When Surrex goes Marching in
Trip Start Dec 03, 2008
1Trip End Dec 07, 2008
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We barely made it two blocks before being guided into The Blue Bayou by a member of its wait staff. "Hey guys! In here, in here!" It became so predictable that everyone would repeatedly try to lure you into their place of business. Recalling my days in Cancun, it was comparable to the flea market hustlers grabbing at your arms and declaring how much better and affordable their products were than the neighboring competitors. Fortunately for us, this restaurant was the welcoming taste of Louisiana we were seeking. We quickly stuffed ourselves full of fried shrimp, hush puppies, and crab meat, and polished off each bite with a swig of the many liquors they had ready on tap. An hour and seven cocktails later, the welcoming taste of New Orleans felt more like a welcoming sledge hammer to the head.
The final day, Saturday, proved to be a lot more relaxing. Madeline (my Denver office teammate) and I were getting the "tired-of-your-coworker" version of cabin fever, and had decided to go to a local pastry shop for breakfast, followed by a walk around the Mississippi River and past Harrah's Casino. This 4-day trip had begun to feel like we had been there two weeks. I needed a taste of my normal routine, so I retired to the hotel room to watch some college football championship games, especially my team, the Virginia Tech Hokies.
Our party crowd had packed its way around the doorway so all I could see was a nostalgic-looking band and an overweight tuba player. As soon as the music dropped and the marching into our hotel lobby had begun, I realized what was going on. Coincidentally, just the previous week, I had watched an old James Bond movie, "Live and Let Die."
The opening sequence depicts a similar funeral march set in 1970s New Orleans, where the pallbearers are carrying an empty casket throughout the city streets. I remember watching that thinking, "What the f*@$?", and here I am, one week later, with the exact same reaction. Oddities aside, I embraced the tradition, picked up a cocktail, and turned on the good times. Behind the band and pallbearers were two crying wives, and a town crier. The targeted theme was to "bury" all of the negativity the 2008 economy brought to us, and to give praise for all that lie ahead in 2009. The band's soulful music was resonating loudly throughout the hotel, which brought out numerous spectators, including members of the Atlanta Falcons NFL team who were staying at the same hotel and getting ready for their game against the Saints the next day. "Where's that fool, Matt Ryan?!" I kept hollering, in an attempt to agitate my Boston area coworkers (again, I represent Virginia Tech, who had just pummeled Boston College in the ACC title game)! Ah, the beauty of gloating.
Marching outside, I could not believe it: there were police vehicles already out there blocking off the city streets to clear a path for our march. They closed off quite possibly the busiest street in New Orleans for us, and if that wasn't enough, the police motorcycles led our entire team all the way down Bourbon Street! I suddenly felt a fraction of what Kevin Garnett and the Boston Celtics must have felt earlier this year. Not because I had accomplished an athletic feat, but for the way the patrons of the street gathered around, waving handkerchiefs at us and tossing their beads in celebration. Hell, even the homeless guy took a break from his panhandling duties and joined our crowd for some dance moves. For that night, we had brought glory into the town, and I'd like to think we gave the onlookers something to write home about.
Arriving at Muriel's, I was thrust back in time to my memories of vacationing in France, and visiting the old burlesque houses. The Big Man (boss) had rented the entire upstairs, which included some very plush, deep red couches with more pillows for adornment than those on my grandmother's bed. Seriously? I'll never understand how you can convert a six-person sofa into a solo chair. A wonderful roast beef dinner with seafood and salad was served, and I chose to sit next to coworkers from St. Louis, a respectable office that I had not yet gotten to know. Looking back on the ceremonious night, it strikes me with motivation and happiness knowing that my company, at a time when I felt maybe I didn't deserve it, brought me to New Orleans anyway for a fantastic and memorable experience. Thanks!
Where I stayed