Tuesday, October 28, 2014

New Orleans: Celebrating a Princess's Birthday in a Fabled City.

My good wife Barbara just had a big birthday.

Neither one of us wanted a big party at home. We both knew she would just be working her tail off to make sure everybody had a good time. I wanted HER to have not just a good time -- but a great time.

"What if we went somewhere to celebrate?" I asked her.

She perked up. "Hmmm ... hmmm," she said, obviously interested.

I took that to mean yes. "Well, where would you like to go?"

Her reply was instant. "New Orleans," she said.

"New Orleans it is," I said. She broke into a huge smile. We hugged on it.

And so for 5 days we went to the birthplace of Jazz where 7-days-a-week live music is the heartbeat of New Orleans; where there is a deep cultural mix of French, Spanish, English, Americans, and waves of  slaves from Africa (plus many free Africans); where its exotic history includes Voodoo, pirates, public duels to the death, grand mansions of early tycoons from various parts of the world; and where, by no means least, its mouthwatering Creole cuisine is admired worldwide.

New Orleans is a story in itself. But I write here not so much about New Orleans, but primarily about Barbara's birthday celebration in an ancient, fabled city. And it is less "write" and more letting photos tell the story. And so here we go:

Here we are on Bourbon St. in the French Quarter. Our hotel, the Royal Sonesta, is across the street.

The princess in the Royal Sonesta lobby -- with properly uniformed servants.

Milady in the lobby of the Royal Sonesta Hotel. 

Barbara on her birthday before dinner and a live jazz performance.

For Barbara's actual birthday dinner, I had tipped off the restaurant managers that this was her big day -- and they went all out. Bowing and scraping before the princess, they presented her with a special birthday desert.

At the after-dinner jazz performance, the female singer of the jazz group, shown below, suddenly looked at Barbara and said, "Happy birthday, Barbara" -- and began singing happy birthday to her. The whole audience joined in.

How did the jazz singer know it was Barbara's birthday? I tipped her off, of course. Barbara was taken totally by surprise. And, judging by her huge, nonstop smile, she was okay with it -- maybe more than that.

I was surprised that she was surprised. Earlier at lunch I had pulled the same trick. Saying that I had to go to the men's room, I clued in the club staff that it was her birthday. Thus, after the jazzy birthday song, in no time at all, the staff surrounded our table and presented Barbara with a birthday cake with lit candles and two glasses of champagne. A nice touch!

Here are photos of Barbara with a New Orleans lunch fit for a princess, and fellow diners clapping after yet another Happy Birthday song!

Now scenes of Bourbon Street's non-stop partying, street artists, music, and crowds -- and you never know what.



The police were on duty, but they never took me aside! They give street performers a lot of leeway. While the non-stop street entertainment is risque for sure, the police also know that it draws the free-spending crowds that feed the New Orleans economy.

However, I was taken aback by the human sculpture giving me the finger and the near-naked woman enticing and posing with passersby.

Stop! Don't go away. Let me make up for the risque scenes with more respectable ones.

Another big highlight was meeting Nikki Connor in New Orleans and spending the day with her. She is shown above with Barbara taking in a common sight, a colorful horse drawn carriage. Nikki and her sister Kim grew up next door to our house in Worcester, Mass.

As little girls, they used to knock on our door and ask if I could come out and play. After big snowstorms, the three of us would build a big snowman in our front yard. Great memories.

But now, having graduated from WPI with a BS and a Master of Engineering in biomedical engineering, Nikki is all grown up and living in Baton Rouge and starting a new job at LSU as a clinical associate at the university's health science cancer center.

Nikki came and picked us up and chauffeured us all over the place. She took us to her favorite restaurant where the three of us had lunch, talked of the old days, laughed, and had a ball. At interesting places, we got out and walked. In the course of the day, we probably walked 10 miles!

Following are photos from our great day with Nikki:

One day we spent most of the morning on a guided tour of New Orleans. Our guide and driver of the van, born in New Orleans and having lived there most of his life, told story after story as he took us to old above-ground cemeteries, along the path of Hurricane Katrina, through old neighborhoods, even past the home of Brad Pitt. (There was no sign of him, bummer.)

In the photo below, he explains why burials are above ground. The October 5 cover of  the New York Times Magazine summed it up this way: "Every hour, an acre of Louisiana sinks into the sea."

We also took the the St. Charles streetcar, the oldest in the world, its entire distance and back. For $1.25 each in exact change, we could ride the streetcar all day, getting off and on at interesting stops. We got off and walked around some of New Orlean's oldest, most beautiful, storied neighborhoods.

Following are photos from our streetcar hopping:

The last photo is a panorama of the swimming pool at the Royal Sonesta. Quite a change from Bourbon Street just steps away outside. I had some great swims while Barbara watched, read, looked around, and was at peace. I even caught her napping.

Mission accomplished?  I hope so.

NOTE:  I have a new short novel, Something Tells Her. Jane is abandoned at birth and then placed in ever-changing, uncaring, and often abusive foster homes. At age 12, her latest foster father makes a sexual advance on her and, with something telling her this is not right, she runs out the door. On the street, alone, no family, nobody, not even a last name, how is she going to survive?  The E-book is  available on Barnes and Noble and  Amazon. 

E-Books by George Pollock

"State Kid: Hero of Literacy" is fiction based on his real-life experiences growing up in foster homes; "Last Laughs," is the true story of how five foster kids (he and four younger siblings) found their way in life and each other. "Killers: Surprises in a Maximum Security Prison," is the story of his being locked up for 23 hours with killers in a maximum security prison; "I, Cadaver" is about his postmortem adventures and mischief in the anatomy lab at UMass Medical School. “A Beautiful Story” demonstrates the art and process of creative writing as a 16-year-old boy goes all out to write a story that literally saves his life. "Unlove Story," is the true story of a husband -- writing anonymously as "Elvis" -- who is dumped after 38 years of marriage and lets it all out on love, marriage, life, everything. A guy doing this? It's unheard of.

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