The Saints have never played in the Super Bowl. Ever. The Vikings have played in 4 Super Bowls, but they haven’t ever won. Viking fans have started pouring into town for the game this Sunday. As I did my near-daily walk around the neighborhood, there were people out walking everywhere. There are always tourists walking this part of town, riding in tour vans or horse-drawn carriages, but today there were more than usual for a weekday.
I’ve become like my Paw Paw who used to go to the bank everyday then to the Piggly Wiggly to pick up a grocery item or two. I always wondered why he didn’t just go to the bank once a week and buy groceries once a week. I used to hate grocery shopping so much that I’d buy dry goods to get me through and only go every 3 weeks. And I went to the bank so infrequently, they started charging my account for “inactivity.” Today, I walked to another local bookstore (still looking for the one from my sister-in-law’s dream) and window-shopped some fun (and inexpensive) estate jewelry and Mardi Gras masks, decorations, jewelry, tea towels, and koozies (might have to get me one of those – it’s silky, green fabric covered with a bedazzled crown on it and a purple boa around the top). They also had everything Saints. Saints kitchen towels, Saints fancy milled soaps, etc. etc. which brings me back to Saints fever.
I walked to the Breaux Mart to buy some yogurt and sharp cheddar, Paw Paw style, and the woman checking me out was wearing a Saints t-shirt with a saying I hadn’t seen yet, so I complimented her and she confided in me, “The last customer didn’t seem to appreciate the shirt at all. I think he was a Vikings fan.” I teased her that their money’s just as green and she said, “I just looked at him and said, ‘Well, you can see where I stand.'” The patios and bars on Magazine Street were full, and it was only 4:30. Most people around here have more normal hours so it shouldn’t have looked like Sunset Blvd. during lunch hour, but it did. Only WAY more relaxed and happy. People are still excited to talk about this being the happiest state. They seem very proud of it which means they probably value happiness above other things – which is probably why they won.
Walking back, everywhere I looked, there were Saints flags, Saints t-shirts – even on bejeweled, elegant older women with manicures and salon hairdos. Sucre, the local high-end sweetshop, sold Saints cakes alongside their Mardi Gras king cakes. Breaux Mart had giant chocolate chip cookies with the Saints logo, a black and gold fleur de lis on them next to their king cakes.
Before we leave Breaux Mart, I want to point out another difference between here and, not just L.A., but pretty much anywhere else. Many grocery stores hand out free samples as a way to increase sales. Trader Joe’s even has a sample bar that’s open all the time serving tiny bites of fun recipes they’ve concocted along with a tea, coffee or juice sample in a tiny paper specimen cup. This is the first time I’ve seen free samples at the Breaux Mart and, like with many things here, I had to stop and make sure I was seeing what I thought I was seeing. There was a girl set up in the middle of the refrigerator section handing out entire beers. She had big plastic to-go cups so you could bring it with you around the store or even outside. Its not illegal to drink on the streets of New Orleans and Breaux Mart is proving the point that you can get a to-go cup from almost anywhere that sells alcohol. I got past her and a man was set up at another table in the wine section handing out big plastic cups of wine. Reminded me of when I did a job in France and craft services (the snack bar on any filming set), which is usually nuts, cookies, gum, red vines, PBJ’s and soda was, instead, candle-lit with brie, bread and bottles and bottles of wine. The rest of the cast on that project were high school students.
Back to Saints Fever. It’s contagious, it’s sweeping the nation. Everyone loves an underdog and the Saints are as overdue as they come. And it couldn’t come at a better time. the city is bouncing back with a vengeance. These are indomitable people. This chance at the Super Bowl has unified the city after they’ve been through so much that made the divisions all too apparent. Winning this Sunday would not only turn this town into the biggest party anyone’s seen in quite some time, it would be a boon for the local economy. Everything’s bouncing back and the film industry is certainly helping, but this was the number one convention destination for years and years, even beating Las Vegas. This month, no major conventions came. MANY local businesses suffer those losses.
I hope the Saints do come marching in. I hope the “Who Dat?” nation conquers the Vikings, but what I hope most is that all of this celebratory attention reminds people why this city is at the soul of America, that it’s a place for food, family, fun (and plenty of alcohol), that it’s a place where one bar stayed open in the French Quarter throughout the duration of Katrina, that it’s a place where people protest by parading down to City Hall and jazzing at it (literally playing jazz AT the building – with a vengeance!), that it’s a city where even the funerals are parades and parties, that it’s a city where festivals are weekly occurrences, where, during Mardi Gras, we have 60 parades, 1,200 floats, 600 bands, and 115 Balls (the kind with gowns and tuxes, not the round kind) in 2 weeks time. This is a magical and historical place and we can all visit it without a passport.
Oh, and I forgot to put the photo of the Christmas wreath my aunt gave me revamped for Mardi Gras with some of my folder cut-outs and leftovers from our house decorations.