I love New Orleans.
From my first visit there, when I was a mere babe of 6, I understood that New Orleans had a spirit that was inimitable. It was my first Mardi Gras, and I was positively dazzled by the colors, smells and sounds of the carnival. Each float, even to my young eyes, had a distinct personality, capturing the very essence of its Krewe.
I never forgot the taste of those beignets, or the stolen sip of cafe au lait from my uncle's cup. And for 12 years, I waited for my chance to visit again.
When I saw New Orleans again, I was 18 and in college. I couldn't believe how different everything looked from an extra 2 feet off the ground. And, well, I just saw a lot more. Children's eyes have neither the context nor the wisdom to see the things that lurk beneath New Orleans' facade.
New Orleans is a sensual city; by that I mean that its inhabitants embrace the sensory pleasures of life, perhaps like no other city in this young country.
I saw this again, so very clearly, when I went back for the third (and what I fear may be the last) time in October of last year.
Sitting at Acme Oyster Co, beer in-hand with a bowl of steaming gumbo and a dozen oysters in front of me, I looked around to see tourists slurping and sucking with abandon. I saw locals -- the shuckers, the hosts, the bartenders -- each revealing a mere glimpse of their home to the visitors.
At the Spotted Cat, I heard the best live jazz of my life. Half a dozen young musicians, playing a game of musical tag, made love to their instruments. There were moments that the audience disappeared for them, you could see that.
As we walked through the dark streets of the French Quarter, listening to the "clip-clop" of the horse & buggy passing us, I thought back to my Anne Rice novels -- as a young woman, I was so very in love with the Vampire LeStat and the Mayfair Witches. I couldn't help but feel that something preternatural really DID live in those streets.
Today, I wonder where those musicians are; I wonder if Sean made it out safely; and I can't help but think of the old gentleman driving that buggy -- is he with his horse that he so clearly adored?
My thoughts are with you, New Orleans. May you rest peacefully tonight.
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