Before I talk about this beautiful city that America forgot, let me tell you about my current Barnes & Noble situation. There are two freaky women sitting two tables away, holding hands, chanting and whispering, heads bowed, trying to dispel evil and negative energy from the life of the Carrie White wannabe. The other one–the healer–looks like Rosie O’Donnell. Maybe I should give her my card, tell her about Rune Thursday. “Excuse me, I couldn’t help but overhear you need to rid your life of evil.” But then she’d read my blog and know I think she’s a nut. Ok, they’re leaving now. Got up, talking about what they’re going to buy at Target, as if they weren’t just having a public exorcism.
Before that, while I was purchasing my chocolate banana smoothie, there was a guy in line behind me that I could have sworn kept whispering, “Hey,” but when I turned to look at him, he was looking very nonchalant, like he hadn’t peeped a word. This happened three times, so either I’m hearing voices or he’s a creepy weirdo. Or I’ve been around Funny Girl too much and hearing the beginning strains of “Hey. Hey, Apple,” even when not audible. But creepy people aside, let’s get to the star of this blog . . . New Orleans.
Ah, New Orleans. Fell in love with it when I first visited in 1997, and the romance continues even with this, my first post-Katrina visit. There is a sadness attached to it now, because although the tourist sections of the city are rebuilt and look quite untouched by tragedy, the place is deserted. Every restaurant we went to, we were either the only patrons or one party among no more than five others. So dead that we saw the same family on two different nights at two different restaurants. At one place, gratuity was added on to our check for a party of four. We had to pay by cash for most retail transactions, and one place was going to charge Arty Party ten bucks if she wanted to use her debit card. Another didn’t hand out receipts. Bourbon Street, usually clogged with so many people you can’t see anything but the head of the person moving in front of you, had less people than what you would find exiting a movie theater on a Tuesday night. Even the skanky bitches hanging in the nudie bar doorways looked like they’d rather be getting rug burns on some Metairie Hampton Inn carpet. So sad. People, get to New Orleans. Give them your money. They’re hurting. Why are we sending relief funds to other places when one of our own most historical, beautiful cities is still in financial ruin six years after the storm? Did Obama make an announcement for no one to go there either? Go on vacation. Go. Give your money to our country. There is no better education than traveling the US. Ok. Climbing off the soapbox. But I will share with you the most beautiful moment that had me crying at breakfast, much to the ridicule from my companions. Our server was an Aunt Jemima-type lady, sweet as could be, typical Southern sweetheart, calling us honey and dumplin’ and chile. The room only had two tables filled, us and a group of five. She said since we were such a special group and she felt so grateful that we were there in New Orleans spending our money, gracing the city with our presence, she sang a song for us. I felt her voice in my soul, my heart. It was big and booming and could launch eight riverboats down the Mississippi. I was taken back to what it could have been like on a plantation, this woman scrubbing laundry with her hands and hanging it up in the hot sun, weepy sing-songing to God to please take away her burden. It was a moment I will never forget. God bless that woman, and God bless NOLA.