I’d been vacationing with family at Bethany Beach, Delaware for 4 days already when Mom called us up to her room. We walked in and found everyone out on the balcony with a surprise 1st anniversary party for us – NOLA style. They’d decorated with Mardi Gras beads, streamers and coffee-filter flowers. We were handed a bouquet, a black top hat and a tiara with a veil to wear with our beach clothes. Rebirth Brass Band‘s Do Watcha Wanna played and a cake was decorated with that same phrase. We danced around waving Kleenex and my brother did his best imitation of DancingMan504 jumping at our wedding in the French Quarter. It was so wonderful bringing our beloved city to that balcony in Delaware. New Orleans’ soul travels well.
There was a sno-ball truck that would park near the beach every day playing It’s a Small World. A guy would get out and run down to the beach. He’d clang on something loud and metallic while yelling, “Sno-balls! Sno-balls! We’ve got ice cold sno-balls!” It reminded me of Mr. Okra chanting, “I’ve got eggplant. I’ve got fresh oranges” from his brightly painted truck. I went to the sno-ball truck once. I figured if they were using a SnoWizard ice machine and syrups, there was a chance they wouldn’t suck. But, their machine like something out of a comic book and the guy inside the truck had no idea what to say when I asked him who made it. So we passed. My nephew finally got one and as my mom taught me to say, it was not my favorite. But imitation is still the finest form of flattery so I appreciated the effort and the memories it stirred up.
When we returned to NOLA, it was time to celebrate my birthday at Commander’s Palace. As always, the service was the best in the city and the food was outstanding. I couldn’t decide between the heirloom tomato salad and the salad with fresh peaches and a wonderful soft cheese so I had both. It’s nearly a rule for me that if they have soft shell crab on the menu, I have to order it. The preparation had corn so sweet it tasted like the chef had bent the ear into a pot of boiling water while it was still on the stalk. The delicately crispy crab, greens, corn and sauce sat atop fabulous grits. Yum.
At the table next to us, a family was celebrating the birthday of twins, a girl and a boy maybe 6 or 7 years old. They, along with their adorable little sister, were impeccably dressed. I guessed the clothes might be from Pippen Lane, the poshest of kid’s boutiques. When their Shirley Temple-type “cocktails” arrived, the was rubber ducky in a tall chef’s hat floating in each glass. I have to admit, I was a little jealous. But I happily wore my tall chef’s hat when desert was delivered and added it to the stack in the kitchen when we got home.
I spent my actual birthday working on a film playing Scott Bakula’s wife. Our kids were the delightful Jessica Rothe
and Joseph Haro but the scene was a tough one. I suppose most people don’t spend their birthdays sobbing over and over in front of a camera and crew, but that’s showbiz. Exuberant Taylor Frey joined us at Napoleon House for the light-hearted second day. The passionate Gabriele Muccino directed (Seven Pounds and The Pursuit of Happyness) the mostly local crew.
One of the highlights of my day was when a crew member asked me to sign his girlfriend’s copy of my book, Know Small Parts: An Actor’s Guide to Turning Minutes into Moments and Moments into a Career with foreword by Richard Dreyfuss. He apologized for the book being so worn, curled and used but it thrilled me to see how helpful the book had been to his girlfriend, how much she’d loved it up and squeezed out ideas and answers.
After filming, I got to walk home surrounded by the beauty that attracts so many filmmakers, foodies, music lovers artists and others looking to be inspired. Happy birthday to me!