Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Big Easy Sketches

I spent part of the longest summer of my life in New Orleans, training screeners at the newly federalized airport. Two weeks without a break, but we caught some off time on the third week, and of course, we'd been sampling the nightlife all along, workday nights be damned.

-A beignet from Cafë du Monde, eaten outside in the tropical October night.

-A rare afternoon off with a buddy who had a degree in history - spent at the D-Day Museum, of course; with lunch at a restaraunt recommended by some cops; I forget the name, but they shout your name out when your order's up and if you don't get your ass up there to get it they'll scream your name.

-Walking along the Mississippi watching the busy river traffic.

-An all-you-can-eat buffet at the Treasure Chest Casino; a buffet that included Alaskan King Crab and cost me about $12.

-The gift of a quart of homemade jambalaya from a screener trainee. He said he had to study with his grandmother for six months before she'd trust him to try it on his own. Ruined me for jambalaya not made in the Big Easy.

-Bourbon Street at night, any night at all. Zydeco music from the open doors of bars and beer sold through Dutch doors. Beads. Every kind of bead imaginable. A suspension of everyday care, if only for a night.

-Evander Holyfield eating at the airport restaurant, which outclassed any other airport eatery I've ever encountered, and Evander posing for pictures with anyone who asked, 'cause he doesn't do autographs.

-A born-again gypsy cab driver who called himself "Buddy Love".

-Relentless vestiges of racism, but people of all races who were warm and friendly and willing to show a Yankee a good time.

-A black male screener, who inadvertently let it slip that, though he'd lived most of his life in the South, he'd been born in New Jersey. Three black female screeners taunting the poor hapless guy with joyful cries of "YankeeYankeeYankee!" and I laughed 'til tears came.

New Orleans shall rise again.