13 January 2012

Hey HEY Hey, New Orleans!

Okay, who can tell me the source of today's blogpost title?  I'll give you a hint: it's from an eminently quotable show from the late 1980s and early 1990s.

That's right--I head down to New Orleans, Nawlins, the Big Easy, the Crescent City next week, and what's more, I'm traveling there for work, which means very little out of pocket expense for me.  New Orleans is my favorite city in the US to visit, and it's one of my favorite places in the world.  Having grown up in MS, I was a frequent visitor there until I moved north.  I had friends in college who were from there and whose parents opened their home to all of us whenever we wanted to visit, including during the Mardi Gras season.  I'm pretty sure that there isn't any number of hostess gifts and thank you notes that could adequately express our gratitude for taking us in, so Betty and Jerry Cooper, this blog's for you!

You know what Betty and Jerry would do for us at Mardi Gras time?  Not only did they make large, nourishing breakfasts to fortify us during the day or welcome us back home at night with hot & hearty dishes like jambalaya, or allow us to play Mardi Gras music very loudly on the speakers at all hours of the day or night...each morning after breakfast they would drive two separate cars down to the parade routes and leave one there, then drive back to their house together while we were getting ready for the day.  Then one of them would round up all of us kids and drive us back to the parade route to drop us off--all so we could have a vehicle on hand after the parades and could drive home whenever we were ready. These are the kind of parents who have always enjoyed the company of their children and by extension their children's friends, and I've rarely met a family who were so universally generous or gracious.  While I certainly appreciated at the time everything that Betty and Jerry did for us, I was also wrapped up in that bubble of self-involvement that marks adolescence and young adulthood; it is now when I look back on those long-gone years that I marvel at their largess toward a rag-tag bunch of teens and college kids. Which is why it was all the more devastating when Hurricane Katrina destroyed that home I remember so fondly. 

It's been a couple of years since I was last in New Orleans, incidentally for standing up in the wedding for Betty and Jerry's daughter, Elizabeth, which was one of the loveliest weddings I've ever had the pleasure of attending. (Sidebar: we had our hair done at 7:30 that morning and the stylist offered us our choice of daiquiris, strawberry or eggnog. Would that all hairdresers had multiple daiquiri machines in their back rooms to offer their clientele)

Next week will be completely different, for I'm heading down for Winter Institute, an industry trade show for independent booksellers, capped at a 500-person attendance to maintain a sense of intimacy.  We attend educational sessions and panels, listen to speakers on the state of the industry, attend wine receptions with various authors, generally mingle with other folks in the bidness, and GET FREE BOOKS.  It's the coolest gig around, and this year on top of everything else I've been invited to a couple of publisher's soirees, so color me stoked.  Wednesday night is a large dinner party hosted by Algonquin, one of my favorite independent publishers, at the home of a famed New Orleans bookseller known for his swanky Garden District Bookshop.  We'll ride the streetcar (do not call it a trolley, please) from our hotel in the Quarter to his home and enjoy some Abita beer and boudin balls and other traditional comestibles.

Friday night I get to attend the Simon & Schuster dinner where I'll meet authors Carol Anshaw, who wrote Carry the One, and Chris Cleave, whom most readers will know from Little Bee, but who will be promoting his forthcoming novel Gold.  (I liked both books very much and the links will take you to my reviews.) Dinner will be held at the Red Fish Grill, which I believe opened since I left the South, but it's a Brennan establishment so let's just say I feel pretty good about it!

My husband would disown me if I forsook the Acme Oyster Bar while down there, and for me, no visit to that august city is complete without a visit (or several) to Cafe du Monde.  One of my favorite visits there was a spur-of-the-moment roadtrip in my freshman year of college, three hours away by car.  I reckon it was around 8:00 that night when we decided we were craving beignets and that nothing else would do.  So we piled into my boyfriend's roommate's car and headed down.  We started and ended at Cafe du Monde and in between times we walked the Quarter, stopped in at Pat O's (yup, touristy, but who can possibly resist the alluring combination of fire fountains and Hurricanes-a-gogo?), and sang some karaoke at The Cat's Meow (Love Shack. That's right. We rocked that tin roof.).  I seem to recall we made it back to Jackson in time to go to church the next morning. 'Cause we were bad-ass renegades like that.

So, umm, yeah.  New Orleans.  Gonna be there soon.  Which makes this post travel related and thus totes legitimate.

NB: Only the photos of people belong to me. The others were found on an obliging tourist promotional website.  I used to have very similar photos of my own, but I lost them when my hard drive fried last year.


  1. Enjoy a beignet on me. Then get up here and BRING ME MY BEIGNETS!

  2. Awesome! I've been wanting to go to New Orleans for a long time, but have kept putting it off. Would love to take a stroll through the Garden District... Have fun!

  3. Mark: Wilco.

    Jennifer O: the garden district is certainly lovely, but I think I'll view it via streetcar this time around!

  4. New Orleans is so fun.

    NEW FOLLOWER....nice blog.

    Meanwhile.....Book Review and also a Giveaway on my blog if you care to stop.

    Stop by for a Review of DEAD IS THE NEW BLACK and a Giveaway of THE WICKED WIVES.





    That's all I have to say.

    That, and have a good time. :)


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