Archive for March, 2015

New Orleans You Only Live Once

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Of the all of the places in my life that have lured me and captivated my mind many are from over sees – the lights of Paris, the temples and rice paddies of Bali – but one city in the US has stayed a fascination for me – New Orleans. I have always wanted to see the French Quarter, eat the Poor Boys, Dink the Hurricanes, hear the jazz, and catch the plastic Mardi Gras Beads. The moment I heard my work was going to New Orleans I was excited and knew I had to stay to see the city that has always called to me like Stanley Kowalski “Stella STELLA!!” in A Streetcar Named Desire.

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As luck would have it New Orleans has also been a city my father has always wanted to visit and my time was just right for him to come and meet me for a long weekend together. Nestled in the beautiful pre civil war home of some of our friends in the 7th ward just across the street from the French Quarter and the Treme district we were led through one of the most beautiful, eccentric, deeply felt weekend’s of my life.

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We were introduced to the city that is as complex as its history, as stunning as its glorious architecture, as unique as its distinctive food (yes more please!), as eccentric as its cemeteries and voodoo temples, as singular as no other city I have ever experienced! We walked the many winding streets of the French Quarter – Royal, Ursulines, Dumaine, Esplanade Ave, Elysian Fields marveling at all of the stunning colorful houses and the iron balconies. We stood below the house were Tennessee Williams wrote A Streetcar Named Desire one of the most influential plays in my teenage life and still one of my favorite play writes to this day.

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We wandered St Louis Cemetery No. 1 and saw voodoo queen Marie Laveau’s tomb xxx, and St. Roch Cemetery No. 1 with the macabre offerings for miracles performed of prosthetic limbs and the muddy water line showing how high the water rose after Katrina. We marched along side the Mardi Gras Indians as part of a traditional Second Line Parade for the funeral of Big Chief Bo Dollis.

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We danced to the music along Frenchman Street – brass bands, jazz, and the legendary Walter “Wolfman” Washington. In the city that gave birth to jazz and rock and roll, from the beating drums of Congo Square to J&M Recording Studio where the first rock ‘n’ roll hits were recorded there is no end to the musical legacy past and present in the streets and along the corners.

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We took the street car through the Garden District and walked in Audubon and City Park. We saw our friend’s not for profit Grow Dat Youth Farms and the extraordinary work they are doing. We went to one of the best Loving Kindness meditations I have ever been a part of. We made new friends and deepened the connection with old friends.

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We ate…oh how we ate!! Po Boys at Verti Mart, Char Grilled Oyserts at Cochon and Acme, Red Beans and Rice on Monday, Muffuletta, Gumbo, Alligator, Etouffee, Spicy Crawfish and shrimp boils, and King Cakes. Every bite as good as I had hoped and wanted, every slow simmered and smothered moment as diverse and unique as the city it came from. I would (and hope) to return to New Orleans for the Oysters alone – chargrilled in butter and cheese with hot sauce (I think I might need a moment to collect myself now).

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Our friends introduced us to the complex issues of New Orleans and the Louisiana Gulf Coast of today. The people are so proud and knowledgable of the city like nothing I have experienced in the US but find so often when meeting people in foreign countries. The hardships of rebuilding, the gentrification, the struggle to keep New Orleans as singular as it is today and has always been (they have few chains and I hope it stays this way). The fact that there are no longer any public schools in New Orleans, that they have become a Charter School system and the benefits but also very real struggles this poses to the community.

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We were lucky to be in New Orleans for the start of Mardi Gras and have the experience of attending the Kriex De Viex Parade. We caught beads (no you do not have to flash anyone to get beads). My father got particularly into the Mardi Gras spirit. The way the city can be both fabulously profane and exceptionally spiritual can be especially seen in this 2 week parade season and is something I urge everyone to try to experience in their life!

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Prior to our trip my father had emailed and said he was excited about our trip to NOLO, I may have laughed to myself a little but then when I mentioned it to a friend she picked up on how smart my father was in combining NOLA (New Orleans LA) with YOLO (You Only Live Once) and we coined the term New Orlenas You Only Live Once! Because truly You Only Live Once by all means make sure at some point in that singular life that you live to find some time to find your self in New Orleans. There is no other city like it. There are no other people like the ones who live there. There is no other music, food, culture, or experience to compare to this extraordinary place. And perhaps in this one life when you do find yourself in New Orleans you will have as much fun and find as much love and friendship as I have and you will be draped in Mardi Gras Beads and finding yourself repeating the words New Orleans You Only Live Once!

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03 2015