was 07/07/07 and Casinos everywhere were probably bursting with
all those people who didn’t choose this day to get married.
Lady luck probably hadn’t been this over-worked since she
was wearing platform shoes and listening to ‘Rumours’ by
Fleetwood Mac way back in the summer of 1977. With all the sevens
aligned in numerological synchronicity this day was set to be the
perfect day, and for me at least, it worked out to be exactly that.
“Ladies and gentlemen, on behave of the Captain and first
officer I would like to welcome you all to New Orleans.” Crackled
the standard airline etiquette over the in-flight PA system as
the plane I was on touched down in the ‘Big Easy.’ Passengers
reached for the cell phones while readying themselves for the scramble
to leave the aircraft. For the first time on this particular trip
my flight was on time, and as we taxied to the gate I looked out
of the window at the sky scanning for the dark clouds I’d
left behind in Texas. They were nowhere to be seen.
“Please remember to check you have all your belongings with
you, and if you have stored anything in the overhead bins please
take care when opening them as items do occasionally shift on take
off and landing.” Continued the flight attendant. I collected
my things excitedly, today I was going to meet New Orleans.
My friend Susan met me at the airport, smiling and as welcoming
as she had been when I first came to know her last year. Back then
I was in her home state of Mississippi with a small group from
Massachusetts who had travelled there to do hurricane Katrina clean-up
Susan could easily be a poster girl for the ’southern hospitality’ people
talk about. From her FEMA trailer she cooked us dinner and made
us margaritas every night. Her generous spirit and seemingly unending
good cheer made her temporary home an oasis amongst the wreckage
left behind by the devastating hurricane. We’ve been friends
ever since and I was excited not just for the opportunity to see
New Orleans, but also for the opportunity to get to spend time
with Susan under more normal circumstances. The plan was to spend
the day in the city before heading back to Mississippi in the evening.
We stepped out of the airport terminal into the clotted Louisiana
air that was boiling like soup on a stove. Susan had a plan which
she relayed to me in her musical sounding southern accent. “We’re
going to drive down St Charles Avenue so you can look at the mansions.
Normally we would take the street car but they’ve not got
that working there yet since the storm.” If I were a better
tourist I would have done a little research about New Orleans and
might then know what or where St Charles Avenue was. But in new
cities I tend to take each moment as they come, discovering the
place in the same way that a white water rafter discovers the rapids.
We drove past those impressive historic mansions of St Charles
Avenue in the Garden District on our way to the French Quarter.
Once there we parked near Jackson Square and began Susan’s
walking tour of New Orleans. First stop was a visit to Central
Grocery to get a Barq’s root beer and a traditional New Orleans
sandwich called a Muffuletta which I can only un-poetically describe
as being full of meat, cheese, and olives.
Susan assured me that a muffuletta is a New Orleans ‘must-have’,
and that a visit to this city should certainly include a visit
to Central Grocery to get one. We ordered ours ‘to go’ then
sat on the Riverwalk beside a levee overlooking the Mississippi
From there we walked the short distance to the sweltering confines
of the bustling French Market with its stalls selling everything
from foods and postcards to voodoo dolls and alligator heads! With
no real time constraints to worry us we meandered along the residential
back streets chatting and exchanging stories as we made our way
toward Bourbon Street. Along the way we took in the colorfully
painted homes and occasionally peered through closed gates at the
hidden courtyards behind them.
On Bourbon Street Susan took me to Pat O’Briens for a hurricane
cocktail, another essential experience on her ‘must-have’ tour
of the city. We sat for a short while to rest our feet and enjoy
the welcome chill of air-conditioning before continuing on our
wandering way with our hurricanes in hand.
We walked along Bourbon Street through the fog of live music as
the sound from the various bars and clubs was already spilling
onto the streets and blending with the humid afternoon air. In
the doorway of a small bar we stood for a moment and watched a
band play smooth jazz. The trumpet player was young while the drummer
looked like he might have been playing in bars for 50 years or
more. I suspected that this unlikely group of friends had probably
been thrown together by their love for the music they performed
Next stop on Susan’s ‘must-have’ walking tour
was the Acme Oyster House. Susan was excited that I’d never
eaten raw oysters before and explained that the Acme House was
famous for serving the best raw oysters in New Orleans. She ordered
a half dozen telling the bar tender “He’s a raw oyster
The plate arrived quickly and Susan explained the best way to
enjoy raw oysters in a way that made me feel like I was watching
a TV travel show hosted by her. She ate the first one then collected
up and prepared another lifting up the fork and offering it to
me. No thank you wasn’t an option, so with tribal consideration
of not wanting to upset the host I took the food offered to me. “Good?” She
asked looking for reaction on my face. I nodded and mentally made
a note to remember what this tasted like knowing that when it comes
to food I have an abysmal memory. Between us we finished up the
oysters then continued our leisurely stroll.
On Royal Street we browsed a handful of art galleries and antique
shops pointing out the wonderful and the weird. In one gallery
Susan was particularly taken with a sculpture called ‘Whirlwind’ by
Martin Eichinger. I looked at the various paintings by Marc Chagall
and was drawn into a simple painting of a barn in a field called ‘Arbol
en la Manana’ by Jose Basso.
From the window of the Angela King gallery a large portrait of
a woman caught my eye. It was painted in a linear ‘drizzle’ style
similar to that of Jackson Pollock. I later learned the striking
portrait was titled Deserie and is one of many similar portraits
by Andrew Baird.
Another ‘must-have’ tour stop was for a Pimms Cup
at the Napoleon House on Chartres St. From there we walked slowly
to Jackson Square where we looked at more art, this time by local
artists who had hung their paintings on the railings of the square
beside the stalls they had set up.
We wandered into the St. Louis Cathedral for a quick look before
sitting on a bench outside among the tarot card and palm readers
who were doing brisk business on this sunny afternoon. “I
can read palms.” Susan announced. “Really?” I
said. “Oh sure, here give me your hand and I’ll read
yours.” Maybe it was the mix of the Hurricane cocktail, the
Acme House beer, and a Pimms Cup that made me just accept that
Susan could indeed read palms, or maybe I was just going with the
mood of the day as I offered her my palm.
She carefully studied the creases and impressions of my palm pointing
out my lifeline. “See this line?” She said while pointing
vaguely. “These are children see? You’ve got 4 lines
but they’re broken which means those were children you didn’t
have but could have.” I squinted and looked closer trying
to see the four children in my palm as Susan continued. “But
this line here tells me that there will be one child in your future.” “Really?” I
questioned still examining my palm with her. “No,” She
said smiling. “I’m making this up.” I laughed,
realizing that New Orleans had one more sucker!
The final ‘must-have’ stop on Susan’s walking
tour of New Orleans was Café Du Monde, right back where
we started at the French Market. Here we had Café Au Lait
and the café’s famous Beignets, a powdered sugar coated
fried fritter that really hit the spot! I was hungry and feeling
somewhat light-headed after the cocktails and beer, so the coffee
and Beignets were welcome indeed.
I probably could have walked further, but Susan’s walking
tour of the Big Easy was a perfect blend of ‘must-have’ experiences
and unique moments that can only happen between friends on a day
like today. We had shared numerous stories with one another, and
along the way had created this one, our shared 07/07/07 story;
The meandering tale of what truly was a perfect day.