We arrived in New Orleans on Thursday, the Dish and I. A couple of days earlier than what we planned for our Sugar Bowl coverage, but the Dish had never been to New Orleans, I already had her a plane ticket for Dec. 26, so I said, let’s go on, relax a day or two, then jump into the bowl frenzy.
So Thursday night, the Dish was introduced to Bourbon Street. Not on my recommendation. I guess every American ought to see it once, the bawdy decadence mixed with fascinating architecture and great history.
I’ve been to New Orleans several times and never came away fired up to go back. I would much prefer the Fiesta Bowl. Dang you, Justin Gilbert.
But the Sooners earned their way to New Orleans, so here I am. Our flight through Dallas went fine. It was my first time in the new terminal at Love Field, and I was stunned. I’ve been to Love Field, must be 100 times, and wasn’t ready for new and spacious. I had grown accustomed to old and cramped. Our connection was quick, so I didn’t have time to explore, but what a great addition for Dallas.
On the flight, I ran into Norman businessman Randy Hooper. He’s a few years older than me, 1975 Norman High grad, but we reminisced about old Norman basketball. Gregg Byram, Greg Blackburn, Kent Schmidt, Brent Marquardt. High school basketball once was bigger than it is today.
Let’s see, I’ve been to New Orleans for an OSU-LSU basketball game in December 1993, for the 2003 season Sugar Bowl, for a couple of Hornet games when they were based in OKC and for an OSU women’s basketball regional in 2008.
The city was a virtual ghost town in March 2006, when the Hornets returned for a game there some six months after Hurricane Katrina. But it was back to pretty good health in 2008 and seemed its old self Thursday night.
First, a history lesson. The French Quarter, just north of Canal Street in downtown New Orleans, is the city’s oldest neighborhood. It was founded in 1718. The Quarter is much more than just the strips of tiny streets that draw tourists to Royal and Bourbon streets. It includes residential blocks and Jackson Square, a city park that is a city block square, named for Andrew Jackson, the hero of the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. When I was a kid, I read a book called The Pirate Lafitte and the Battle of New Orleans. So I’ve always been enamored with the place. But less so after I got there.
But the Dish had never been, so we walked several blocks of it Thursday night. If you like crazy combinations — antique stories with elegant furniture, next to strip clubs, next to Subway sandwich shops, next to a hotel in the middle of a city block, next to a restaurant that dates to the 19th century, next to a convenience store, next to an open-air bar sporting live music — well, then, Bourbon Street is the place for you.
I always joke that when I go to New Orleans, I have to pack a pair of shoes for every day I’ll be gone, because you should just throw away whatever pair you just wore. The streets are a little dirty. Bourbon Street is one of the few places in America where you can walk around with an open container of alcohol, though such laws also are suspended on game days in Stillwater and Norman, so we shouldn’t be too hard on the Louisianans. The shoes deal is a joke. But I will say this. I brought two of my oldest pair of shoes. If I have to leave them behind, no big deal.
New Orleans is a walking city. We’re staying at the convention center — the Courtyard for four nights, where we got a good pre-New Year’s Eve rate, then moving over to the nearby Marriott, the media hotel for the Sugar Bowl. It’s down by the river, south of Harrah’s Casino if you know the area. So it’s maybe a mile walk to the French Quarter, which is no big deal. People are on the street most everywhere. Walking home last night, we had one block to ourselves, and a New Orleans cop was parked at the end of the block, so we felt safe the whole time.
You OU fans coming, dress warm. Daytime temperatures were in the 50s on Thursday, dropping to the low 40s (maybe high 30s) at night. That sounds reasonably warm compared to what we’ve been going through back in Oklahoma, but it was chilly walking the streets. I didn’t bring a heavy coat. Mistake No. 1. I didn’t pack my longjohns. Mistake No. 2.
For dinner, we stopped by Mother’s on Poydras, which along with Canal are the main drags of downtown New Orleans. Mother’s is a New Orleans landmark. It’s sort of a Creole delicatessen. Known for their baked ham and po’ boy sandwiches — they recommend the beef, but I always get the shrimp — it’s a place that’s a must-stop if you’re in New Orleans. The service is uneven — the girl taking our order I guess was cold; she had her shirt pulled up over her nose, like we used to do when playing bank robbers as kids, and never pulled it down so we could hear her clearly. I’ve never seen that before, but generally, service is not great in New Orleans — or in Shreveport, for that matter, I assume it’s a Louisiana thing.
Anyway, we’ve got a riverboat cruise planned for Friday night, then it’s off to major bowl work and whatever else New Orleans adventures await us. The Dish has lots she wants to do. I don’t know if she wants to return to Bourbon Street. But if she does, I’m prepared. I packed the right shoes.