Tuesday, August 30, 2005

New Orleans

MagnetBabe over at Field Lines reminded me of a trip I took to New Orleans for a friend's wedding over fifteen years ago. Like San Francisco, New Orleans has it's own unique style, a particular flavor that sticks with you forever. I was sad to hear the news that it might be irreparably damaged by Hurricane Katrina, and am ever so relieved that she altered her course in time. Apologies to those who have been displaced, but New Orleans is a rare jewel.

The wedding was a week before Martis Gras, but some people had already arrived and were priming their pumps. It seemed that everyone was in a great mood. Danny and Val, the bride and groom, had many friends and family in attendance. Vals older brother Teddy was a prominent surgeon, and her family was wealthy and lived in a large mansion walking distance from the French Quarter. Val's cousin Tom was a fireman from the Florida Keys, who I met the night after he and his buddy watched Teddy perform open heart surgery from a glass enshrouded spectators booth.

"You should have seen it," he told me. "First he sawed his chest open..."

"Sawed," I exclaimed, "as in a circular saw?"

"Yeah, it was like a small version of what you would use to cut two by four."

I bunched up my face, "That's disgusting."

He laughed, "Yeah. It was cool."

He, myself and a few others formed a group and spent most of our time together. Our first night in the French Quarter, we drove around to see what it was all about. We were on a particularly dark street, where the poor wandered aimlessly like ghosts, eliciting that unconscious tap on the door lock, when we saw a skinny black man backing his way out of a bar, shooting a pistol back through the door.

"Holy shit!" Tom yelled. "Did you see that?"

"Welcome to New Orleans boys," I said.

Tom asked, "I wonder what kind of gun that was?"

"I think it was a Red Ryder BB gun with a Cumberland stock," I returned.

Tom was the only one that got it, and fell into a fit of laughter, repeating it to himself and shaking his head. I think that was the moment that we became friends.

Danny's best man couldn't make the wedding, so he asked me to stand in. I was honored even if I wasn't his first choice, but I was new to the wedding game, and soon realized that I had to give a speech. At the rehearsal dinner, his cousin stood and gave a warm toast, telling a great story about Dan that recounted of his very essence, the dreamer, the boy who would someday create a billion dollar empire.

I had only one story that I could think of about Dan, one that to me was just about the funniest thing that ever happened. Back then I was still learning that my background was at best racy, and didn't realize how different were my tastes, and that sometimes it's better to keep my mouth shut. I told the following story in front of a family of surgeons and Louisiana elites.

"Dan dropped me off at my trailer one night when we were teenagers, and told me that he was tired and was going home. I went inside and played a game of Space Invaders on my Atari, and had hardly cleared a level when a very large explosion rocked my trailer. I went outside and the entire end of the trailer across from mine was blown out, and out of that trailer door came Danny. Apparently he went straight there to visit another friend, where they played with gunpowder and matches near an open tank of propane..."

Shocked silence, faded smile, one bit wiser, and a moment to stamp: Return To Sender.

Like Hawaii, New Orleans has a magic, one that I will always associate with the people I met during Dan and Vals wedding, despite having to painfully dislodge my foot from my mouth. I was propositioned by two beautiful girls at the wedding, and later that evening by a voluptuous stripper/prostitute--but I thought I was just cool, and more importantly, so did Tom and the gang. I was only there for a couple nights, but it's memory will last a lifetime.

New Orleans. Live long and prosper.


Beth said...

One place I've always wanted to see, but haven't ... New Orleans. I don't like the party crowd, but I'd love the old graveyards. =)

Joely Sue Burkhart said...

My husband and I went nearly 15 years ago on my spring break during grad school. We always wanted to go back. Since the levee broke, I hope there's enough of the Big Easy to recognize.

Scott said...

Knitter - Martis Gras is a nightmare, but the rest of the time it is quite nice.

Joely - Oh, I didn't know that the levee broke, so it really could be the end as we know it. A real shame.

Mr. T said...

Not sure any of the levees broke otherwise New Orleans would be pretty much non existent. :(

Mardi Gras on its own merit is pretty crazy and has a pretty interesting history, but Mardi Gras in New Orleans is in a class all its own and is something everyone should experience at least once.

I grew up on the West side of the state and the further East... the closer you got to N.O. the crazier the parties were.

I just hope N.O. can recover from this horrendous act of nature.

magnetbabe said...

New Orleans has an effect similar to Vegas in that people say and do things there they normally wouldn't (like your experience). Whether you like to party, drink, hang out with crowds or just want to eat good food, listen to great music and see fantastic sights, its a town that has something for everyone. Never been to Mardi Gras (not sure I want to...) but I definitely hope to get back there and stimulate the local economy. What a way to make a donation to hurricane relief!
BTW- thanks for the free plug!

Scott said...

Mr. T - Where else can plastic beads be worth so much?

MagnetBabe - No problem, gotta give credit where credit is due. Vegas. It totally forgot about that place, and have never been there. I don't think you would enjoy Martis Gras, just from what I have gleaned from your blog. It probably was once a great party, but now it is a college hangout where the girls bare themselves and the guys beg them to do it. Not exactly a convention on feminism, and not my cup o' tea either.

Miranda said...

"Welcome to New Orleans boys," I said.

*laugh* That says so much.

trinamick said...

Sorry my storm is wreaking havoc on your favored city. They must have provoked me at some time.

Tee said...

Never been but my parents went once and loved it. :)

Scott said...

Thanks Miranda!

Trina - Ok, so just calm down and take it easy!

Scott said...

Tee - Well then, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree...

A. Darcy said...

Scott, it sounds like you have already gotten the local's tour, but if you ever need refresher bring the little woman and I will be happy to show you around. :)

Scott said...

Why thank you Ms Darcy. That is a very kind offer. You never know...

Trevor Record said...

I maintain that there is absolutely nothing wrong with playing with matches and gunpowder. Especially if it is near a propane tank.

Shesawriter said...

I've never been to The Big Easy unfortunately. Now the news is saying 80% of it is covered with water. This is just so terrible. My heart aches for everyone over there.


mr. schprock said...

Thank God you didn't finish the story, when Dan wound up being chased by the transvestite hooker.

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