Who could say no to spending Halloween in New Orleans? I am forever changed after my experience in NOLA in 2009.
While I didn’t bring my camera out for probably the most picturesque part of New Orleans (the night life), the memories will always be with me. New Orleans isn’t just about southern hospitality, although our new friend Mary was absolutely amazing for sharing her home with us. There truly is something in the air about the place that makes you feel at home. You don’t feel like a tourist at all. People welcome you with open arms, a bottle to share, and shower you with inspiration. I had never felt so free or embraced by another culture. It was like long ago I called the place my home and I had just been on a long vacation before. Nick said it best when he was asked to list why he loves New Orleans: “Because I felt like I came home when visiting for the first time.”
I was never a big fan of Halloween, but New Orleans changed that. I now do my best to make each Halloween unique and special. Nick was on a special hiatus finding his way in New Orleans, and invited me down for a long weekend. Since it has always been on a places to visit, it only made sense to go. My first night in New Orleans were truly unforgettable.
I arrived from the airport via Taxi after my driver got completely lost, I found Nick standing on a a corner under a street lamp in the dark neighborhood. It was already after 10 p.m. but we knew the night was just getting started. After dropping off our stuff, thanks to Mary we had a couple bikes to get around town with. Mary lives just on the edge of the French Quarter so it was perfect. We made our way to a bar where an amazing jazz pianist was playing and as soon as that was over, Nick showed me around the city. New Orleans couldn’t have looked more beautiful and peaceful at night on our bikes.
I learned that Nick met a “real pirate” named Steve, and he got a pirate costume from him. Sometimes you can smell remnants of Steve on the jacket as well. And that every other street we biked on was safe or sketchy and I knew that if Nick started peddling faster, I was supposed to follow quickly.
Nick purchased an AMAZING pirate mask from a shop called Maskerade, and I knew I wanted something like that too. I was Mother Nature that year and found the perfect mask for me. It cost an arm and a leg but I’ve managed to use it on several more occasions since.
My first morning in NOLA began after noon at Coop’s Place. Hands down my favorite place to eat. It only seemed appropriate to start my day with a mimosa and fried chicken….I am fairly certain that if I ever lived in New Orleans I would become an alcoholic and obese. I’m not even sure if salads existed on any menus…
While Halloween technically wasn’t until Saturday, we kicked it off on Friday night. We weren’t the only ones with that idea. This was the night I discovered March Fourth Marching Band. Nick raved about them and I couldn’t have been more amazed. It was truly a magical night. The actual night of Halloween had the streets filled, people throwing pirate medallions (unfortunately mine got lost in the chaos), and hanging out with local people. To me Halloween in New Orleans was like Mardis Gras but with local people instead of tourists. This thought was confirmed when I met a girl in a Saint’s jersey in the back of a parked truck on Frenchman street. She agreed there was no better time to come visit.
Mary’s boyfriend at the time (now husband) Barry was kind enough to spend an afternoon with Nick and I showing us around the Lower Ninth Ward. There was something so eerie and sad about the place. It was four years since Hurricane Katrina and it looked like the storm just occurred the year before. Abandoned homes, empty lots with grown over grass, and some rare people determined to rebuild and stay in their homes. It was a sobering experience, but definitely one I am forever touched by.
One of my favorite experiences was a Second line parade (aka Jazz funeral). A brass band, dancers, and family members walk in these parades, which can be found listed in the paper when a family member has passed. I have never seen a better memorial/way of celebrating a life. Nick and I followed and joined the parade, as most spectators do when one comes by. One of the funniest moments during our walk was when we saw a little kid (probably age 4 or 5) in baggy jeans, an oversied shirt and beanie chug a can of coke, crumple it up and threw it against a house. We couldn’t stop laughing at the absurdity of it all.
I will never forget New Orleans and know I will come back to visit. A part of my heart has been left there so I’ll be back to collect it soon.