Well, I spent a good part of my Labor Day weekend sitting in airports reading the antics of the indefatiguable Beyonce the Metal Chicken and her blogger, and was once again inspired to heights of hilarity that I will probably not be able to reach.
I took a trip to New Orleans this weekend. It was a by myself kind of a trip, which can be the best kind. DH took A on a trip to Chattanooga and they enjoyed the aquarium and the children’s museum and some caves and generally had a good old time. My trip to New Orleans, ironically, was planned as a bachelorette party for my old friend C by one of her other friends. Well, that other friend backed out at nearly the last minute because she suddenly realized that she didn’t have any money and couldn’t afford to pay for any of the trip or the hotel room she had reserved. Then everyone else backed out, and at the last minute, C backed out, since hurricane Isaac hit and flooded everything between where she lives and New Orleans. So I spent a very pleasant weekend in New Orleans by myself, and I did NOT have to dress up as a 1980’s singer, which was a huge relief.
I used to live there, so I was perfectly happy to walk in the Quarter for hours, exploring to see if my old haunts were still there. Most of them were. I found Coop’s, which was my favorite dive bar/restaurant where I went all the time when I was living there. It is definitely a local place, where the patrons sing raucously along to the jukebox, and dance when a line-dance type song comes on. The music is as diverse as the patrons and they were howling along to hiphop when I walked in (I ain’t sayin’ she’s a GOLDdiggah, but she ain’t messin’ wit’ no broke-broke), followed by more howling for Cher. IF I COULD TURN BACK TIME, they bawled. I ordered my perennial favorite, rabbit and sausage jambalaya, and the waitress plied me with multiple waters as my sweat had obviously grossly soaked through my clothes in the summer subtropical heat. The jambalaya tasted just like I remembered.
The following morning found me in the Cafe du Monde, snarfing iced coffee and beignets, which were also just as I remembered them. Six musicians met right in front of the cafe and played Down by the River and When the Saints Come Marchin’ In until I nearly bawled from realizing how much I had missed living in New Orleans. I spent a leisurely morning in the French Market, buying gifts for my daughter and haggling with the vendors (one of which actually remembered me) for old African trade beads.
My friend Angel was gone. “Angel” Elaine Binney was a truly gifted body piercer who had kept her place across from the French Market. She did my first real piercing before I even moved to New Orleans – she pierced my navel. She actually did it twice. I was in New Orleans interviewing for residency, and after taking a tour of her place with my friend R, I impulsively returned alone for the navel piercing. When I returned home, my boyfriend at the time was horrified by the piercing and wanted me to take it out. I made a deal with him. If I was going to take it out, he was going to take me out to dinner, pay me the seventy bucks I’d paid to have the piercing done, and if he really wanted it gone he was going to have to deal with it enough to take it out himself. Somehow he managed to take it out without throwing up. After I was living in New Orleans and he was still living in Alabama, our relationship was crumbling and I defiantly went back to Angel and had her put the piercing back in. He showed up the next week and broke up with me, before he even saw that I had replaced the piercing. After that, I got several more piercings with Angel, and I came to really like and respect her. She did one of my most interesting and rare piercings, called a Daith, that passes through the internal cartilege of the ear. She said not many people would attempt that. It was very painful, but I always get lots of compliments on it. She actually came to Oschner Hospital to teach the OR about proper care of piercings before and after surgery; how to remove and replace them as cleanly and efficiently as possible. She was very well known as one of the best piercers east of the Mississippi river and I was terribly sorry at this visit to see she had gone.
I stuffed myself with fabulous New Orleans food. I did make an abortive attempt at eating at Jacque-Imo’s, another of my favorite places, but they were closed as they had no power from hurricane Isaac. I got to eat at the Sazerac, since I stayed at the Roosevelt Waldorf, which was the very height of luxury. I found out after hearing some barking that for a mere $150 per night, your doggy can stay with you. I had gumbo, and jambalaya, and pralines and red beans and rice.
I found, sadly, that many years after hurricane Katrina, that it is still one of the most discussed subjects amongst New Orleanians and still is having an adverse effect on thousands of people and their properties. We drove past boarded up neighborhoods on the way out of the airport and apparently hundreds of properties were left abandoned and never repaired. Now Isaac has flooded outlying areas that were spared by Katrina and destroyed more properties.
All in all, my visit to New Orleans was fabulous and relaxing, although I have had some lingering sadness over how much I miss this city and over the damage that has been done to it repeatedly by its inconvenient sea level elevation and multiple hurricanes.