Friday, September 9, 2005

Bourbon Street, Beignets and Almost Being Run Over by a Trolley

I have many memories of New Orleans. Even though I never called it home, I spent many hours there during my college years.

I came of age in New Orleans, saw my first voodoo shop in New Orleans, saw a new year/new decade come in in New Orleans and hit my college football coach (by accident, I swear) in the Super Dome during the 1989-1990 Sugar Bowl.

Those are but a few examples. Let me explain.

I was a member of the Million Dollar Band in the late 80's and early 90's and one of the many benefits of being a band geek was traveling to the away games and performing at half-time. Every other year, we would head down to Baton Rouge, LA, and invariably, New Orleans for one night of partying. If my mamma had only knew...

Now Pat O'Briens was a frequent stop. The Hurricanes were tasty, loaded and very popular. No one could resist Paddy O's. If you are reading this, Andy, you remember that trip.

The Cafe du Monde, near Jackson Square had the best beignets, the only beignets, that I had ever tasted. I remember their powdery-sugariness melting in my mouth and the ambiance was unlike anything I had experienced. It tasted of jazz and the slow moving Mississippi. It tasted of Cajun and French. And it tasted like life.

Speaking of hitting my football coach at the Jan. 1st, 1990 Sugar Bowl was an accident, I swear! We were doing the pre-game routine (I was in the colorguard and "spun a flag") when out of the blue, I hit something hard and solid that made my flag fly away from me. As I looked up I noticed Coach Bill Curry and his police guards running past. Now, technically, it could have been on of the police I could have been Coach Curry as well. I will never know for sure, of course, unless I find some video footage focused

Back to New Orleans...

Jackson Square is situated above the banks of the Mississippi River. It "lies at the heart of the French Quarter or Vieux Carré (pronounced "v-yer ka-ray"). This rectangular section of the city marks the site of the original settlement of New Orleans in 1721." (courtesy of UNC School of Information and Library Sciences) I remember the cathedral, the swollen Mississippi, the artists set up all around the square.

The Square has many civil war cannons decorating it's lawns and sidewalks. I perched myself on one and watched the New Year ball go down on the Jax Brewery building, ringing in a new year and a new decade. It was a special time for me. Needless to say, I didn't realize then that it would be the last time I visited New Orleans.

I remember paying $20 to use the bathroom in the French Quarter. You have to understand, at the time there were no public restrooms, and probably still aren't any. So, if you need to use the facilities, you either go back to your hotel, or you park yourself in a bar or restaurant. And there is a cover charge. No one allows people just off the streets to use their restrooms.

I was no exception. I held it as long as I could that New Years Eve, but after drinking so much bourbon and Coke, going to the bathroom becomes a quest. During New Years, the crowd almost equals that of Mardi Gras, so I basically swam against the current of people to reach a door leading into, God-Knows-Where, paid a $20 cover charge just so I could go to the lady's room.

Oh the things we do for bladder relief!

I have to admit, I drank a little too much, so I was feeling happy at the end of the evening. On the way back to the hotel, I remember tripping over something in the road and falling down. I looked up and saw a large light coming right at me. (imagine a rabbit in the road staring down a car) My friend, Lee, pulled me up just in time to avoid being run over by a trolley.

My earliest memory of New Orleans, and purest, is of a locket. My father went to New Orleans on business one year when I was young. He brought back two lockets; one for me and one for my sister. They were made of ivory and were hand painted. Mine had an owl on it. I wonder what ever happened to that locket.

Some day I am going to go back to New Orleans. One day when it is rebuilt, when it is in it's glory again, and I am just going to soak in it's joy and it's uniqueness.

Dana Sieben
Southern Gal Goes North