Saturday, April 16, 2011

Breakfast in the Crescent City

I wish you could share with me live the view I am enjoying: I'm sitting in the 29th floor Executive Lounge of the Hilton Riverside, overlooking the Mississippi as it curves around to the south, toward the Gulf. There is not a cloud in the sky, the waters far below me sparkle in the morning sun, and I am getting ready for a day of meetings and training sessions. Oh, what a wonderful life I lead!
My "office" on the 29th floor

I arrived in NOLA very late Thursday night and stayed in the Doubletree at Louis Armstrong Airport; yesterday morning I took the bus and cable car down Canal Street to the Hilton, which is the race headquarters for this weekend's 70.3 half-Ironman triathlon.After picking up my credentials as Head Referee, meeting a number of people, and being present for the first of several Athletes' Briefings I had some time off and walked over to the French Quarter, which is just a few minutes away. Even on a non-Mardi Gras Friday afternoon, Bourbon Street is hopping. Tourists mill around from bar to bar, clutching "Huge Ass Beers" and "Hand Grenades." Music (most of it live) blares from the various establishments, while hawkers advertise the current Happy Hour special—two for one, three for one, $5 Hurricanes. A group of at least 25 motorcyclists who had been partying hard, it seemed, laid down some serious rubber when they took off, much to the delight of those around. Street musicians, pantomimes, and panhandlers all try to squeeze a few cents or a buck out of you. A fat fella's T-shirt provocatively asks "Got KY?" What looks like a well-dressed, middle-aged business woman stumbles down the street, drunker than a skunk What a scene!

The bikes at rest before a crowd-pleasing exit
I ended up first in the Maison Bourbon, where a traditional jazz band was playing to a dozen of us. The Abita beer wasn't cheap at $7 for a pint, but that's to be expected. "One drink minimum per set" proclaims a sign on the wall. After a few tunes I ambled on, to the Old Opera House where a four-man band, The Bonoffs, played some very, very hot Zydeco. If you've never heard of this Cajun-style music, man, you've missed out. I will most definitely post some YouTube link before long. Zydeco makes heavy use of the squeezebox and the rubboard (similar to a washboard that the player wears and plays with spoons and other implements), and these young artists were really, really talented and had everybody going. Tunes like "Vibrator" and Dr. John's Aiko (not really Zydeco) were good, but "Who Stole my Chicken?" was outstanding.

From traditional jazz ...
... to hot Zydeco
For a late lunch I had a muffaletta, one of those archetypal huge sandwiches loaded with meats, cheese, and a tangy olive spread. Even Judy had loved the muffuletta, and she had taught herself (thanks to Google) how to make them. I picked one up at—where else?—Johnny's Po' Boys, just as traditional as the muffuletta itself.

Inside the always-hoppin' Johnny's
The remainder of the afternoon and evening was spent first up here in the lounge, catching up with some e-mails and work (while sipping wine) and later the VIP party. It was a late night, with good folks.

And now I better stop this post and get going as it will be a busy today and again tomorrow. Hope you guys have as good of a weekend as I am having!

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