In honor of Mardi Gras, I am posting my New Orleans story:
Bon appetit and let the good times roll.
New Orleans, the City of Who Dat?
by Denny Stein, May 2010 Riding shotgun to New Orleans, with Dr. Park, on her way to a convention seemed like a good idea at the time. An opportunity to mix business with a visit to a new city. Then the New Orleans weather forecast predicted temperatures in the nineties and thunderstorm warnings. We left behind a perfect day in Fremont, and were greeted by the hot and muggy Louisiana Bayou weather. But nowadays one has to give this part of the country all the benefit of the doubt you can muster, and if our curiosity, interest, and tourist dollars would help New Orleans, we were glad of it. They say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Let me add, what happens in New Orleans goes home with you, on your hips and in your heart. The people of this city are such a mixture of exuberance and pathos, poverty and artistry, that I constantly felt like, “Who dat!?” after every encounter. There is an irrepressible spirit to the folks here, from the taxi drivers to the street musicians and cooks on the line. Our turbaned Hindu cabbie from the airport was terrifically proud of the Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal, the first governor of Indian descent in the United States. But he wasn’t crazy about the Republicans in general, nor their handling of the Katrina disaster. Yet, he declared with no hesitation, “America is the greatest country. I love it here!” Another taxi driver, with grey corn rows and a wise tone told us, “All the food in New Orleans is great; even if you just go to the grocery store, it’s all good.”
Just like home. . . .
Our first evening we were intrigued by a hand-painted sign not far from our hotel, the Royal Sonesta, on Bourbon Street. “Evelyn’s Place – New Orleans Gumbo–Red Beans–Rice–Hot Sandwiches.” The faded red walls, barred windows, scarred door, and neon beer logos did not bode well, but did seem a testament to longevity. The bar, with its parallel row of stools, stretched along one side, a long banquette and small tables ran opposite. There was a faint hint of old cigarette smoke, but not pungent enough to drive us out. “Whaddya want?!” asked the proprietor, an older man of indiscriminate age. We allowed as how we would like some lunch. “Well, listen up,” he said, “ I’m gonna tell you what to do.” We wound up sharing a hot muffaletta (pronounced moof-a-latta), a bowl of gumbo soup, and some red beans and rice. When we asked for ice tea, he laughed, “This is a bar! We don’t have ice tea!” So we ordered two sodas, and he yelled, “We’ve got a couple of live ones! A coke and a ginger-ale!”
Frank, The Ol' Bastard
For the next hour, Frank (or The Old Bastard as he refers to himself) regaled us with the history and stories of Evelyn, “the Old Bitch” and her bar. How it came to have foreign currency, now dollar bills, pinned all over the wall, why there were hats, jerseys, and ladies underwear hanging from the rafters, what happened when he hired a five month old baby to greet customers at the door. All these stories and more just rolled out of him. (For the details, you’ll have to go yourself!) We were enchanted, whether the stories were true or not the fact that his granddaughter tended bar, his son stopped by for a chat, and he made us laugh, gave us far more than we expected for the $20 we paid for our first Big Easy lunch. As we left there was nothing to do but hug the nonagenarian Old B*astard and thank him for a wonderful introduction to New Orleans.
Years of Partying
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