It was the strangest thing.
Even though I had never been to New Orleans before I knew how it would look, I knew how it would sound, and I knew how it would smell.
And how did I know this?
A few years earlier I had voraciously feasted on Anne Rice’s novel…
“The Witching Hour”
…and when I finally closed the cover of that 900 page book, there was no doubt in my mind that it would only ever exist for me exactly as she had written it.
I would not have it any other way.
It was 1991 when my husband brought the hardcover home to me after one of his business trips.
He gave me two instructions.
The first instruction was to read the first three pages of the novel. If those three pages had not peaked my interest then I was to read no further and put the book away.
His second instruction was to listen to Chris Isaac’s album “Heart Shaped World” as I read the book.
This album is best known for his first big hit: “Wicked Games.”
I am very glad that I did just that.
Decades later, every time I listen to that album, I am overcome with the sounds and smells of New Orleans.
I was able to travel to New Orleans in August 1997.
It was as if I had been there before.
Anne Rice did not skip a beat in any of her descriptions.
Offhand, there were two things that did surprise me about New Orleans.
With every few steps, the fragrances carried by the balmy breezes changed.
Steps 1-2-3-4 would be gumbo.
Steps 5-6-7 would be beer.
Then you would smell cleaner, coffee, beignets, then garbage.
It caught me off guard at how a shanty in a slum-like setting would have a limo parked in the driveway.
I watched a woman dressed to the nines in a full length fur coat and expensive sunglasses as she waited at the traffic light while another woman stood beside her bent over as she rummaged through a steel drum that served as the refuse container.
Even the insects were enigmatic.
Never before had I seen bugs stop to mate in mid-air. And then they would fly away still stuck together.
No word of a lie, even after we arrived home there were lots of post coital pairs of once amorous bugs baked onto our front hood courtesy of the hot Louisiana sun.
We didn’t get them off for months.
Most memorable moments in New Orleans was the Cafe Du Monde, and the Mardi Gras Mask shop.
I enjoyed getting my Earnest Hemingway on as I tried to place myself back into his time and see if I could maybe get his bead on things.
My husband never had adventurous taste buds and so we compromised on dining at Jimmy Buffet’s ‘Margueritaville.’
Indeed, it was an iconic moment when his song, ‘Margaritaville’ came on the restaurant Muzak at exactly the moment they placed down my cheeseburger in Paradise.
The scariest moment of the visit was when a vagrant tried to sell my daughter one of the roses that he had obviously scoffed from the nearby cemetery. The look of horror in her eyes said it all. I just told her to back away slowly while I handed the beggar all the one dollar bills in my pocket.
It’s hard to pack in a day’s experiences of New Orleans in a single blog post.
I highly recommend you consider visiting there yourself.
If that is not possible in the foreseeable future, you might try reading Anne Rice’s book…
“The Witching Hour”, which easily makes the shortlist for my favourite books.
If neither of those are possible, get yourself some Hurricane mix, pour yourself a tall one, put on some Lois Armstrong, close your eyes and take it all in.
That’s better isn’t it!