Saturday, December 26, 2009

Back in the Good 'Ole 80's

Back in the good old eighties’ I was lucky enough to land a job as director of operations for a company in Dallas, Texas.  Some of my duties included frequent business trips across the country and around the world.  Something always seemed to have me on the road for business once or twice a month.  During those years I got to see a lot of this great country.  Much of my traveling involved such mundane destinations as Tulsa, Oklahoma and Medford, Oregon, but about half of the trips were split between the two “Big’s”; the “Big Apple” and the “Big Easy”.  I quickly fell in love with both of those cities.  New York was exciting and cosmopolitan, a city of Broadway shows and an endless list of things to see and do.  New Orleans had the French Quarter, the Vieux Carré, where the parties roll 24 hours a day! As a single man with almost no responsibilities, my being in one of the 2 “Big’s” was like a kid getting set loose on Main Street in Disneyland with no parents around.

My first visit to “The Big Easy” (New Orleans) was on a Labor Day weekend. I arrived in the “French Quarter” (16 square blocks along the Mississippi River where the bulk of the action and nightlife take place) in time to get settled into my hotel and find myself walking down Bourbon Street at about 7 pm --just as both ends of the street were being blocked off and the whole place turns into an outdoor mall catering to the more adult pursuits, like eating, drinking and partying. Most of the people walking down the middle of the streets look like they are walking around almost any tourist attraction in the USA, except that almost everyone has a cocktail in one hand or the other. Drinks with such colorful names as “Hurricane”, “Hand Grenade” and “Devil Juice” combined with the sounds of Jazz, Blues, Reggae and Zydeco music and the smells of good Cajun cooking make a walk down this street an unforgettable experience filled with anticipation of an exciting evening.

My course was set for my first port of call, Pat O’Brian’s. A well know watering hole and restaurant in the center of “the quarter”. It has the world renowned “Hurricane” as its signature cocktail. They serve this drink in a hurricane glass which, for a few extra dollars, you can keep as a souvenir (over the years I developed a habit of saving my glass and sending home to my mother who amassed an impressive collection). The entrance is is an old-style carriage gateway with a slate floor and crossed muskets representing each of the countries that have hauled their flag over New Orleans and claimed it for themselves (that’s 7 by my count --the Spanish, the English, the French, the Americans, the Louisianans’ themselves, the Confederates and finally the Americans again –oh, and it would be politically incorrect to forget the original Native Americans, although lord knows how many different tribes claimed the land before the Europeans arrived -and technically, they didn’t have flags to haul up anyway).

After downing a couple of good Cuba Libra’s and enjoying some soft jazz in the piano bar, I eventually found myself sitting at a table in the courtyard with a group pf Europeans. I had wound up meeting this group because the Europeans spoke very little English and my German was just passable enough to make me useful ordering drinks. At some point in the conversation we decided to order the house specialty drink which is a huge Hurricane. It came in a hurricane glass about 3 feet tall and had yard-long straws for everyone to share he drink. After about an hour our group had shrunk from about 9 to 4 and we ordered a second of the monster Hurricanes.  At some point we left Pat O’Brian’s and wandered around the French Quarter, stopping at various saloons to refresh our drinks, and enjoying the local music. Finally, around 1 am we found ourselves in a little bar on Decatur Street. We has enlisted 3 street musicians along the way and we spent the wee hours of the morning singing German and Irish drinking songs set to a Cajun beat with a fiddle a flute and a trumpet. Let me tell you, Irish drinking songs sung with German and French accents is something no one should have to endure. I think the IRA would have declared us enemies of the state -but, when you are well fortified with  a good supply of rum anything is possible. Needless to say, a good time was had by all, including a dozen or so tourists and locals who had decided to join the fun. 

The next morning I found out way the drink is called a Hurricane. --I woke up in my hotel room with a small hurricane raging in my head. This is a very common ailment in the French Quarter and they have a cure for it -- I’ll tell you about it next time….

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