bicker. And we didn't. A lovely vacation.

We arrived early to New Orleans - 8 am central time. Got some delicious CC's coffee and enjoyed the atmosphere on Magazine Street. No one appeared to be working on the Friday of the holiday weekend. People all over the place drinking their morning coffee, shopping, and running errands at the Whole Foods and the bank (Beth - Hibernia is now owned by Capital One). It was wonderful to see the commerce and energy. But there is a noticeable difference. Just something slightly off. If you had never been there before, it would not have been detectable. Like a sadness that sort of lingers in the air with the smell of chicory coffee and the River. It hangs there as a past remnant even as people move about their days. You see it where things used to be. As Magoo said, 'used to be is the catch phrase of the weekend'. I said it over and over, "there used to be a Walgreen's there" or "there used to be a gas station", as we drive by an abandoned boarded up old building. Not noticeable to the normal eye, but prevalent if those were places you bought diet cokes, toilet paper, and gas. You feel they should be there and should be able to turn into them without thought. But they are not there and there is just a general sense of loss. Of course things change and cities and people move on. I have not lived there in over two years. But this isn't a new Starbucks. This is a loss and a general feeling of such. Noticeable at certain moments of quiet.

We headed over to Tulane to see the school and show Magoo my old stomping grounds. Again, Audubon Park was vibrant as ever with dogs, walkers, bicycles and golf players. But the absence was present. The large oak trees that densely lined the streets of St. Charles were sparse. You could see through them clearly into the park. Those oak trees are part of what makes Uptown a gorgeous place. It was terrible and tragic to see that spice of life missing from the scenery. But they, like the City as a whole, will grow back and thrive with the love and attention of New Orlean-ians. This much was evidenced throughout the whole weekend. New Orlean-ians have always had pride and love of their town. Sporting bumper stickers, long before Katrina, that read, "New Orleans Proud to Call it Home". This enthusiasm is what kept the city alive all these months and is what will help it to continue to thrive.

We did our part to help the economy and shopped the boutiques of Magazine Street. Purchasing for ourselves and family. There are more shops than ever and all have commemorative tees, knick knacks and goodies adorned with signs of New Orleans. Tons of Fleur de Lis. Not to mention the Saints gear. They are clearly no longer the 'Aints. This team has put several in the win column and the city is there to cheer them on every step of the way. Every where we turned there were hats, t-shirts and jerseys on sale. And each person was dressed in them. That night we saw the Soul Rebels at Tipitinas. Aside from being a packed crowd, the music was fabulous as they were a vibrant and upbeat brass band representing all things good in New Orleans. But in the midst of their set a group of fans started cheering "Who dat, who dat, who dat gonna beat dem Saints?", an anthem for all Saints. This got the entire crowd going and the band joined them playing a rendition of When the Saints Go Marching. Never has the city been this energized about their team. Clearly it is a rallying point on so many levels. This much was apparent. As the enthusiasm spread through the French Quarter on Sunday, with people cheering and partying, even with the loss to Carolina. We heard people planning their trips to Miami, for the Super Bowl, as if it were a given they were going. It is just that infectious and a sign of sure recovery, not just for the NFL players, but the entire city.

We visited another New Orleans heavy hitter for lunch on Friday; Emeril. We agreed that was the best meal we had, and it was not for a lack of trying with the other restaurants we visited. The BBQ shrimp was a-mazing, and we do not eat seafood. It was just that good. Of course beignets on Sunday morning, Mufalletas, the Mexican goodness at Santa Fe and our New Years Eve menu were nothing to laugh at. We dined hard core and enjoyed every breath of the bite. It is New Orleans and you have to eat. They weigh you on the way in and out to make sure you have eaten enough while visiting.

In between the gluttony, we journeyed over to Lakeview. The site of the 17th Street levee that broke on the Tuesday after the storm. To add to the gloom and the mood it was raining. A true New Orleans rain where it pours for hours with no end in sight. The puddles form instantly and the roads become unnavigable in a matter of minutes. It was but a small preview of what a Category 5 storm can do and how easy it is to lose a car to a flood in a matter of minutes (yeah that happened in 2004). In addition to the rainy roads, the mud painted an awful picture of the destruction that was still there. Almost a year and a half later, homes and streets looked untouched. Broken windows, belongings strewn about the street, trees down. The x's still spray painted on the sides of the home, evidence the National Guard had been there as well as the SPCA to check for animals left behind. I can't do it justice to describe the terrible condition of these houses or people's lives really. The power was back on, the street lights were back up and the signs had been re-posted. But those were the only indications of life. As if it mattered, since it appeared few returned to resume their lives. All the signs of hope elsewhere; the consumerism, the tourism, the protest banners against the Army Corps, and the flags of Rebuilding were totally lost here. None of it was evidenced on those blocks. Total despair and desolation was the only thing we saw. That and a tour bus making the same rounds and a Home(Hope) Depot, sure to drum up some serious business in the upcoming years.

We ended the trip and the year on a positive note. Filling the consumer coffers and our bellies with food and drink. Perhaps too much drink on Saturday night as I threw up from the revelry (and the tequila). Leave it to New Orleans to bring that on. We toured the French Quarter, admiring the art and the architecture. Listening to the sounds of New Orleans; the riverboats and the street performers. We saw the fireworks reflected on the sides of the buildings at midnight on the 31st and fell asleep to the other sounds of New Orleans; party-goers, horns honking and sirens. See life there is getting back to normal.

As we return to our normal life and tell our stories and look at the pictures, we will keep in mind those still affected by the aftermath of the storm. They live it everyday. The city wears it like an open wound, with the scars still forming. It is still fresh and alive and occupies a lot of conversations. It will change the landscape of the city for generations to come. In the end, the best we can hope for is that it is for the better. Improving on the greatness and helping the weak areas. For now, may 2007 bring health, wealth and prosperity and may the good times roll.


Anonymous justrun said:

You wrote about your visit just beautifully. Just made me want to go even more. I can't wait for the day I can go to New Orleans, and I will throw out my nutrition log completely willingly when I do. :)

10:48 AM 

Blogger e.b. said:

Thank you. It was a tough thing to write.

Diets are illegal in New Orleans. That and urinating on the street. The only two things banned in the whole city.

10:52 AM 

Blogger Ally said:

I want to try Emeril's. I've only been to NOLA twice, and the last time I went I think that all I did was eat. There's just so much amazing food that you can't possibly try it all. My favorite was definitely brunch at Commander's Palace.

4:54 PM 

Blogger e.b. said:

We tried to get into Commanders but it was booked solid. I was okay with that - it meant there was a lot of business and tourism.

6:10 AM 

Blogger brookem said:

Your trip sounds like a good time. I love your decription of it all. Thanks for sharing the menus too! So did you eat fish on New Years too?

8:29 AM 

Blogger e.b. said:

I ate the mussels, which were excellent. Tom tried the crab second course and didn't enjoy it -nothing to do with the chef - everything to do with our dislike of fishies.

8:57 AM 

Blogger brookem said:

i hear ya- i'm not a big fish eater myself. very picky in that dept.

7:48 AM 

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