Friday, November 17, 2017

NOLA, Revisited

This week, in honor of Patrick and Meg’s second anniversary of dating, and Meg’s birthday, they flew to New Orleans for a short vacation. They both work incredibly hard, and I am really tickled that they were able to make this getaway happen. New Orleans happens to be one of my favorite cities, so I enjoyed hearing about their plans. As I listened, the years fell away, and I was back in 1981, and my first time in NOLA.

I took the train (the old Southern Crescent) from Philly, and was visiting my good friend Lisa, who was working at the Times-Picayune newspaper. I had recently fallen during a performance of “The Wizard of Oz” (darn that slippery Yellow Brick Road!) and broken my wrist; I was in a cast halfway up my right arm. Since I am left handed, I could navigate fairly well--still able to enjoy a Café du Monde beignet and café au lait, so the important things happened! I heard some amazing jazz and Cajun music at the Maple Leaf Bar, ate at locals’ favorite places including Buster Holmes, Roussel’s and Mother’s, and attended Easter Sunday Mass at St. Louis Cathedral.

The city made a major impression on me— its beauty, the music, the food…so much so that I returned the following year with Steve, and we had an equally delightful time (with Lisa again as our gracious hostess.) Within 18 months I became pregnant with the first of our five, thus ending our child-free jaunts for quite a few years.

I always hoped for another chance to spend time in the Garden District and the French Quarter, and in 2009, I was finally able to go back, this time chaperoning 30 teenagers at the Lutheran National Youth Gathering. I was eager to introduce two of my kids (Patrick and Julie) to New Orleans. 28 years had passed, and the extensive damage from Hurricane Katrina four years before was still very apparent in many neighborhoods. Our group spent a day painting the water-damaged house of a couple who had evacuated to Baton Rouge. Even after the disaster, they were determined to come home to their beloved city.

On the Natchez 2009 with Julie and Patrick

On the Natchez 2017 (Patrick and Meg)

A highlight of the 2009 visit had been a cruise on the Mississippi River aboard the steamboat Natchez. Yesterday, Meg and Patrick took a cruise on the same boat, which still runs daily excursions. They will be having brunch at Brennan’s (a 1981 brunch stop for me), and of course hit Café du Monde. They’re having great fun, and I’m so glad to know the city is back on its feet at last.

In a country where most metropolitan areas have become sadly similar, with their downtown high rises and their ubiquitous chain restaurants and hotels, New Orleans is one of the few cities that remains proudly unique. May it always be so, and may Mother Nature be kinder in the future to the Big Easy, a place that has come to mean such a lot to me

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