Friday, July 23, 2010

New Orleans: The Sorrow, The Pity, The Awe, The Joy

If I were ever to move to New Orleans I would almost certainly end up writing the best novel ever written. People all over the world would drop their bags and look to the sky in awe and reverence over what had just been accomplished, sensing the seismic alteration of the universe my words had caused. Mothers would clutch their children. Construction workers would remove their protective eyewear and proudly wipe away tears. Football players would pull up short of tacking their prey and instead offer pats on the back and warm embraces. Such is the level of inspiration of New Orleans and such are the possibilities when it gets wired into my brain. The title of the book would be one of those poignant couplings of words we typically take to be contradictory, such as Joy and Sorrow, Hope and Doom, Life and Death, or Sex and the City.

Inevitably a great deal of our time here always revolves around the glorious French Quarter, with its beautiful old buildings and fascinating people, where brilliant troubadours sing from the street corners hoping to be bestowed with a smattering of loose change while lesser talented but better represented musicians earn a living performing inside the bars. Where the people revel in the street corners into the wee hours of the night while a row of horse police line up waiting for one to drop so they can pounce. Where men painting buildings sometimes simply pause and stand still, looking off into the distance as they allow themselves to cool. Where people with carts piled high with new toilets to be delivered and installed discover new and creative ways to roll wheels over a decaying cobblestone street. Where a confused man demands a refund at Walgreen's because he wanted cheese sticks and accidentally bought pretzels.

But this year more than ever before we have found ourselves entering other areas of town. Wednesday night William Grant and Sons bussed 800 of us to the Elms Mansion in the Garden District. Among the well lit partisans in the lush lawn, surrounding the gazeboed brass band, we battled the masses for some sours featuring Hendick's Gin, sweet stuff, sour stuff, and egg white. They were delicious, and when a friend disappeared in quest of air conditioning, I got to drink his as well as mine. Fair play to me. We then made our way across the lawn to the Solerna blood orange liqueur area, where Ms. Jackie Patterson was concocting drinks of Solerna for the adoring throngs. I believe the drink she placed in my hand was simply Solerna and club soda. I can't be sure. As usual, the mere sight of my dear friend Jackie had completely taken my breath away and I was rendered unable to discern the basic sensory input of my surroundings. She might have placed diesel oil in my hand at that moment, and I would have indulged in it with glee.

Inside we found smiling faces pouring glasses of Balvenie and Glenfiddich, and other smiling faces of loved ones we had long not seen. This was my re-entry to New Orleans, and though I have only been here twice before, it felt like a sort of homecoming. And I should mention, New Orleans, Super Bowl champions suits you well. I haven't seen you since you won. You look gorgeous.

Last night, inspired by the opportunity to spend some time with pal Jon Santer, I finally made the cab ride out to Cure. I'd been hearing about Cure for years, and have a long standing mountain of respect for Cure guru Danny Valdez and former Cure/current Teardrop Lounge of Portland, OR bartender Ricky Gomez. So what the hell have I been waiting for? A cab? Yes! And it came. And we went. And I loved it.

The food and drink was delicious, but more importantly the moment we passed through the doorways we had that feeling. That perfect feeling when you enter somewhere and you know you are in some place special. Some place where nothing bad could ever happen to you. Some place where if you died there your soul would flap straight up to heaven and have a bed waiting for it with a cocktail on the end table and a glass of water so as you don't wake up parched.

We ended the night by standing on the street corner outside of the Absinthe House with literally everyone else in the entire world. I went with the flow of my own gentle inebriation and told loved ones things I believe to be true, things like “I love you,” and “I always will,” and “forever and ever.”

I woke up feeling very proud of myself.

Thank you New Orleans. I love you, and I always will, forever and ever.

More to come...


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