“In America, there might be better gastronomic destinations than New Orleans, but there is no place more uniquely wonderful.”
Over a decade ago just before Katrina stopped by the city, we explored New Orleans for the first time. With great expectations, the city disappointed us. While the food delivered, we found the music missing, the drunkenness annoying, the crime apparent, the poverty widespread. The combination of French, Creole, and seafood cuisines could not be a more Epicurean fantasy to us, but little else impressed. Now the City of New Orleans, without Steve Goodman, but with John Prine, receives a second chance at a good first impression.
More than a decade after Katina, the city celebrates their tricentennial this year. Staying at the Intercontinental on Saint Charles Avenue,
just eleven days before Fat Tuesday, the hotel commands the view of three Mardi Gras parades on Friday, the day of our arrival, and five parades on Saturday. Keep in mind, we have vowed to avoid this city anytime near Mardi Gras, and yet here we are, searching for coconuts, nuggets, doubloons, and beads. If Lois does not get arrested, we may survive.
The last day of the Mardi Gras celebration is Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent and for 2018, the day before Valentine’s Day. The French translation for Mardi Gras is Fat Tuesday. With Jerry Davidson as my spiritual mentor, the luxuries of liver and Scotch will once again be sacrificed for the next forty days. With much insincere regret, Albright’s parking lot stew will also be added to my Lenten sacrifices. While I thought about eliminating all meat during Lent, my Zyconic diet would not allow such a disruption.
Nearly a hundred years after the city’s founding, Napoleon sold it as part of the Louisiana Purchase for $15 million in 1803 to the United States. At the time it doubled the size of our country, and even today, it still accounts for more than 25% of the size of the continental United States, stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to above the current Canadian border. Once the second wealthiest city in the country, the fortunes of New Orleans declined after the Civil War. The economic decline continued and in the 1970s the population began to decline, with a significant drop after Katrina in 2005.
Always a contradiction, before the Civil War, the city could claim to be the the largest slave trading market in the United States, while it maintained the largest, most prosperous and most educated population of free persons of color in the United States. Surrounded by the Bible Belt and the predominately Protestant Southern states, the city remains predominately Catholic. While the city continues to be considered deeply religious, they do understand how to party at a heightened level, just ask Jimmy Swaggert. The Pentecostal Evangelist, who claimed he never has kissed a women other than his wife, found something to do with a prostitute in a sleazy New Orleans hotel room in 1988.
It’s nickname, “the Big Easy,” may have been coined during Prohibition, when the city was considered one big speakeasy, due to the government failure to enforce the 18th Amendment, as they could not stop alcohol sales. Appropriately, our first Mardi Gras Parade, by the Krewe of Cork, celebrated wine, a subject we know nothing about.
While the Mississippi River flows from north to south, in New Orleans, she generally flows from west to east. except in downtown, where she flows from south to north. A major port, her elevation ranges from six to twenty feet below sea level, making it impossible to bury the dead. Very rich, excruciatingly poor. Very romantic, overwhelmingly sleazy. Historical French architectural, next to modern buildings, flanked but abandoned hovels. The Esoterica Occult Goods Store sits across the street from the Voodoo Authentica Cultural Center and down the block from the St. Louis Catholic Cathedral. Somewhere a Trump voodoo doll, with rosary beads and an attached testimony letter from a Zombie version of Jerry Falwell waits to be purchased. At least the locals have told us Chuck Schumer and Melania continue to make inquiries.
After some oysters and a crayfish pie, John Prine entertained at the Opheum Theater along with Margo Price. The venue sold out contradicting a theory nobody knows this guy. Still working on this Font issue.
Let’s have some fun
You only live but once
And when you’re dead you’re done
So let the good times roll,
I said let the good times roll,
I don’t care if you’re young or old,
You oughtta get together and let the good times roll”