Laissez les bonnes temps rouller, mais ils roullent lentement. Starting out from Detroit on Friday morning proved unwise, because we got up at 4am to be ready for a 6:00 flight, and not only did we not get on that one, we didn't get on the next morning flight either. Airline employees fly as what they call "non-rev's" which translates to a non-revenue passenger. Sort of like flying standby, but all paying customers, including standby, go in front of you. We got tired of waiting at the airport, and with 3-4 hours until the next flight to MSY, we decided to go check in at work and home, respectively. Karen dropped me off at the office and went by her place to get her costume wig as I'd suggested. I actually got a couple of things done, setting up a corporate announcement to roll on the web hub when I got back and fixing a problem with the stock ticker. We were both relaxed when we got back to the airport, and caught the next flight to New Orleans.
Upon arrival, we picked up a rental car at Enterprise, and they gave us not only a map but a Mardi Gras guide. I would highly recommend Enterprise, have rented a lot of cars at Moisant Int'l airport, and the service there was the best. We found our hotel, got checked in, and headed out to Bozo's for dinner. Bozo's is an old N'awlins seafood joint which moved out to Metairie when Bozo passed on and his son took over the business 20 years ago. The current location happens to be right off the Metairie parade route, so it was perfect for Friday night. We got a table immediately and Karen started off with some wonderful fresh oysters. Bozo's always concentrates on extremely fresh, extremely clean seafood, and they change the oil after every meal, so they have the only fried catfish in the world that I'll happily eat. We got that and some stuffed shrimp. I'm not the only y'at who hits Bozo's as soon as he gets into town, they were telling me that some people actually bring their luggage (and I've done that at least once). The parade was great, and a perfect way to start our trip. I caught some great red heart beads for valentine's that a girl in a red devil costume was throwing, and she was a great shot! Karen commented that the FA gave us extra peanuts, we caught packets of peanuts at the parade, and still I bit her! Then we headed to Anthony Uchello's wedding reception, and I got horribly lost. I'd never actually been to the hall before, and somehow had decided it was in Gentilly where I used to hang out with Anthony and the rest of the SOB^2 crowd. We called ourselves Survivors of the Big Bang, the UNO Science Fiction club. Found George Spicuzza, with his fancy (silly) tie, he told Anthony we were there and introduced us to the bride, and found Harrison Jones. I always seem to run into Harrison and Julie since I've been living up north, and he always makes me feel at home. It's funny, I've really gotten to know him better, we each thought the other went to UNO while we were in SOB^2, and we both went to Tulane. We all danced a bit, they had a second line, and it was a lovely reception. Afterwards, we went with Harrison and Julie to Dos Jefes Cigar Bar, which was down toward the river from Tulane, and it was great. Sort of like our local martini and cigar bar in Dearborn, but much bigger with little tables, a piano, and a little space to dance. Lots of really good Scotch, single malts, so I got a Lagavulin... and of course they have the tequilla that Harrison imports (he works for Sazerac) which is great because it is also Karen's favorite. Anthony and Gretchen showed up with their limo, and we felt very honored that it was the first place they'd come. I shared my whisky with the bride, since much as I like it, there's no way I'm going to finish off a whole one myself. Someone told me afterwards that is good luck... I think it was. Anthony got his own Lagavulin, and we had a fantastic time, talking about everything.
Saturday was Karen's favorite day. We went downtown, had breakfast at the Monteleone, and watched a parade on Canal. It was chilly from the wind off the river, a girl in a wonderfully loosely woven macrame top had to run buy a sweatshirt. Still, we had fun, and at 4:30 we found our way to the Windsor Court for their Royal Tea. Karen's hose had developed a run, so we stopped in to Sak's and bought some... the second person who had bought them and used the stockroom to change! Sitting there listening to a trio play Mozart and waiting on Harrison and Julie, who had the lovely idea of doing that for valentine's day! They started with selecting your tea, and had Lapsang Souchong, so I was extremely happy. Then came the cucumber sandwiches, caviar and salmon hors d'oevres. The second course was two different kinds of scones, fresh out of the oven, probably the best I've ever had in my life, with devonshire cream, whipped cream, and raspberry preserves. The final course was cookies, cakes, and handmade hazelnut chocolates with a valentine theme, by which time we were all stuffed and two hours had passed, but the company was so good that the time just flew by. When the sherry came, discussion turned to Harrison's grandmother's cherry bounce, and godiva chocolatiers in place vendome, who have a cherry rose he'll never forget that I want to try!
Julie mentioned wanting to stop by the best candy shop that she'd discovered... and I knew immediately which place she had in mind! Peter Tompkins, who I'd known from Tulane (worked for his mom & dad, had classes with his brother) has opened a candy shop called Southern Candymakers that has won awards all over the south (including the Atlanta gourmet convention) for their pralines. Their tortues are also incredible, and I think their chocolate pralines are simply the most perfect candy in existence. Julie had independently discovered them... the girl has great taste! (hey, she likes Harrison, right?) So we walked down there, said hello, and got some candy right after they closed. It was a good thing I thought to tell Peter we were coming! Everything just worked out utterly perfectly, and we left Harrison and Julie to their other plans for the day.
By the time we got out another parade had started, so we went down St. Charles to catch it. She wore her green wig and my multicolored shirt, and started to learn what Carnival is really about. Of course she became a target for lots of lovely beads, flowers, and even panties. Then the band came by... this particular band, rather than just going by, stopped in front of us because the floats in front of them stopped. The tuba player complimented Karen on her hair, then started talking to us. He asked, "do you guys dance? I'm bored." So of course we started dancing with him, to the beat of the drums. I joked that I'd never danced with a guy with a tuba before... he was really swinging it around, so he put it down and had someone hold it. Then the clarinet section came over and started dancing with us, and then the drummers started a second line all through the band, winding around us like a snake, and everyone on the street was dancing. That sort of thing usually happens on Fat Tuesday, and I'm glad Karen had a chance to be part of it. After the parade, we hit a party that another old SOB^2 member was throwing, off of St. Charles. Once again, Karen's hair was the hit of the party, and we had a very good time dancing and talking to people. We met a guy from Scotland and his SO, a law student from Tulane, and of course our wonderful hosts, Skip and Kate.
We got up late on Sunday and went to the Bakery, a po-boy shop and old hang-out of mine. We picked up kIng cake and doberge, and went down to the old New Orleans mint. The mint has a wonderful Mardi Gras museum, which gave my sweetheart a real grounding in the history and practice of Carnival. I really want to take her to a Carnival ball next year. They had invitations and crown jewels from past balls, a gold bean that was put in a king cake to pick the ruler of a krewe... a better collection than I've seen anywhere. Then, across the hall they had a musical exhibit with a great display on the tenderloin district, better known as storyville... I finally figured out where it really was, just north of the Quarter, iberville n to st louis, basin e to robertson... they had the carriage stone from mahogany hall, and a couple original blue books, which told where to go and who to... see at all the best houses. It advertised all the latest music, rendered by a typical sothern darky orchestra. They even had a calling card saying Lulu White, rooms by the week or day, 311 N Basin St, New Orleans LA. It was raining, so we cut across the French Market, where I bought Karen a bunny bracelet she adores. Then I got a Mardi Gras gargoyle for Linda... too bad I haven't been able to pry it out of Karen's apartment to give it to her! I got it because it was concrete and then decided not to get the concrete one because I didn't want to carry it on the plane... so maybe Karen and I should just keep it.... From there, we went to my favorite little junk shop, which sells old Carnival costumes as well as the usual stuff. We stopped in an Indian place and I tried on a shirt, which was a mistake because I left one of my layers of clothing, a shirt, lying there. We then walked most of the way across the Quarter to the Gumbo Shop, I got Karen there and out of the weather, and ran back. Fortunately, they had closed but opened up when I knocked. Unfortunately, it was pouring the rain by that time, and I was soaked. I got in the car and drove over, though, and Karen was doing fine, had ordered some lovely food, and we had a great time. We won't mention the fact that I left my credit card at the restaurant. We chatted for ages out on the street with a wild lady who was closing up her shop... her name was Princess, and she was certainly what John Kennedy O'Toole would call a Quarter Character. I'm amused that Karen thinks I'm one, just because I lived in the Quarter... I may be a y'at, and a real character in his own right, who lived in Algiers Point in an old house with 13 pillars, 13 steps in front, and gargoyles worked into the plaster in the corners of the stairwell, once said, "Chad, you just a Coon Ass, can't talk wit'out usin' your hands", demonstrating, as he said it, that he was too.
Monday morning we gave up on trying to catch the first flight so I could go pick up my credit card, which was just as well because the weather had caused a couple Sunday flights to be cancelled, and everything was full with bumped passengers. I introduced myself to a couple who were obviously non-rev's too, and when it became obvious that we weren't going anywhere I invited them to have lunch with us. This is where Enterprise really proved themselves THE place to rent a car, they'd held my car for me, sent out a shuttle, and just handed me the keys, no extra charge, no waiting, I'd asked them to hold the paperwork open, and that made our day. We tried to go to Bozo's, but they were dark, so we tried Jaeger's, same thing, but Brunning's was open, and we got a seat right by the window looking out over the lake, and Karen had Crayfish while I had softies. I think we just amazed Craig and Karla, the young couple we took out. She is a FA for one of Northwest's airlinks, and he's a cargo pilot. They had been waiting for a flight since Sunday, and they were a lot of fun, and I think we're going to call them when we're in MSP, or they're in DTW. Still no flights that evening, so we just went back to the hotel and crashed... well, okay, we burned first. We saw Karla and Craig at the airport and all four of us caught the early flight to Memphis the next morning, and finally got home!