After having endured an earthquake and Hurricane Irene, I was fortunate enough to head south to New Orleans and land right smack in the middle of Tropical Storm Lee. As I sat in the airplane heading back to New York, a strange and fascinating phenomenon occurred – there appeared as if in a dream a big warm yellow ball in the sky, known lovingly as the sun, and it was shining through my airplane window.
This was the first sun I had seen in quite some time, so it was a welcome addition to my very early day. Having only gotten two hours of sleep, I managed to stumble on over to Louis Armstrong airport, which, for such an early part of the day, was decidedly busy. Who knew there were multiple 7:00am flights heading back to New York.
The night before in New Orleans, as each night before had been, was a combination of endurance and tolerance. I went through no less than three umbrellas in two days, and gave up after that. Once the winds from Lee decided they didn’t like the cheap Walgreens umbrella I bought, they whisked it away as fast as a bullet from an NRA gun. Prior to its being ejected out of my hand, the atmospheric pressure seemed to increase around it, such that the cheap metal rods that held it together bent and broke like matchsticks. Another five dollars gone in a puff of tropical wind, but it was of course helping the Chinese economy.
I learned to live with being wet, and the fact that the temperature hovered around 80F [27C] made that possible without freezing. Unfortunately, the weather forecast somehow didn’t make it to the stores and hotels, as the air conditioning was set on full arctic blast as if New Orleans was experiencing the heatwave of the century. Walking in a hotel lobby drenched and encountering the arctic blast made certain body parts stand at attention, and others recoil in horror.
Still in all, New Orleans is always worth the trip. Jackson Square, with its cathedral looming over it, has the colonial flavor of something one would find in a capital city in South America. Royal Street, full of antiques, looks like something that would be described in a 19th century novel. If you look closely enough, you will find the layers of detailed history centered on the 18th century, when New Orleans was French, before the United States made the Louisiana Purchase. The French Quarter is certainly something unique in the United States.
Amongst all of this history can be found the trappings of modern New Orleans – reminders of Katrina, “Who Dat Nation” t-shirts, Mardi Gras beads everywhere, crawfish étouffée available on practically every corner, and, of course, beignets as far as the eye can see.
The locals are very nice and extremely accommodating, and for a southern city, at least in the French Quarter, quite tolerant, save the few appearances of the anti-everything-but-I-love-my-wrathful-God protesters. They even made an appearance at the Southern Decadence parade, an annual celebration of gay pride [and decadence], 2011 being its 40th year.
As I walked along Decatur Street not far from the old Jax Brewery, a few punks in serious need of a washing were fussing over their dog. I didn’t notice at first, but when I turned back, they had positioned the happily sleeping dog, who was wearing a pink frilly outfit, with a can of beer and a cigarette. From this creativity they would no doubt make a few dollars during the day, enough to afford another cheap beer or two.
A smoking dog? Apparently I had seen it all in New Orleans, except of course for the sun.