For Christmas Susan got to wake up and drink a French pressed cup of coffee without having to pay a premium price with a 20% tip. She also got to play with a bubbly three year old, laugh with Wild Bill, learn how to make cider sangria and cream cheese sausage balls (oh yeah!) and just enjoy a great, low key day messing around with her family while Elf played in the background.
Susan hopes all your Christmas dreams came true too!


Day Five: Getting Out of New Orleans

More rain, oy.

Susan & her kids had a nice easy 12:11pm flight to Atlanta then a connection to North Carolina. From there they would visit family; first to Wild Bill's daughter's house for Christmas then on to the husband's eldest daughter's house.

Susan fretted about not being able to squish all her stuff back into her luggage, dropped her postcards into the gold mailbox in the lobby & took one last look around her fancy temporary home before climbing into a taxi for the $45 trip to the airport, 11 miles away. Susan liked the lady cab driver working on Christmas Eve with bronchitis who had taken care of her mother until she died two years ago & as a result became certified as a Home Health Aid but is still grieving & not able to resume that kind of work so she drives a cab, and gave her a $10 tip.

Susan knows more about her but how much do you want to hear?
Alright, she'll tell you.

The lady cab driver moved from Kentucky 15 months ago, has a laid off husband & three kids between ten and six and wants to move again because the climate is bad for her health but they're going to wait till they're back on their feet, and she still has to do her Christmas shopping.

There's more, but you get the gist.

Susan knew before she left the hotel that her connecting flight was delayed, but she wasn't concerned. Susan is always surprised by what doesn't bother her because it's unpredictable. The other day she was beside herself worrying about getting her boarding passes while away, which is a situation with many practical options. A delayed connecting flight would normally be the stuff of anxiety for Susan, but today it was like, eh.

At the airport Susan was selected for a random chemical screening and removed from the line so that both her hands could be rubbed with a pad secured to the end of a wand. Thirty seconds. After that she discovered that not only were both their flights delayed, but so was everything up to New York. The pilot for her Louisiana to Atlanta flight was on hand to answer questions in his southern drawl, beautiful pilot's outfit and commanding presence. He was very reassuring.

Surprise Panic: The flight to Atlanta was boarding but there was still an entire airplane's worth of people ahead of them when Susan's son opted to visit the restroom. After ten minutes Susan asked the daughter to text her brother, no response. Five minutes later Susan called him, then called again every minute thereafter as her heart raced imagining someone stealing her 225 pound boy. This was a primal fear based deep in her heart which made no sense as the mother of a grown recreational wrestler, but she didn't care. Ninety nine percent of her was positive that evil had befallen him, but she clung to that teeny one percent that he was just taking a long poop on the potty. When he finally came strolling out of the men's room Susan hugged him.

Fast forward through 2 quick flights which left Susan five hours behind schedule. When she arrived at the rental car counter the representative pointed out that her reservation was for the 20th, not the 24th. Susan explained that's when she began her trip, but not when she intended to pick up the car. He said that the price on the reservation expired 24 hours after the date of pick-up and the current price is now 30% higher because the longer one waits to rent a car the more the price goes up.

Enter Susan at 9pm on Christmas Eve looking for a car.

When the smoke cleared, Susan paid the stupidity tax and drove off into the fragrant North Carolina night toward her niece's house.

Stupidity Tax = mistake related expenses.


Day Four: New Orleans

Day four began much better than day three when everyone got out the door to eat their breakfast at a reasonable time, plus the sun was out and it was warm & breezy. Susan left New York needing a winter jacket, now she was walking around in a shirt & pants, not even a sweater or plastic rain bag.

The spot Susan chose for breakfast was the closest thing they had to a fave place because it's the second time they were there. The first time was for beignets and the waitress said 'that's all you want?' This time Susan didn't care, it was festive, all the windows opened to the street and they had a breakfast menu. Breakfast is Susan's happiest meal, it's full of promise and will also be the least amount of money that she'll spend all day. From her seat Susan could hear the bells ringing from St. Louis Cathedral and the train near the French Market. She grew up a half mile from train tracks and always loves to hear a train.

There was a photo exhibition a few blocks away that Susan wanted to see. You can click on the link and read about The Katrina Decade, Images of An Altered City but Susan can also show you a few pictures right now:
Immediately after the exhibit Susan cut her son loose while she & her daughter went to a used bookstore where Susan did her best to discourage the purchase of heavy lumpy books she would have to lug home in her carry on.

Susan's most magical time of the day came later when both of her teenagers were down for their daily nap, one in which she would normally have joined them, except on this last day she opted to go out for some solitary time and a cocktail. She had her eye set on the Carousel Lounge in the lobby but it was always filled & noisy, so she hit the street and ended up in a little quiet place where she sat at the bar & wrote out postcards while she drank her beloved French 75 and ate crab cakes.
Here's a Christmas parade passing by:
Eventually her kids broke the spell when they tracked her down & requested dinner. Their last meal would be opposite the French Market where a giant pot of crawfish boiled away for all to smell as they walked by. Susan and her kids had never pulled apart crawfish before & asked the server for a quick tutorial. That sh*t was lip burnin' spicy! Susan picked through all the carcasses and sucked them dry, chewing on the shells if she had to. She shared her grilled oysters with garlic aioli, although she really didn't want to.

On the way back to their fancy temporary home they stopped one final time for beignets and Cafe au Lait although there was no room in their stomachs for either.

The End.


Day Three: New Orleans

Susan hasn't eaten a vegetable since she left home.
Instead she has eaten beignets, kumquats, jambalaya, oysters, crawfish etouffee, Andouille sausage gumbo, fried alligator, blackened redfish and drank chicory Cafe au Lait. Susan would be drinking French 75 exclusively if her children weren't around to cramp her style.

Please allow Susan to elaborate on the French 75, she was introduced to it on their first morning in town, it's made with champagne, either gin or brandy (Susan prefers gin), lemon, & simple syrup with a zested lemon peel garnish. Tre fabu! She's going to be serving these to herself on New Year's Eve.

Day Three had no schedule, the only plan was to get up when they felt like it, go to the French market, eat, and poke around. Unfortunately, when one wakes up late one also eats breakfast late, and as a result Susan had a teeny little meltdown. She's sure hardly anyone even noticed. Eventually the triumvirate of family members barely speaking to each other found an all day breakfast joint and everything wrong in the world was righted. At least till Susan got hungry again.

The day was rainy, but it was also a pleasant temperature, Susan re-stocked her supply of $2.99 plastic rain gear, although she would wear hers only if absolutely necessary. They stopped for a snack (that's Susan's code word for beignets) and sat in a breezy open restaurant a block down from the hotel. Phones immediately come out at mealtimes which Susan has been allowing because she understands that 24 hour togetherness breeds contempt and her children need a break from her.

Purchasing every meal for three people is starting to take its toll on our poor heroine. Periodically Susan's son picks up the tip, which she appreciates, but it's not a discount on which she can rely. The other aspect is that she hasn't really fallen in love with any one dish or restaurant, except Cafe Beignet, and that's only because it's a minute's walk, and well, beignets. Generally speaking, she loves gumbo, jambalaya and spicy sausage, but nothing yet has haunted her dreams except for the kumquats and French 75.

Susan has also been depleting her finances by dropping some of it into the hats of local independent musical entrepreneurs. She never gets tired of hearing music in the Quarter but her impatient children do not share this view and are constantly pushing her along.

Here's a picture she took on Day Three:
The End.


Day Two: New Orleans

The homeless don't just sleep on the street, they snore.

Susan and her children had a morning date at Reverend Zombie's House of Voodoo to meet up for a walking tour of St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. However, they opted to leave their hotel late then chose a very leisurely paced establishment in which to order their breakfast dooming them to reschedule till the afternoon.

Magic 8 ball: By the afternoon it would be pouring.

They put their morning to good use inside a vintage store which had the added benefit of assisting Susan's daughter to overcome her terrible mood, one which was really starting to bug Susan. It was also an opportunity to scope out new breakfast spots, specifically ones which would not cost $60 after tip and without liquor.

At noon it was drizzling, by the time they got to Reverend Zombie's it was raining. 

Susan saw a line of tourists wearing disposable slickers and inquired where she might get some for herself. They pointed two doors down and within minutes she & her children were outfitted in glorified plastic bags at $2.99 each.

The rain was unrelenting, coming down harder as the tour progressed. But underneath Susan's plastic bag she was comfortable and dry. Tour guide Jill told everyone about the town's history, religious influences, burial practices over the ages and specific residents of the oldest City of the Dead. 

Eventually, everything outside the protection of Susan's garbage bag got soaked, her shoes squeaked as she walked along, but she didn't care. It was fun to be in the rain, even her kids didn't complain. After the tour concluded she stopped for cafe au lait and beignets then a long nap.

The end.


Day One: New Orleans

Susan is spending a few days in New Orleans with her kids.

Her pre-getting-on-an-airplane-anxiety hit critical mass the day she had to pack, complete a few errands & get to her destination on time. The actual flying through the air was uneventful. She shared inflight coping strategies with her nervous armrest infiltrating seatmate who rewarded Susan with her brand new Food Network magazine.

During the ride to the hotel Susan saw palm trees everywhere! She never considered that she may encounter palm trees and it was a nice surprise. She also passed exotic cemeteries filled with above ground crypts, Susan's a sucker for architecture in any form & got woozy with anticipation of getting an up close crack at them. As for architecture, her French Quarter hotel is a real looker all tarted up for Christmas, even the beautiful wood paneling cleverly distracted her from panicking in the claustrophobically sized elevator.
In the interest of expediency and because Susan is tired, here's a partial list of things she saw on her first day in New Orleans:

  • A noon seizure
  • Gas lights everywhere
  • A preponderance of people encouraging Susan and her children to drink alcohol
  • Helicopters
  • Tarot card & palm readers set up in the street
  • Music!
  • Raspy voiced black men
  • Folks walking around with portable cocktails
  • Fancily attired ladies and gentleman, different than New York fancy
By 8pm the neighborhood was insane with drunks, homeless, normal people, little kids, loud music and police sirens moving everybody along. Neither Susan nor her children objected to retiring early.

The end.