Monday, February 8, 2010

A Short, Strange Trip to New Orleans

Location: French Quarter, New Orleans, LA, USA
Greeting from New Orleans, everyone! I'm not going to affect that stilted "y'all" or whatever people from the North think people from the South always say. I think New Orleans is largely safe from that, however, because no one has any idea how to fake a Cajun accent.

Pictured here is "Eggs Stella," served by Stanley Restaurant on Jackson Square. Mom and I went here for breakfast with my nephew Kai on our basic tour of the French Quarter. This dish is basically eggs benedict with a deep-fried soft-shell crab. I ate the whole thing, carapace and all, which I've never done before. The trick, I've learned, is not to cultivate a species of crab that has lost its defensive power but to catch the crab just after it has molted its old shell. I'm guessing this narrow harvesting window is what jacks up the price to three times what you'd expect to pay for a regular breakfast. On the other hand, it was freakin' delicious, and now I have one more minor achievement under my belt.

I'm visiting family in New Orleans, invited by mom to accompany her for the trip. I have no perception of what the specific purpose of the trip was, as it's a weird thing to announce a cross-country flight simply to pay a social call. But I'm unemployed currently and I have the time to make such a voyage (sadly, Rebecca just started a new job and could not join me), and New Orleans is amazing to see all on its own merit. Soon after agreeing to this, we realized it would be the start of Mardi Gras as well as Super Bowl weekend, so it was a big weekend indeed. I'm not much of a sports fan at all, but when I learned that the New Orleans Saints had never been to the Super Bowl at all, I became curious to see how this would turn out.

As well, my brother was having an art exhibit on Saturday, featuring a selection of his latest work. This was particularly exciting and I looked forward to seeing the gallery opening. It turned out very little work had been done on the gallery and the other artists who wanted to share the space did not feel compunction to help set the gallery up, so Andrew (brother) and his wife, Cameron, had to set the place up themselves. Mom and I took their son Kai out on a tour of the city, finding Kai to be an exceedingly pleasant and tolerant little boy.

That was Friday. Saturday was turned on its head when Kai developed a rapidly spreading skin infection and we waited in Children's Hospital to hear the results. Andrew and Cameron took shifts staying with their little boy, I convinced mom to call her cousin to pick her up and spend the rest of the weekend with her, and I went back to the house with Cam's daughters, Chloe and Sescha, because I had a working phone and was available if anyone needed to call. At the house, we watched anything available on streaming Netflix and I actually found a pizza place that would deliver: Naked Pizza, the "healthiest pizza on the planet." As an editor I take exception with this slogan on two points but that's neither here nor there.

But as a result of the hospitalization, neither parent was able to attend the gallery opening and I still haven't heard how it went.

Sunday was much different, as Cam took her girls and me to see the parades. I was struck by the contrast of all the streets being decked out in green, purple gold (the colors of Mardi Gras) but everyone was wearing black and gold (the colors of the Saints). I took a couple hundred pictures of the floats in the parades, collected dozens of beads, and had alligator-on-a-stick. Cam got a funnel cake, and I realized we were practically eating State Fair food, if we could find a Pronto Pups booth somewhere or maybe a deep-fried Twinkie. Afterwards they took off and I wandered the French Quarter myself, enjoying a cigar while checking out the chaos on Bourbon Street. Eventually I connected with a friend I knew from Minneapolis. He and his girlfriend moved to California, got married about the same time Rebecca and I did, and now they live in New Orleans while his wife finishes her degree at Tulane University.

Anyway, my friend, Leuke, got me into a Super Bowl party and I sat and watched a full game for my first time, understanding almost everything going on. I was pleased to witness the Saints' first trip to the Super Bowl, culminating in their amazing victory. We avoided Bourbon Street and partied on Decatur instead. The entire city was milling in the streets, cheering, singing, high-fives all around (ZOMG I need so much Purell).

Now it's the next day, my voice is raw with screaming and cheering, and I'm going to try to cunningly pack my bag to fit all the souvenirs for the trip home. The weather is a comfortable 62F, but I understand I'll be flying into a snowstorm in Minneapolis and my flight will likely be delayed. So it goes.

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