'The good times'

“Laissez les bon temps roulet!” Down in Louisiana’s Cajun country that means “Let the good times roll!”

In the last few days I’ve thought a lot about post-Katrina New Orleans and the good times I’ve had in The Big Easy:

* I spent many Mardi Gras seasons walking with friends in the streets of the French Quarter and people-watching on Bourbon Street.

* My older sister and I viewed a St. Paddy’s Day parade, had Hurricanes at Pat O’Brien’s, then ran through the back streets to Canal where we saw Yul Brynner in “The King and I,” live onstage at the Saenger Theater.

* I stood eight hours in line in 30-degree temps so my two little boys could experience King Tut’s treasures at the New Orleans Museum of Art in City Park. My son Ladd, later an art major, saw the Rameses II exhibit in Memphis and remarked, “Mom, it just wasn’t the King Tut exhibit.” Lagniappe!

* Representing the University of Southern Mississippi’s campus newspaper, The Student Printz, I was the ONLY reporter granted interviews at the New Orleans office of the Immigration and Naturalization Service on the first day of the Iranian hostage crisis. I had made the appointment three weeks in advance and insisted they honor it. President Jimmy Carter had ordered an accounting of all Iranian college students, and INS officials were asking ME about the number of such students at USM!

* In 1987, I got to march in a Mardi Gras parade, accompanying my former husband’s high school band. A New Orleans cop danced to the music as our Crescent High School band played “The Kicker.” That cop became a symbol for me – and a bunch of South Carolina kids - of the spirit of the Crescent City!

* One precious memory is my older son Michael, then age four, whining his way down Bourbon Street, demanding, “I wanna see a naked lady.”

* Ah, the food. The beignets and steaming coffee at the Café Du Monde. Bread pudding with rum sauce at The Commander’s Palace in the Garden District. Po-boys at Bourbon Street cafes. And, galvanized washtubs of iced-down beer at The Drunkatorium!

* The music! Listening to Pete Fountain playing his clarinet as he sat on the bar at the Bateau Lounge. Dixieland, jazz and Zydeco! And, an impromptu solo by an elderly and surprisingly gifted tenor at a little place whose name in Spanish means “The House of the Sea.” And, I can’t forget the whole place breaking into “Duke, Duke, Duke of Earl” when a patron entered in full Mardi Gras regalia, looking very much a grand duke!

* Showing my friends William and Mary the Quarter and having William, from Costa Rica, proclaim with a note of homesickness that the sidewalks and grillwork “look just like home.” And, I remember my faithful friend Mary lighting a candle in silent prayer at St. Louis Cathedral.

* After moving to South Carolina, 700 miles away, getting the yearly Mardi Gras package of beads, doubloons and plastic cups from my sister Martha and late brother-in-law Tony, then a member of the Krewe of Bacchus.

Wondering if one of my favorites places will ever be the same. Wondering if the neighborhoods which seasoned the gumbo will come back.

Click “Comment” below to share your New Orleans memories.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The favorite? A formidable challenge. I suppose it was the first when, as a semi-serious graduate student, I accompanied a buddy into the Quarter, but only after he insisted we purchase 2 quarts of wine (each). It was all gone before mid-day (and so was I).
As I sat on the dock by the old warehouses I leaned back too far, and only his collapsing form across my legs kept me from tumbling head-over-heels into the Muddy Mississippi below.
When we stopped laughing (remember the adage about who God really looks out for), a young lady dressed in leather and carrying a whip walked by and smiled at us. I have always believed I stared death in the face that day and, if so, then when the time really comes I believe it will be with a bang, not a whimper.