NOLA Day Three

I can’t seem to think of a subtitle for this post.

I think it’s because this day may have been the most important day of my trip. This is the day that NOLA got into my heart and I’m pretty sure she’s there for good. This was the day when the giddy flirtation and newness became more serious. She showed me what she looks like without make-up on and I didn’t mind her morning breath.

Since we had our pricey breakfast the day before, I was tasked with checking out the free continental breakfast provided at the hotel. I had dreamt of having cornflakes with 2% milk for breakfast. Guess what was on the first table in the room that held the continental breakfast? I cannot express how many little things like that happened in New Orleans. This is a city that aims to please and is usually right on target. I grabbed some cereal and pastries and went back to the room.

It was decided that we would start the day off with Po Boys. But from where? I think you could easily spend a week in New Orleans and only eat Po Boys from the places that were considered “best” and never eat the same thing at the same place.  I had seen Anthony Bourdain visit Domilise’s. Countless people had mentioned Parasol, but there had been some recent ownership changes, etc…that deterred me from going there. President Obama had gone to a place called “Parkway Bakery and Tavern” immediately after landing in New Orleans AND they had a surf and turf Po Boy—-so they were the winner. We went right at lunch time, which seemed both stupid and great. The restaurant is new Bayou St. John, in a neighborhood that has probably seen better days, yet also seems to have better days ahead with all of the new construction. We parked underneath a section of bead trees….yeah, the trees in New Orleans grow BEADS! Don’t believe me…..check out these pics!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wish I could tell you exactly what to do when you walk into Parkway so you don’t wander like we did. But the wandering all worked out and we got a table right by the front window so we could watch the neighborhood go by. Apparently in the bar is the only place you get table service and we had a delightful and cute bartender take care of us. We ordered our Barqs and set off to make our sandwich decisions. I knew that I wanted the Surf n Turf  (slow cooked roast beef topped with golden fried shrimp and roast beef gravy) But my mom wasn’t sure.  She saw the grilled ham option on the menu, and as she is known to do, wondered if it would compare to the long lost B&L Inn in Niles, Mi. She decided to take a chance. We got both of our sandwiches “dressed” (lettuce tomato mayo and pickles) and settled in. Look how happy my mom is 🙂

I didn’t take any pictures of our food. We kinda tore into it too quick for me to think about it. If you had been in our place….you would have done the same! I don’t recall being handed a sandwich wrapped in white paper that had such heft! When I unrolled this culinary gift, I understood why! The roast beef was falling out bringing piles of fried shrimp with it. I squeezed the fresh french bread to make it more manageable and lost some more shrimp. There were just SO MANY SHRIMP! The meat was as tender as Sunday Dinner at Mom’s. The shrimp were fresh and fried to perfection. The sweet potato fries we shared were crunchy and sweet and salty, as they should be. My mom’s sandwich wasn’t quite a B&L, but it was damn good. I don’t believe that either of us finished our sandwich…and we got the regular size! I saw folks with the large ones that were twice as big and figured that they must have planned on having the remains for dinner that night, possibly breakfast the next day.

Our next stop was the Lower Ninth Ward. I knew the general direction we needed to go, but decided to look up where Brad Pitt and his Make It Right Foundation were building homes. I typed a street name into Betty and we were off. Going to an area like this, I had to wonder how much of the dilapidated sights we were going to see were Katrina related and how many were poverty related. I will never know….but there are some sights that are 100% Katrina…and I will never forget.

I thought I took a lot more pictures in the Lower Ninth then I actually did. I guess I just have some very vivid memories of what we saw. Apparently they just got official street signs in the last year. Perhaps in Katrina’s world, the fifth anniversary gift is street signs. The roads are still horrible. I would assume they weren’t the best maintained roads in the area before the storm, but now, they are barely roads at all. Three weeks under water does crazy things to city streets. Makes them a LOT like country roads. I wish I knew how densely populated the are had been. It seems like it was probably pretty dense, but so many of the lots are so overgrown that you can hardly believe that houses were ever there. Then there are the lots where you can see evidence of foundations. Then there are the houses. The photo below is a good example of many of the houses still there:

This could be a great ad for the Dish Network, if there had been any chance that there was TV service during or after the storm…..but at least the dish held on. This double shotgun house doesn’t look like it would take much to finish it off. I wonder who used to live there? Was it one of the many houses in the Lower Ninth that had been passed down through families and no paperwork existed to say who owned it when the storm hit?  I wish I could do the CSI photo zoom and see if there had been anyone found in this house….but that piece of information has been hidden by the “house numbers” painted over the rescue crew “x”—-I suppose that helps the pizza guy? Do they have pizza guys in the Ninth Ward these days? They do have people living there. Living in homes that have been fixed up after the storm. There is no way to think they got through unscathed as it is all one elevation in the Lower Ninth and that elevation is all below the levee wall. Yet, you see people living in homes. Next to homes where people died. Next to empty, forgotten lots.Next to homes that look like they will fall over with the slightest breeze. The saddest thing I saw was a little brick house. You could tell that they had tried to clean away the rescue team “x” but it was still very much there. How horrible must it be to walk in your house and see that every day? Then again, maybe they are just glad they can walk back into their home? Maybe they decided that the mark should act as a reminder that these people persevere, but never forget. There was a fella checking his mail as we drove by his house and I wanted to scream “I am so sorry this happened! This should never occur. We should have taken better care of our own people!” But I didn’t. I smiled at him and he smiled back and hopefully that makes us both feel a bit better about things…if only for a bit.

Now…don’t get me wrong…there are some great things happening in the Lower Ninth. The Make It Right folks are not just going in and throwing up cookie cutter houses. They are building architecturally amazing structures that are all eco friendly and able to withstand stronger storms then mean ol’ Katrina. They are DELIGHTFUL!  All are very colorful. They are little boxes of hope growing from the rough ground around them.   They are just like the funky places yuppies build when they come in and takeover a neighborhood. However, you have to have lived in the Lower Ninth when the storm hit to get these houses. You also have to help build them, not necessarily yours, but somebody’s.

How flippin’ cute are those?!?!?!?!?!

They’ve built around 20 so far and have 20 more in the works. There are plans to do at least 150 total. The Lower Ninth is where more then half of the people killed by Katrina in the state of Louisiana died. Currently only 19% of the population has returned, some 5.5 years later. But there is a current of vitality in the area. They haven’t given up and if they haven’t given up at this point….I doubt they ever will.

Next up: Why you shouldn’t wear black to Cafe Du Monde.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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NOLA Day Two: continued

It has been decided that my mother and I are nappers. We do many other things, mind you, but we are AMAZING nappers. When on vacation, our skills really shine. All that breakfast eating, city touring, etc…made us sleepy and our hotel proved to be a perfect place to take a break.

I slept for like 3 hours. I do this often. As I said, I’m a napper. When we were both sufficiently awake, we decide to take a trip just outside of New Orleans to Drago’s We had both seen an episode of The Best Thing I Ever Ate where the charbroiled oysters served at Drago’s were mentioned. I was going to my mom’s house for dinner that night and at about the same time we mentioned we needed to try these things. Right before our trip a coworker of mine, who was also a NOLA native, told me I had to try them also. Even if I didn’t really love oysters….which, until this trip, I can’t say I did. After we finally found a parking space (really Metairie..parking sucks!) we sat down and immediately ordered a half dozen charbroiled oysters. Apparently 90% of the tables order the oysters upon being seated. The other 10% just don’t know what they are missing!

Mind you, this dish is not pretty. The platter comes with the huge oysters scattered about and virtually swimming in the butter, garlic and Parmesan cheese that is what makes these puppies sing! They came with a large hunk of French Bread. I had mentally told myself to avoid being lured into the bread that evening so I’d have more room for seafood…..but the bread was a vital part of the experience. I grabbed my little oyster fork (things that have special utensils are just cool!) and stabbed the biggest oyster on the plate. It wasn’t slimy like a raw oyster and not quite as firm as a fried oyster. It was PERFECT! Yummy and garlicy with the rich butter taste and a slight charcoal flavor. The first one I ate even had a little bit of sand in it…but that really only enhanced the experience…and proved how fresh these were. The family that owns the place used to be fishermen and as a result, they only buy local seafood. The thought of Croatian fishermen always makes me think of San Pedro, which makes me feel like I’m in a good place. I was definitely in a good place.

 

(ok–I came across a photo that looks damn good to me…but I know how good the damn things TASTE!)

Once we ate all the oysters, the reason for the french bread became abundantly clear! We looked at the plate and noticed that all the empty oyster shells were filled with buttery, garlicy goodness. I grabbed the bread and went to town sopping up all that wonderfulness. I do not have words to describe how good this whole experience was……

In addition to the oysters, we had ordered a friend shrimp platter and spinach dip to share. The spinach dip may seem an odd choice, but I tell ya, even the spinach dip is special in New Orleans. It was AMAZING! Possibly the best I’ve ever had.

Which brings us to the shrimp. OMG the shrimp. Huge, luscious gulf shrimp. Cooked to perfection. The batter was crispy without being greasy. I have eaten more then my fair share of fried shrimp in my time…but these were, hands down, the best. The cocktail sauce had the perfect horseradish kick.  Each shrimp was both a delight to consume and one step closer to them being gone…..the comedy/tragedy of a good meal!

It should be noted that my mother decided to have a couple of vodka tonics this night. She doesn’t really drink, like at all, anymore. She was a tad toasted… this information is important in the next part of our story.

As I have said, I researched like a fiend in preparation for this trip. I knew we had to have beignets at Cafe Du Monde, but I had also heard of a place that locals swore by and it happened to be right down the street from Drago’s. Morning Call is in a strip mall behind a HUGE shopping mall. Unassuming both outside and in. We ordered one order of beignets ( my mom was full…and a bit drunk) to share. They came unadorned. There was a powdered sugar shaker on the table so we could regulate its inclusion in the snack. The beignets were tasty,but the real story from this stop is my tipsy mom. There was a man at the table next to us whose dentures didn’t seem to fit right as they had that lovely “whistle” action, particularly when he said anything with an “s” sound. This gave my mom the giggles. Big time! I think this fella was only using words that had an s in them. So she giggled. He whistled. She laughed powdered sugar all over the place. It was a great time!

We drove back to the hotel with full tummies and laughing the whole way.

Day Three: Parkway Po Boys and Pink Dumpsters!

NOLA Day Two: Bring on the $140 breakfast for two!

I slept somewhat fitfully my first night in the Crescent City. The shutters on the balcony doors made odd shadows on the ceiling and when I woke up in the night I wasn’t sure where I was. Once I realized I was in New Orleans, I was good.

We took our time getting up and around that morning. We were on vacation after all.  Our 11AM reservations at Brennan’s forced us to get in gear and we walked the couple of blocks to this lovely salmon colored building with great anticipation, but no real idea what we were in for. I had researched the breakfast menu. Hell, I researched pretty much everything for this trip. But it seemed like the Prix Fixe menu seemed like the best idea. A word to those who might want to also try the prix fixe menu…there are upcharges for some items, most of the items I wanted….of course. For example, the Turtle Soup I wanted for my appetizer (um….why don’t more places have appetizers with breakfast?) It was such a New Orleans dish and I wanted to try it so badly. I was not disappointed. It was like a hearty minestrone. The turtle meat didn’t seem out of the ordinary in flavor and had I not known what it was, wouldn’t have even wondered if I was eating some sort of Creole delicacy. My mom wasn’t feeling the Turtle Soup thing and went with the Southern Baked Apple with Double Cream. For those who have known her…she is a changed woman. That apple rocked her world in ways you wouldn’t think were possible. I worried that she might need alone time with the apple. I was prepared for her to lift the bowl to her face and lick it. Brennan’s just wasn’t a bowl lickin’ establishment, but she kept her cool and regrettably finished the apple.

Then it was entree time. The Eggs Bayou LaForche was my choice. Poached eggs atop Andouille Cajun sausage and Holland rusks. Topped with Hollandaise sauce. OMG…..SOOOOOO good. Best Andouille I’ve ever had. The rich eggs and the spicy sausage interacted with the incredible hollandaise in ways my taste buds weren’t used to. My mom went for the Eggs Hussarde, a Brennan’s original; Poached eggs atop Holland rusks, Canadian bacon and Marchand de Vin sauce. Topped with Hollandaise sauce. Imagine the best Eggs Benedict ever, then add a beefy red wine sauce to the situation. She was still talking about the apple, but enjoyed her entree more then the average breakfast.

Dessert came next. Dessert with breakfast is something that really should be more wide spread. All that savory goodness needed something sweet to top off the experience. Chocolate Pecan Pie caught my mom’s eye. She may never eat regular Pecan Pie again. The semi-sweet chocolate cuts through the super sweet pecan filling and makes you want to cry tears of joy. It should also be noted that the pecans were not the normal pecan halves, but rather were chopped, as suggested by The Pioneer Woman . DELISH!

Since we were at Brennan’s, the home of Bananas Foster, you’ll never guess what I had for dessert.

 

 

I’ll give you a minute.

 

 

While you’re thinking, here is a picture of me enjoying a lovely mimosa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Give up?

I had Banana’s Foster! Bananas sautéed in butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and banana liqueur then flamed in rum. Served over vanilla Ice Cream. All this was created right in front of us by our fab server Ruffin (he gave my mom the recipe for THE APPLE when we asked if it was in the cookbook they sell!) The stirring, the pouring, the flames. All there, right before our very eyes.It was AMAZING! So warm and yummy and sweet, but not too sweet. OMG!!!!!

On our way out of the restaurant, my mom stopped in the ladies room. I started to be worried about her as she had been in there quite some time, but then I heard voices. She had struck up a conversation with the bathroom attendant. A lovely 83 year old woman who had worked there since 1972. They had such a  nice interaction that they hugged. That’s the kind of thing that happens in New Orleans. And it just feels right.

It also makes a $140 breakfast seem reasonable. For what it’s worth, I’m not usually one to talk about how much money has been spent…but this needed that detail as a sample of how things are just different in New Orleans.

We walked back to our hotel and decided to get the car and drive around to kill time until our City Tour. We retraced our steps from the rainy drive the night before and drove through the Garden District. Such amazing homes, but not the stodgy homes you often associate with wealth, comfy looking homes that had plants out front that were just a little over grown and fences that were just a tad off from being perfect. Homes that had been loved and appreciated and lived in. Some were already decked out for Mardi Gras. I adore this city’s affection for celebration. More places should adopt this wayy of life. Wait, I take that back, let NOLA do it. They’ve been doing it for a long time and they just do it better then anyone else could do it.

It was close enough to our scheduled tour time that we parked along the river and checked in. For those who think of New Orleans as a steamy, hot city, go in February. It was FREEZING! The wind was whipping off the Mississippi River and right through my bones. Look at this photo and imagine the wind hitting your face with such furor that you worry that it might just fall off:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eventually our bus driver showed up and we piled into the warm bus. For an overview of the city, I cannot recommend the Grayline City Tour more. 25 miles, over 2 hours with a stop at one of the cemeteries will teach you a lot about this crazy city. Lots of little nuggets of information that will make great party talk later. However, the thing I might remember most about this tour was something that wasn’t mentioned by the bus driver at all.

Right after leaving the French Quarter, we turned onto Esplanade Ave. There they were. Two shotgun houses, one pink, one yellow. Emblazoned on their front walls, in bright red and dark black paint were Xs. The dates on both were 9-11. Nearly two weeks after Katrina hit, these houses were checked. Over five years later, the Xs remained. My chest tightened when I saw them. All the books and documentaries in the world couldn’t have prepared me for them. In the less then 24 hours I had been there, I had fallen madly in love with this city and there I was, faced with her scars, so many years after the fact. I wondered if the tour guide had been told to not mention them, but then realized he didn’t need to. We all saw them. We all knew what they meant. And I’d like to think that we all felt a bit ashamed that we had let something that ugly happen to such a beautiful place.

Later, the tour guide started talking about the storm. He was a NOLA native and had dealt with it all. We saw water lines on houses. We saw one home that still had a FEMA trailer in front of it. We drove by the Lake Vista neighborhood and saw an idyllic planned area that was now home to quite a few overgrown empty lots and abandoned homes. This wasn’t the poverty stricken Lower Ninth, these were neighborhoods like those I’ve grown up in…and they were not like they used to be. The tour guide showed us where his bank used to be. He told stories of the grocery stores that took years to come back. He showed us the street sign that only had a couple inches along the top that hadn’t been under water.  We drove under a 14 foot tall overpass and he mentioned that after the storm, this wasn’t possible, the water was up to the overpass. We saw the pumping stations and pipes that were meant to save the city, that simply couldn’t deal.

Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t a Katrina focused tour at all. The cemetery stop allowed us to learn all about the strange burial rituals used there ( a topic for a whole other post, trust me!) and the stories of land disputes. We saw Degas’ home and learned the truth behind the mystery statue in the Fauborg Marginy. ps…Fauborg translates to “Faux City”….what a much classier way to refer to suburbs!

We ended our tour and headed back to the hotel for a little afternoon nap.

Next up: How Charbroiled Oysters can change a girl.

NOLA Day One: Finally!

I got MAYBE 4 hours of sleep the night before we left for New Orleans. I hopped out of bed and was faced with the fact that I hadn’t really packed and was too excited to do all the things I needed to do to prepare for our departure. So, I watched TV. Snowpacolypse 11 was on it’s way to Nashville and I couldn’t help but worrying about getting caught in nasty weather, which would only delay my arrival in NOLA even more then life already had. I was freaked, but I persevered.

We got on the road right at our desired time of 8 AM. It was cold, but not snowing and we were going the opposite direction of the storm. Soon enough we were in Alabama and my mom and I were both peckish. Sure, we were on the way to one of the best eating cities on the planet…but that Denny’s sign was beckoning. See, we don’t have Denny’s in Nashville. I’ve spent a lot of fun hours in Denny’s. Sometimes a girl wants buffalo chicken fingers and a salad with ranch. This was one of those times. We ate our food, bought water and strawberry bubble gum and were back on the road in no time.

Next we hit Mississippi. Not a lot to say about that state. Not a lot going on there….at least along the interstate. It did, however, mark the last state between me and Louisiana. Once we got a ways into the Magnolia State, the rain started. A light steady rain fell on us. Not enough to wash the salt off my car from driving through areas anticipating snow, but enough to necessitate windshield wipers. Through that light rain I saw this sign:

My heart skipped a beat. The fleur de lis. The French Welcome. I was finally there. I was in Louisiana. A state I used to fear, that now consumed so many of my thoughts. I started bouncing in my seat and probably drove a bit faster….but I was to excited to really register such information. Betty (my mom’s GPS) was showing that we were getting closer and closer to NOLA, with only a huge lake, a lot of rain and lots of one way streets between us.

As we drove over the I-10 bridge I thought of the scenes I had seen from there during Hurricane Katrina. Scenes of people trying to evacuate but being told to turn back. Right off the exit of the interstate, there was Circle Food Store. The last image I had of it was this:

This store in the Seventh Ward had been a one stop shop for the neighborhoods surrounding it for nearly 70 years. Yet Katrina had other ideas. Many photos on the news and in the papers centered around this store. The infamous photos of Caucasians “getting necessary supplies” and African Americans “looting”….with the only difference being the color of their skin, were taken around the Corner Food Store. And there I was. Idling at a stop light, looking straight at it. It was a strangely special sight.

After some missed turns due to charming but oddly placed street signs, we arrived at our hotel. Nick, who would become our favorite valet, greeted us warmly and when I asked if he could make the weather get better…he said he’d try. In New Orleans, anything is possible. We checked into our room and were thrilled to find that we had not only one, but TWO balconies. Sure, they overlooked the parking atrium and it was 40 degrees and raining outside, but dammit, we had two wrought iron balconies. Wrought iron balconies in NOLA are just meant to be….

We took a short breather in the room and then set out for dinner. Our dining destination was a place I had wanted to go for easily over 10 years. I can’t remember where I first heard about it, but it stuck in my mind and every time New Orleans was discussed, I would think, “Man, I’ve got to go to dinner at Jacques-Imo’s!” That cold and rainy February night, I did just that. We drove through gorgeous Garden District mansions and found ourselves in Uptown driving down a crazy street towards a crazy restaurant. I dropped my mom off and found a parking space on a side street lined with cars that had all the wonderful liberal-leaning bumper stickers that make me comfortable. I almost thought that WWOZ bumper stickers were some sort of parking pass for the area.

I scampered through the rain, met up with my mom and as we were guided through the busy kitchen towards our table, I almost piddled. I mean, not really…but metaphorically, for sure! I ordered my Abita Strawberry and started munching on the delish cornbread muffins laid out before us. Covered in a sweet and garlicky sauce….I knew the night was going to live up to my expectations.

The poster above my mom’s head was this one:

It made me laugh. She was also sitting in front of a fairy figurine that was missing a leg and the walls and ceilings surrounding us were covered with painted flowers and vines. It was super noisy, but in that good convivial kind of way. We decided on the fried green tomatoes for an appetizer (mom couldn’t be swayed into trying the shrimp and alligator sausage cheesecake!). The tomatoes were perfectly unripe with a savory breading and the bbq shrimp and remoulade that topped them were delectable. Huge gulf shrimp, heads still on, cooked perfectly and ready for eating! A small spinach salad with a plum sesame vinaigrette and one perfectly fried oyster also proceeded our main entrees.

Our entrees covered the spectrum of “regular” and “not so regular.” My mom LOVES fried chicken. She also happens to make some particularly amazing fried chicken. A coworker of mine said that Jacques-Imo’s had the best in the city, so that’s what she ordered. I, on the other hand, was feeling frisky and ordered the Paneed Rabbit entree. Pan fried rabbit served over pasta with a shrimp and tasso cream sauce.  Oh man, who knew the Easter Bunny could be so tasty. The breading was thick and flavorful and the meat itself was lean and flavorful. Like the best, meatiest chicken you’ve ever had. The creamy pasta and the spicy tasso and plump shrimp made me a super happy camper. I barely touched my macque choux and mashed sweet potatoes, but those were pretty damn good too. My mom said the chicken was good…but was kinda ticked at herself for not branching out a bit. However, the next morning when she was eating the leftovers…she was singing a different tune, and that tune LOVED that damn chicken.

We ventured back to the hotel in the rain. The plan had been to meet up with a family friend who was in town also. But the rain made that seem like a not so good idea, so we snuggled into our comfy beds and started anticipating the wonders the next day had in store.

Coming up: the $140 breakfast for two and how it was worth EVERY penny!

NOLA

In less then 48 hours I will be on my way to New Orleans.

I have always had strong emotions about Louisiana.

When I was younger and would be on road trips with my dad that took us along I-10…I was terrified. I would pretty much hunker down in the car and try to not look out the window as long as we were in the state. Whenever we had to stop to get gas or something, I would be terrified. This state seemed filled with foreigners who lived a life so different from mine that I only knew to be scared of them. This was all made up in my head. I have no idea where this fear came from and I don’t really remember when it went away.

For my 30th birthday, Matt (my friend since birth) and I were going to join forces in New Orleans for our birthdays. We had done that for our 21st in Vegas….and it was great. But just as plans were starting to come together, Matt was diagnosed with cancer. NOLA would be waiting. That was 2003, and until 2005, I didn’t really think a lot about Louisiana, one way or another.

Then the storm hit. THE storm. It didn’t seem possible that an American city could be under water, let alone one that was so beloved. It didn’t seem possible that we would let our people languish in horrible conditions. Die in attics. Drown in their own homes…..days after the storm had passed. For some reason I took this somewhat personally. I had never been to NOLA and now it was so close to being a shell of it’s former self, I might never get to go. I was pissed. I went to the Austin City Limits Festival 3 weeks or so after The Storm. Hurricane Rita was taking a similar path to that bitch Katrina and more folks were finding their way to Austin. We offered to put a couple of folks up in our hotel room as ACL had made housing hard to come by…but they thanked us and just kinda hung out. We saw them a few times over the 3 days we were there and I listened to countless stories about The Storm. Personal stories, not clouded with political opinion or anger, simply stories. Stories that still resonate in my head. Just basic survival. Pulling themselves up by their boot straps. Sure, these weren’t residents of the Lower Ninth and had a lot more going for them then a lot of people, but your home get’s demolished and it hurts as much if you are in a shotgun house in the Lower Ninth or a Mansion in the Garden District. Home is home.

It took a couple more years before my obsessive nature perked up and I was all about New Orleans and Louisiana. I’m not ashamed to say that True Blood sparked a lot of interest. Then I found myself working with a girl from NOLA. Outside of her earshot, early in my tenure there, another coworker found it ridiculous that the girl from NOLA thought that Katrina effected her more then 9/11 did. Um….her house was underwater. Her childhood was washed away. Her mom was living on a barge and dealt with death threats because she worked for the Army Core of Engineers. She once said, a tall building in NYC makes little  difference to a girl from NOLA.

Shortly after I met her, the documentary When the Levees Broke showed up in my mailbox from Netflix. For four straight hours I watched this story unfold. I’m not normally a huge Spike Lee fan because I don’t like to be hit over the head with his “message”….but unlike the topic of the documentary, he used a soft touch and let the story tell itself. I cried. Man did I cry. Then I got pissed. Super pissed. And them embarrassed. The next workday I apologized to my co-worker on behalf of all the people who let her and her city down. From that point on, it was NOLA obsession deluxe!

I read about the food.

I read about the history.

I read about the geography.

I would spend hours on Google maps trying to get my bearings of the area, even though I had read enough to know that even those born and raised there have a hard time finding their way around sometimes.

I read books about The Storm.

I read books about life after The Storm.

I read books about life before The Storm.

I read restaurant menus and hotel reviews.

I made lists of places to go and things to see.

I pictured in my head all of the things I wanted to experience there.

I could hear the music playing.

I could smell the food.

I could see the architecture and the people.

I still can.

At this point I feel I am almost pregnant with anticipation for arriving in NOLA. I am heavy with excitement. I have so many plans and so many expectations. And the date is so close I can’t stand it! People have said that they are worried it won’t live up to my expectations. I more fear that it will exceed them and I will be so pissed that it took me 37 years to get there.

I guess we’ll all know soon.

But not soon enough.