N’awlins

Click here to read a great column by ESPN’s Bill Simmons on his return to New Orleans for the NBA All-Star Break. Simmons does a good job grasping what it’s like to really “feel” New Orleans, and he compares the Crescent City to its pre-Katrina days.

——————————–

New Orleans

One of the things I miss most about living in Louisiana (other than the food) is New Orleans. Living in Lafayette, I was a two-and-a-half hour drive away from one of the most entertaining places on earth.
My first visit to the Big Easy came in 1997, the year I turned 21. My friends and I stayed out until 5 a.m. each night we were there and each of us went back to college with stories I can’t repeat here.
When I began dating my wife Jennifer, we made several trips to New Orleans, and we, too, had a memorable 21st birthday trip … this time for her.
Yes, New Orleans is the perfect place to “party.” The beads are ever-flowing, and so are the hurricanes. Imagine Franklin Street in Chapel Hill after the Tar Heels win the national title, then multiply that by 1,000. Then you’ll get what an average night on Bourbon Street is like.
It’s not for everybody. And the older I get, the less appeal Bourbon Street has for me.
But Bourbon Street is just one small part of New Orleans.
Like Simmons says, there’s no better feeling than sitting in Cafe Du Monde, eating beignets and watching the people stroll by in the French Quarter. There seems to always be the faint sound of jazz, even if you’re just imagining it, and there’s always a strong vibe from the people around you.
New Orleans in August is sweltering, but even then, it has its charm.

I was in New Orleans two weeks after Hurricane Katrina for a story we were doing at the paper I was at. I talked to people who were refusing to leave. So I witnessed the destruction, and I saw what was practically a ghost town. What I didn’t see was the total devastation of the 9th Ward, and I didn’t see the crime and suffering that took place in the days immediately following the storm.
Those are images I only saw on TV, as did the rest of the nation, but those are the images that have been etched into people’s memories.
I’m happy to say I was in New Orleans again 15 months later … just days before I left for Sanford … and watched a New Orleans Saints playoff game at a bar on Bourbon Street, just blocks from where the game was being played.
New Orleans came alive that night, and many people point to that game (a Saints win) as one of the major turning points in New Orleans’ revival. A simple football game brought people back, and it brought the city together.
When the Saints won, I remember walking out into Bourbon Street and seeing the people get even crazier. Hard to imagine, I know.

Simmons says the city’s not quite 100 percent, and it probably never will be. But it’s close, and if you haven’t been, it’s worth your time. If you don’t like the “party atmosphere,” there’s the history and the architecture (and the shopping, Saints, Hornets, Tulane University, Audubon Zoo and the Aquarium). It’s also cool to see the above-ground cemeteries and older-than-dirt churches.
And if you do love the night life, it never ends there. And despite what you hear … for tourists, it’s safe.

I’ll be begging my wife for a stop off in New Orleans when we visit Louisiana this year. I don’t ever want to forget the “feel” of N’Awlins, and I doubt I ever will.

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “N’awlins

  1. Wow, this coming from Mr. Novel-Story himself.
    It’s like R.V. getting on to someone for being an annoying Tar Heel fan. It’s like OUBS criticizing somebody for always having a better story.

  2. …. also being from Louisiana, and spending many vacations there as a kid with my parents, to later in college, and “adult” years, New Orleans has always had a special place in my heart.

    I have sooo many memories…..

    I can remember staying at Le Richelieu “Motor Hotel” on Chartres several times with my family as a “tradition” when we visited, walking the quarter and visiting museums and old homes there and taking excursions along surrounding areas such as the Great River Road.

    In college, my friends and I would go down to NO to just hang out and see concerts, and use creative means to get close to the stage when we couldn’t afford floor tickets 🙂 We’d stay in a budget hotel on St. Charles or stay with friends, and then ride the streetcar downtown to shop and hang out in what had been the more “alternative” styled east end of Decatur. …. even having powdered sugar and beignet fights at Cafe Du Monde in the early morning hours. Among several trips, we saw The Stone Temple Pilots, Butthole Surfers(apologies to those of more sensitive tastes 🙂 ), and Lollapalooza II. Sometimes I wonder how we made it down there considering the wrecks our college era cars were, or how little money we had.

    Here’s a side tip, if you have an opportunity to stay in The Lafayette Hotel, take it. This was, for us at the time, a very “swanky” hotel(and still is), but even though we showed up covered in mud at 1am following a stadium concert…. the staff there treated us like royalty. It’s a long story how we ended up there and myriad adventures that trip, but suffice to say it was quite humorous to have my beat up 1980 Oldsmobile pulled up between new BMWs and Mercedes by the valet staff. They said our gang as “great entertainment” and I’m pretty sure the ground level restaurant patrons found my friend and I dancing in the rain outside the building somewhat humorous.

    I’ve been back to NO several times since then for work and pleasure, and I always find something new to see or gain a new perspective on.

    Unfortunately I haven’t had an opportunity to make it back post Katrina, but have many friends and their family from the area that kept me in loop. And of course there is always the Times-Picayune 🙂 Man, what a job they did.

    But NO will always have a special place in my heart, and it is a unique American place. It evokes old Europe, but is also its own entity, blending many cultures in one small place. And who can forget the weather and geography!

    One interesting NO trip memory, driving down 55 over the swamps, and having the entire car covered with millions of smushed “love bugs” during their mating frenzy. It is unbelievable, cars on the side of the road with windows so covered that they are opaque, and big rigs overheated because their radiators are plugged full. Perhaps an odd memory to share, but one that I’ve found many NO road-trippers have experienced 🙂

    I hope to get back to NO in the near future with my family, and share with them the special memories… and perhaps shelter them from some others, like those poor love bugs 🙂

    Al

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s