If you’ve been to New Orleans in any year starting with a 20—, or even a 199-, then you might as well stop reading now as anything I have to say will be out of date. Of course you can always read on to find out about my adventure…
I went to NO when I was 13. So at least two decades ago. Ha, ha, okay 3 … and a bit. But I still remember it, so it had some impact. Of course I went to New Orleans well before Hurricane Katrina so I have no idea if any of the places I visited are still even there. Although most of my memories are of the old French quarter which I believe escaped the worst of the destruction. I desperately wanted to attend the Romantic Times conference held there last year but budget and schedule defeated me.
Of course at 13 I wasn’t able to sample the most well-known delights of NO—the bars and jazz bands. Every night after dinner, my parents would tuck me and my siblings into bed and leave us in the care of our spinster aunt. Then they would go out to explore. The next morning we’d wake up and discover a couple new glasses in the sink from whatever bar they had holed up in. We had the Pat O’Briens’ Hurricane glasses for years. They were great for ice cream sundaes.
Here’s the funny thing about our trip to New Orleans. We were in a motorhome and stayed in the Superdome car park and my father used the facilities at the Hyatt Regency. I’m pretty sure you can’t camp there these days. Also, along the way, my parents had bought a stationary exercise bike. There were 6 of us sleeping in the motorhome so the only place for the bike was on my parents’ bed. Each night they’d put the bike between the driver and passenger seats and then each morning return it to the bed. They had that bike for over 20 years and lifting it up and down during that trip was the most exercise they ever got from it.
My other lasting memory of our trip was when my parents purchased a painting from a street artist along the Mississippi river. It was of a huge tree at the edge of a bayou. My dad asked the artist to include a small cabin in the painting and when we returned half an hour later, it was done. My mom still has it. And yes, it probably went up and down off the bed each night as well.
I think it might have been that trip to New Orleans that sparked my interest in jazz. Or it could have been that my dad would wake us up on Sunday morning by blaring Dizzy Gillespie from the stereo. I’m not a huge jazz lover, but I do particularly like Ella Fitzgerald and have several of her albums. In the latest book I wrote, the couple dance to Someone to Watch Over Me as sung by Ella.