Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New (Orleans) Year!

Hope y'all are having a great new year! So far, no hurricanes - so 2006 is a great year here in the Big Easy up to now. ;-) We thought we'd share with y'all our amusing New Year's Eve in Post Katrina N'Awlins.

In the afternoon, with the weather a beautiful seventy-something degrees and sunny, we decided to go "out" and do something "normal." Things have not been "normal" around here since the end of August. So, we decided to visit the only store where Grace likes to shop: "Prima Donna's Closet" - a consignment clothing boutique. This was our first Post-Katrina visit.

The owner is an outgoing lady named Stephanie - who on this day was wearing a "Make Levees Not War" T-shirt. She recognized us from our Pre-K visits to her shop, and immediately were exchanged The Two Questions, viz, 1) How d'ya do? (translation: do you have a home?) and 2) Where d'ya go? (translation: where did you evacuate to?). We learned that one of her two stores was completely destroyed. However, the store we were in was doing well. Grace went all out and bought a skirt for four bucks. I read Swedish while Leo pointed at, and chatted with, the caged birds around the store.

We decided to head to Magazine Street for Indian Food. Magazine Street is on the edge of the French Quarter, and is lined with shops and bars. However, we arrived five minutes after the buffet closed, so we had to activate Plan B, which in this case was "Igor's Buddha Belly Bar, Grill, Laundromat, and Game Room" (that's what it's called, no lie). There was an older man at the bar reading the paper. The loudly-dressed barmaid was conversing with him about new movies. As a result, the topic of gay cowboys came up. We settled at a table near the window, and ordered burgers and beers. Some more patrons came into the bar, and the older man began involving a twenty-something guy in his discussion about gay cowboys. Soon the topic was changed to rock and roll music.

The bar/grill/laudromat/gameroom sported a large laughing Buddha, a video poker area, and humorous signs. One read: "Gentlemen: No Shirt, No Service. Ladies: No Shirt, Free Beer." I asked Grace if Leo needed to nurse...

Just outside the window, a couple drank beer, read the paper, and discreetly smoked marijuana. Three cops on motorcycles stopped in front of the bar. Two of them preceded to block the street while a third came into the Buddha Belly. He hastily ordered three burgers, and rushed out, promising to be back in a few. New Orleans' Finest were blocking the street for a parade. Along they came, the Pussyfooters and Highsteppers with their little brass band. They were followed by a couple dozen malt-beverage-equipped citizens. The parade was completely over and done in about five minutes.

We strolled on over to the Boulangerie (a French bakery) across the street. We took a table outside and enjoyed the sunshine, the breeze, and the strolling crowds lingering after the parade. I got in line. There was a large sign above the counter that read: "Le patron mange ici" (the boss eats here). In front of me, a middle aged woman spoke in French as her young-adult daughter responded to her in a mixture of English and French - with no rhyme or reason as to when which language was being employed. The owner spoke French with the employees and with some customers. Beautiful large round loaves and delicate pastries were for sale, as were "gateaux de roi" (king cakes) - a French/New Orleans tradition of a festive cake with an effigy of the Baby Jesus baked inside. King cakes are signs that Carnival (the pre-Mardi Gras time of partying) is near. It officially begins on Epiphany Day (January 6).

I took our order outside (coffee, blueberry tarte, and an apple-cinnamon danish).

People from all walks of life promenaded by - some with pets. Several people hooked their dog leashes to a pole out front, which made Leo happy. A couple of guys walked by, one of whom was carrying his large pet hen in his hands. Nobody batted an eye. The two guys took the chicken into a bar (I suspect many of these types of jokes originated in New Orleans).

We drove around and ended up in the French Quarter. Being New Year's Eve, it was rather busy. By happenstance, we found our minivan right in front of the main stage that was being set up for the evening's festivities. Arlo Guthrie was strolling by with his long curly white locks blowing in the breeze. We drove around the French Market and saw a lady wearing a "Christ Is Our Hope" T-shirt - the slogan of Lutheran Church Charities headquartered in Addison, Illinois. I have spent the last three months working closely with this wonderful organization. I hollered out of the window: "Lutheran Church Charities! Y'all do good work!" The lady was stunned that someone recognized the shirt. I told her I was a local pastor. She was in New Orleans with a group of volunteers from Chicago.

Before dark, we went home. We watched Dick Clark on TV. We went to bed at about 12:30 am. We really enjoyed the return to "normalcy," but all in all, we had a pretty boring "normal" time for New Year's Eve. But that's not so bad - we've all had enough excitement here in New Orleans for a while. But hurricane season is only six months away!

Bonne annee, et laissez les bons temps roulez! (Happy New Year, and let the good times roll!)

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