New Orleans is a state of mind. Anyone entering the city feels the spirit of the city almost immediately. No, I am not talking about the stifling heat and dripping humidity! I am talking about the attitude of the locals. In good times, there was no better place to be. Everyday burdens are lifted from shoulders, frowns are replaced with smiles. And common courtesy is extended to everyone.
I have a lifelong history with this fine old style Southern city. My earliest childhood memories go back to trips as a toddler to City Park and riding on the old world style carousel. Now that was some kind of fun.
At the age of nine years I went to New Orleans with my parents for a medical procedure at Teuro Hospital. Charity Hospital was a world class emergency facility. That hospital treated the city's poorest as well as police injured in the line of duty. Some of its expertise came from dealing with the frequent gun battles by thugs and others who prey on the weaker among us. It was a well know fact that if you were in an auto accident, you should ask the ambulance to take you to Charity. I was at Teuro as they had saved the life of my father several years before from injuries caused by an auto accident on the bridge into the city from the Mississippi border. Fog, you know. For many years the local medical schools would use his case as part of the final exams. To read the case you would swear the patient died.
The music in the city is legendary. Preservation Jazz Hall, all the clubs throughout the French Quarter with live music could set your foot tapping. Tipitina's was a club uptown that showcased folks like Irma Thomas and the Neville Brothers before and after they hit it big. Pete Fountain and Al Hirt, from my parents generation, and Fats Domino from my generation all were known for giving back to the city as they became wealthy with success.
The food is the best in the world. Who can forget Breakfast at Brennans's, fat, juicy oysters at Tyler's Beer Garden, muffolottos at Central Grocery, Cafe au Lait and beignets at Cafe du Monde, blackened redfish at K-Pauls. Any of those memories is enough to make my mouth water. The smells of the huge open air farmers market alone were worth the trip. Shrimp and oyster po'boys could cure about anything ailing you.
Where else do the grieving give the departed a jazz funeral complete with a parade? The spirit of New Orleans will remain in me until new memories can be made.