From birth to legalization, I’ve spent my first 18 years of life in sunny Southern California.
Until yesterday, I’d never heard the words “praline”, “grits”, “gumbo”, or “jambalaya”, and my best guess at what a hushpuppy might possibly be was some sort of Hostess product like a Ding Dong or a Sno Ball.
The profound difference between Los Angeles and New Orleans was mind-boggling. I entered another world.
Walking down Bourbon Street, taking in the aberrant fragrance of liquor, smoke, and fried food, while thunderous jazz escaped the wide open doors of bars and clubs out into the night’s brisk air – I could have been on a different planet.
My favorite moment happened while sipping cafe’ au lait on the deck of the world famous Cafe Du Monde. Nibbling at my praline and dark chocolate encrusted apple, I sat making jaunty conversation with my party of three, enjoying a background music of smooth jazz from the street musicians behind us.
As their song came to an end and the applause from their collected audience began to lull, the saxophone player seated center began to speak:
“Thank you, all, thank you. Now, I’d like to introduce everyone here in the band, I really would. But I can’t. I just met them!”
With a buoyant laugh, he began playing once again and the crowd clapped as the rest of the performers joined in and the music took off.
I smiled at the saxophone player and the five other musicians in the bunch that didn’t even know each other’s names, and I let the ambiance of New Orleans welcome me in.