Finally! At age 44, I have several women wanting me — and one man.
Wilhelmina from The Old Coffee Pot wants me, and so does Ginnie from Tours by Isabelle. Beth Hanning from Gallery Rinard wants me — and she’s married! I’m pretty sure Stephanie from the Cats Meow wants me, too. And Christine DeCuir, from The Convention & Visitors Bureau, she wants me so bad she sent me some goodies. As for the guy, well, that’s Ernie from Haunted History Tours — and, yes, he wants me, too!
I’m not talking about some swingers’ club — I wish!
No, I’m talking about my recent weekend in the Big Easy. I met hundreds of people, and all of them said one of two things: “Thank you” or “We’re glad you are here.” As most of you know, I made a trip to New Orleans in February to see how things were going after Hurricane Katrina; at that time, I penned two columns: one on the good, the other on the bad and the ugly. This time, the mission was the same: I wanted to see what progress since I had last visited. I also wanted to escape the torrential downpours in the Northeast!
Like last time, there are good stories and bad ones. The good news is that more businesses have reopened. This visit took me to the Maison Dupuy (my favorite hotel in the city), which fully opened on April 1. I was able to eat a wonderful filet at Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse, but I didn’t have time to venture to its cousin establishment, world-renowned Brennan’s, which had just reopened on June 8.
I also took the same “disaster tour” that I took in February with Tours by Isabelle. That brings me to the bad news: The progress outside of the tourist spots is slow going. I think there is another trip in my future, and next time I will be toting a hammer and saw to see if I can lend a hand. Believe me, these folks desperately need it, so please, if you are able, do your part as well.
Considering it was summer, when business is usually slow, the town was surprisingly active. People are finally getting the message that New Orleans is no longer a disaster area, but rather a town on the mend. It was hot as hell, of course, but no matter where I ventured, I felt safe in all ways. The police presence was obvious and comforting. Unfortunately, there have been problems with drugs and looting in desolated neighborhoods that the city police department could not manage on their overtaxed resources. Fortunately, the National Guard has returned to the city, a welcome and overdue response to a mayoral request many months ago, and the guardsmen are hearing the same words I did: “Thank you” and “We’re glad you are here”!
Outside the desolated neighborhoods, the city is showing definite signs of recovery. Bourbon Street is alive and well. The Aquarium of the Americas is open again, as is the New Orleans Museum of Art. The Riverwalk Marketplace is open. Fabulous music is once again pouring out of almost every doorway until the wee hours of the morning. The lines at Café Du Monde are long as usual — and the beignets are as decadent as ever. However, the real sign to me that New Orleans was open for business were the two shows on Friday and Saturday night at Preservation Hall. Somehow, hearing a trumpet, two saxophones, a drum and a bass made “When the Saints Come Marching In” sound like a true song of resurrection — especially with football training camps beginning soon.
The message is that New Orleans and the Gulf Coast are rebounding — but the recovery is slow and they still need some help! Maybe you have skills that can literally help the region rebuild. Maybe you can sponsor a fund-raising night in your local community. Check out the New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau Web site, which has information about two tourism relief funds. Of course, one of the best ways to help is to go to New Orleans and spend some money!
While you’re at it, check out Tripso’s own Cruise for a Cause. Tripso has partnered with Carnival Cruise Lines to bring some monetary and tourism relief to the area with a four-night cruise from New Orleans to Cozumel — another area recovering from a hurricane. The cruise begins on October 26. Tripso and Carnival will donate a portion of your cruise fare to local causes to help rebuild these two great destinations. Please consider doing what you can!
New Orleans is down, but it’s not out. The floodwaters have receded, this year’s hurricane season looks to be less severe than last year’s, and the “Old New Orleans” that I know and love seems to be coming back — though not soon enough for me!