New Orleans is one of my favorite cities not only in the U.S., but the world. The people, food, music, culture, art, architecture, sounds, and yes, even the things that make it undesirable to some; the smells, fog and humidity. I love it all. Could I live here again? Probably not, but for a brief moment in 2008 when Jack and I were contemplating where we would re-locate, New Orleans was mentioned. We chose Florida, but try to visit New Orleans annually, if even for a brief visit. We were sitting at Three Birds Tavern waiting to watch the Steelers game when it was announced that Ohio State finished in the final four in the new college football playoff system and would be playing in the 2015 Sugar Bowl, in New Orleans. #GoBucks Road trip!
We left St. Pete early December 31st, with Chief Rooney and Coco in the backseat, New Orleans bound. The only hiccup of the trip was at the arrival of our hotel when we were informed, at 4:30 pm on New Year’s Eve with an 80 pound Weimaraner in the car who was bursting with energy, that the hotel was sold out (no shit – New Year’s Eve in New Orleans, AND the night before the Sugar Bowl) and they had given our room away. Don’t fret though . . . they had a room for us, dog-friendly, near the airport (about 15 miles away). What I learned, or was reminded of, was that when a 57-year-old “recovering” attorney puts his lawyer hat back on, rooms suddenly become available. From then on, it was smooth sailing . . . New Orleans style.
As tradition dictates, after freshening up and walking the dogs, we headed straight to Acme for oysters, only to learn that they were closed (for the evening), so we trekked across the street and got in line at Felix’s. What’s the attraction to oysters? How do I describe my mysterious infatuation with these bivalve molluscs? Perhaps it is connected to my obsession with the sea; eating one was “like kissing the sea on the lips,” says French poet Léon-Paul Fargue. They come in all shapes and sizes, and vary in taste and texture according to where they come from. I’ve had Pacific Coast oysters in San Francisco, Maine oysters, oysters from the Chesapeake Bay, oysters with Guinness and brown soda bread in Dublin, oysters out of the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. And although oysters from the Celtic Sea run a close second place, I enjoy oysters in New Orleans the best. Perhaps it’s because this is where I was introduced to oysters. Felix’s didn’t disappoint!
New Year’s Eve on Bourbon Street was full of life, as expected, but we were surprised to see it dominated by scarlet and gray, and O-H chants. Plenty of people watching opportunities, beads and boobies, but we were beat after the 700 mile drive.
New Year’s morning we headed straight to the Mississippi River Walkway and Woldenberg Park with the pooches, and beignets being the final goal. Along the way we were stopped by a local news crew asking where we were from, and what we thought of the new college football playoff system. Jack had plenty to say on the topic, and Rooney jumped up on the nicely dressed broadcast journalist and offered a big kiss. The line at Cafe Du Monde was long and Rooney’s patience short, so we decided to settle for New Orleans Coffee & Beignet Company. It’s not Cafe Du Monde, but the boys were content.
So we’d had oysters, cocktails on Bourbon Street, a few hours of sleep, beignets and the dogs were walked. It was time to focus on the game, and tickets. Did I forget to mention that at that point, we did not have tickets yet? This is part of the fun for Jack when we spontaneously decide to go a big event; dickering on the street for tickets. As always, this process was entertaining, but in the end, we paid face value for first level end zone tickets with no fees from Ticketmaster or StubHub. Jack was happy, and I was ready for the game.
If you’re a football fan, you know that this was a pretty big deal. Ohio State playing Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Urban Meyer v. Nick Saban and the SEC. First year for college football playoffs. 3rd string quarterback. Big 10 Football reputation. Alabama was favored, Ohio State fans hungry. Our tickets were in a sea of khakis, high-heels, short skirts, houndstooth print leggins (that was a sight), fur coats and vests, bouffant hair dos, pressed dress shirts, and SHAKERS (Alabama fans). I wanted to scream the entire game, gentlemen, real men do not shake pom-poms. I didn’t. I was a good yankee fan, although I did snicker when the Alabama fan sitting behind Jack asked if we could switch seats so she could see – keep in mind that her husband was sitting behind me and THEY could have easily switched seats. In the end it didn’t matter because we all stood the entire game. And by the way, in the north, we wear jeans and sweatshirts, or jerseys, to football games, and you won’t find the guys shaking pom-poms. Regardless of the garb, the Super Dome was full of Ohio State scarlet and Alabama crimson, so it was a red-out. The game was exciting, back and forth, big plays and mistakes from young guys full of nerves, but after being down 21 – 6 at one point, the Buckeyes fought back and won the game, 42 – 35. Oh this was so much better than when we were in New Orleans in 2008 for the National Championship game when Ohio State lost to LSU. O-H
The city cleared out quickly Friday morning. The Alabama fans had no interest in hanging out for the weekend. We walked to Mother’s for brunch. The Bloody Marys are deceiving there, served from a juice dispenser sitting on the counter in a plastic cup, but they are so good. World’s Best Baked Ham? My mom cooked the world’s best baked ham, but this stuff is pretty good. Eggs, grits, biscuits and Bloody Marys at Mother’s on a Friday morning after a Buckeye victory. Life is good!
Of course we had to go to Pat O’Brien’s piano bar, pay some extra cash for a long rendition of Hang on Sloopy to aggravate any remaining Alabama fans, and sip, or slurp, on some Hurricanes and Cyclones. The place was packed, as always, and no one ever seems to be able to stop at one, or three. We enjoyed perhaps the best French onion soup either of us have ever had at The Royal Oyster House. We had to have more oysters, of course, and crawfish etouffee. Watch the street performers, look at the art. Take it all in one more time. We’ll be back New Orleans, where:
“We dance even if there’s no radio. We drink at funerals. We talk too much and laugh too loud and live too large and, frankly, we’re suspicious of others who don’t.” – Chris Rose.
I hope that your New Year celebration was everything you hoped it would be, and together we walk through 2015 with much joy, love, happiness and success. And it wouldn’t be so bad if Ohio State beat Oregon next Monday. Just sayin’ . . .