Wednesday, August 31, 2005

New Orleans Memories

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I lived in New Orleans for five years. Went to college there and stayed there a year after.

I remember how much I loved being on my own in a city like New Orleans - it had been my favorite city even before I knew I was going to college there. I had even been a Saints fan, back when Bobby Herbert was the quarterback and Ironhead Heyward was the main star. I was there when they started so good, and then fell apart - the "Ch-Ching!" slogan years. Now the Superdome had to be used as the shelter of last resort for people, and was badly damaged in the hurricane.

I remember going to the Quarter and watching all the street performers - one guy on stilts, several card players, a guy who offered to play chess with you for ten dollars. Late one night, someone came up to us and showed us some tricks the three card players would use on you, and laughed when he did it, taking the small money he asked us to bet as he showed us what they did. Now there's looting, and damage, and no one will be that happy for a while.

In New Orleans, there was a wind off Lake Pontchartrain that was as cold and biting as the summer heat was humid. There was one night where there were harsh, strong winds, and the lake would crash against it edges and send spumes of water all the way to the road. I went out and got drenched, loving the feel of the wind. There was a levee just behind me when I did that.

I remember the Jax Brewery downtown, and the chocolate store where they made a batch right in front of you, slamming their paddles down on the marble table. I remember when they opened the Aquarium downtown and we went down there. They had a penguin display, half of it underwater, where the penguins would swim and dive for the crowd. I bought a stuffed penguin for my fiance, and one penguin would follow it everywhere. I ran up and down that display and Pongo followed me everywhere. I don't know if those animals were able to be evacuated, or if they were killed in the hurricane.

I remember Mardi Gras, and the three hour bus trip to and from it. I remember parades where women would beg for beads for their kids. There will be parades to come, but they will go past destroyed houses and devastated places.

But most of all, what I remember from New Orleans is meeting my wife for the first time. She was on a couch downstairs in our dorm, with her group of friends. Her group and my group were going to out that night to a movie in a theater close by - Batman. She was wearing jeans that were a little too short for her, a black shirt, and a jean jacket, and I fell in love with her in that moment.

The college, last I heard, was surrounded by water. That couch, if they still have it, is probably ruined. The church where she and I got married is probably damaged, and they'll have to fix it.

I don't mean to speak of New Orleans in the past tense. I know it will come back, and probably better than ever. It's just it will never be the same to me now. All of these memories and places can be rebuilt, but I will always see the join.

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