The Saints are going to the Superbowl and the city couldn’t be happier.
The day started small. Waved hello to a neighbor walking her dog on a leash made of three strands of Mardi Gras beads (purple, gold and green, of course). Walked to the Quarter, Ipod on, camera in hand. Passed smiling people who would nod and say, “Go Saints.”
As I neared downtown, I became increasingly uncomfortable with my wardrobe choice. I was thinking about things like staying warm and having pockets when I dressed. What I SHOULD have been thinking about was – wear black and gold! By the time I got to the Quarter, I was among, literally, 4 or 5 people who were not wearing either Saints or Vikings colors.
No matter. If I’m brave enough to attend the biggest party on the planet that day alone, I’m brave enough to do it wearing inexplicable brown and turquoise. So, I turned onto Bourbon.
If you’ve never been to Mardi Gras or New Years or some other big party in the Quarter, to try to describe the merriment, the music, the indomitable spirit of this city is nearly impossible. And though a picture may be worth a thousand words, it does little to capture the dancing in the streets, the laughter, the chants of, “Who Dat?” or it’s longer version, “Who Dat? Who Dat? Who dat sayin’ de gonna beat dem Saints?” In a photo, you can’t hear the bands in every bar, all eventually getting around to 2 songs – “When the Saints Come Marching In” and, “Celebrate.” And of course, more rounds of “Who Dat?” – because, like everything here, it has a song.
I noticed that many people wore jerseys with names on the back, but the names weren’t all the same. Sure the top 3 were Bush, Brees and Shockey, but I saw at least 10 other names. Not sure why that impressed me so, but it did.
I finally chose a bar and went in. Normally, I’m uncomfortable with the idea of being a woman alone in a bar, but as Denise, one of the many people who made me feel at home and provided me with beer said, “You’re not alone anymore, honey.” She and her date ( a second date with an internet match) bought me a beer then, later, poured both their beers into my beer to refill it. 3 times.
When I said I was going back to Magazine Street to watch in a local bar, they walked me back to Canal Street to catch a streetcar. We passed a brass band and danced in the street until I saw a streetcar pulling out and had to give quick hugs and run 2 blocks to meet it.
And, of course, the people on the streetcar were in a great mood and I met a nice student and his girlfriend.
I ran home to change into the only black and gold thing I own, a cocktail blouse, then drove the 6 blocks to the first bar I came to and wandered in hoping to find friends. But it was a pretty young crowd and I’d decided to leave when a woman in her 40’s wandered in and said she was meeting a friend. I told her I’d wait with her until her friend got there. Kristin is a sweetheart and an actress/voice coach. The friend, Heidi, a face painter and blogger and world adventurer, was very cool and so I stayed. The first half of the game was so exciting. The place was packed with Saints fans and optimism. But at half-time, Heidi said she was heading over to the Mayan Import Company, a very cool tobacco/cigar store, to watch the rest of the game.
There were about 10 people there. All locals. Two of the guys had known each other since birth. Everyone had been waiting for this for as long as they could remember. Everytime anything exciting happened, we’d go out into the street and holler and listen to the cheering for miles around.
When they won, it was nirvana. To borrow some words from Jay Mariatti of Fanhouse, “This was Mardi Gras squared, Fat Tuesday on steroids.” “All night long, until day broke on the Bayou, the noise was deafening here. The folks had emotion to release, the familiar pain finally replaced by euphoria. I stepped over to Bourbon Street myself near midnight. And I’m happy to report that no one was turning over taxis or lighting taverns on fire. Horns were honking. Police were watching peacefully. And people still were crying, as they will for days and weeks and maybe the rest of their lives.”
My biggest dream when I left the house alone that day was that I’d get to dance in the streets. Heidi’s was that she could load her pick-up with strangers heading to the Quarter. So, I piled in (the front seat) and, after cruising Magazine, which was PACKED with partiers in the streets, we drove down St. Charles and picked up over a dozen people on our way into town. We finally chose a destination, Lucy’s in the Warehouse District.
Or rather, we chose that corner as there were 4 bars we wandered in and out of at that intersection and a D.J. in the streets. Two cops held everything in check, but they were Saints fans too. They never told me to quit dancing in the street, quit drinking in public or quit yelling in the middle of the night. They just smiled and tried not to dance.
I danced with many, many people and had the time of my life. Men dance here. Plenty. And they dance together. Last night, giant groups of jersey-clad guys danced to “Back that ass up,” and other booty-shaking songs – with no girls.
When we were getting a drink in Lucy’s, a brass band paraded from the front door and out the back. Later, they came back from back to front and we did second line (joining the parade). They parked on a corner and the D.J. gave them some time to lead us all in “When the Saints Come Marching In” and “Pocky Way” and other local favorites. To say I had the time of my life just doesn’t cover it.
Heidi found a dollar in the street and was pretty excited about it. Then, she found $100 and wasn’t sure what to do. We finally decided it was the way of the world and there was no way to find the owner. When we returned to her truck, we realized we had misunderstood the parking and they had booted the truck. It cost $90. That’s the way of the world, too, but we saw it as a happy ending that she’d found enough money to cover it.
Around 4 am, we drove around looking for somewhere to eat and ended up at Dot’s Diner. (their photo gallery is fun)
I was home by 5 am. Which is when I realized that I’d lost my cell phone. But this is a story with nothing but happy endings. Today, I crossed my fingers and hoped I’d lost it before we left Magazine Street and walked to the places I’d been. I was not the only one in search of a phone. It was at the cigar store!
And I was not the only one who lost my voice. Heidi’s truck horn is totally honked out now.