Art is everywhere. The city is vibrant. Music reverberates through the street. The city pulsates. Three hundred years of history reflect its myriad influences and scars. Out of its imperfections and setbacks emerges an endearing civic center. The resilient mélange of its inhabitants give New Orleans its unique character and charm.
The Mighty Mississippi, which we hope doesn’t supply the water fountains, snakes through this city of saints. The Superdome– excuse me, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, home of the gridiron Saints, glistens in the autumn sun. Jazz brunch at Commander’s Palace includes Turtle Soup (talk about the Slow-Food Movement!) and bread pudding soaked in whiskey sauce (I don’t believe Jell-O has that flavor yet), as sonorous saints serenade us with the sounds of Louis and the Duke. Seraphic saints went marching in to help rebuild after Katrina. This is a city whose residents care about it and its guests.
One of those saints… our friend’s Uncle Dick, a native New Orleanian who, along with his wife, (Aunt) Kathy, returned from a stint in Raleigh, N.C., to help rebuild. He toured my wife and me around the city our first day there. From its homes to its parks to its cemeteries, we immediately understood the pride and love New Orleanians have for their city.
Another saint… the man tending the immaculate lawn at the World War II Museum, who shut off the mower to greet us and ask us how we were doing and whether we needed any help. We talked about the grounds and the museum and the weather and the city itself. “First time here? Welcome to New Orleans,” he offered with a genuine smile.
Another saint… The Michigan-native restaurant owner of Carmo in the Warehouse District, who chatted with us during dinner, telling us how she could never imagine leaving a place that reveres creativity so earnestly.
Another… Native New Orleanian artist and musician Dwayne D. Conrad at his gallery drawing a from-memory portrait of Louis Armstrong to accompany those he’d done of Billie Holiday and Jimi Hendrix. The flow of a conversation about art and music, justice and race, the appreciation of a true spirit he said he felt in us and we felt in him.
Another… Richard Crawford of Tastebud Tours, a Virginian transplant, a former schoolteacher, passionately discussing the history of gumbo and jambalaya, regaling us with legendary tales of Sinatra and Dean Martin and Anne Margaret at Tortorici’s, humorously and heart-warmingly teaching us the history of the city through food.
Two more saints… Tanya & Dorise moving us to tears on Royal St. with their guitar and violin interpretation of U2’s “One.” (recorded version from V, their (5th) album (oops, showing my age…I meant CD), below)