Mom and Dad went to their friend's funeral this morning while the rest of us packed up. Elia and Michele will return to LC next week so were less stressed about fitting everything in but did want to leave early and antique casually along the way. An hour after they left, my crew headed off and went full bore until Baton Rouge where we made a beeline for Coffee Call on College Drive, eager for bathrooms, beignets and cafe au lait. It was a perfect pit stop. And before and after I got my visual fill of Cypress trees and old Cypress stumps, Live oaks festooned with Spanish moss, muddy water lapping at the shores of spillways, lakes, bayous and by-ways, snowy egrets dining anywhere they could.
When we left Coffee Call, I noticed that the car parked next to us had Mary strapped safely in the backseat. This sort of passenger is so utterly Louisiana, and I absolutely love it.
We coasted in to New Orleans a scant hour before the babysitter was scheduled to arrive, ordered a pizza for the boys, showered, dressed, and were ready to go on time. As it turned out, El and M veered off I-10 in Breaux Bridge, the promise of an antique market too appealing to pass up, and when they resumed their drive managed to hit rush hour traffic in both Baton Rouge and NOLA, resulting in a dreadful nearly-six-hour drive door-to-door (it should take about 3.5). They rolled in 15 minutes before Duck, our cab driver, was to fetch us. Elia changed, put on a new pair of boots and immediately stepped into the grate of a heat register in the bathroom. She was stuck until T managed to pry the bars apart.
If you surmised that she was eager for a cocktail when we reached the Quarter and the party, you were correct.
Duck dropped us off deep in the Quarter. It's so easy to see why NOLA was nicknamed The Big Easy. It is so unbelievably and happily laissez faire: incredible street bands, entitled jay-walking with no complaint by the line of cars waiting for a crosswalk that will never clear, loud music from in-a-row establishments that never compete, to-go cups for any amount of unfinished libation (cup or bottle), "adult" shops sharing wall space with high-brow restaurants, dirty dives serving food that might be better than that which you make at home.
I often find myself slightly suspicious of the cleanliness, say, or of some other such parameter, but in New Orleans, it's so very easy to leave your troubles and rules and parameters back at home. To let loose and let go and simply be; happy, uninhibited, not worried about a thing. A place such as this is a magical respite, and when I think about what it must be like to live here, well, it's hard to imagine. It's possible one could get too used to the easy quality of life -it seems possible certain types of ambition could die here- or simply spoiled to the point that the rest of the country would seem stiff and puritanical beyond compare -"why on Earth are you honking? why can't I bring my beer on my walk?."
And surely those sorts of musings are part of the appeal, the allure, of New Orleans. Not every place can make you eagerly,naturally, leave your burdens on the coat rack at the city limits, but The Big Easy does. The coat racks along I-10 are full of overly-weighted trenches, left and possibly orphaned. Laissez les bons temps rouler: let the good times roll.
Boy, they do so easily here.