Thursday, February 25, 2010

Time Stood Still, Then Hit the Re-set Button

Where to begin? This could take awhile . . . .

Super Bowl Sunday!

The two Carnival parades scheduled to roll on the Uptown route bumped up their start time by a few hours so everyone could get home in time to tune in. Marching bands and parade riders were decked out in black and gold, fleurs de lis were ubiquitous -- the anticipation was electric. Businesses shut down -- even our Rouse's supermarket sent everyone home by 6:00 so employees could watch THE Game with friends and family.

We headed out to the watch party about 4:00, passing several impromptu walking parades, all shouting "Who Dat!!" and blaring "When the Saints Come Marching In" -- not to mention "Halftime (Get Down and Get Crunk)."

We watched the game at our friend, Aaron's, penthouse in the Warehouse District -- pretty ritzy digs with two gigantic flatscreens in the living area -- neither blocking the pool table.

Aaron has a really nice and really cute, but really young, girlfriend who hadn't done much in the way of party preparation, so we were glad that I had (with Aaron's blessing and encouragement) engaged in what I have come to call "self-defensive cooking." I have a lot of food allergies and sensitivities (I mean, really, who else is allergic to beef, for crying out loud!), plus the recent fun-fun-fun diabetes diagnosis, so there is often little I can eat at small gatherings. Self-defensive cooking can be a pain in the rear, but it provides sustenance for me and, in this case, about 20 other folks! My pork tenderloin with Creole sauce on Parkerhouse rolls was a hit, if I do say so myself. And I do. (As my Great-Aunt Tynkie used to say, "He who tooteth not his own horn gets tooted not.")

The shot of the Crescent City Connection bridge was taken from the wraparound balcony ("balcony" seems such an inadequate word -- how about "outdoor suite?"). I couldn't make myself sit down -- paced the entire game to help the Saints advance the ball, or stop the Colts. As a matter of fact, I was still pacing on the balcony when the second half began, so I missed the onsides kick-off. I did get back in time to see the end of that "scrum," though, and to sense the turning of the tide. What a call!

The atmosphere got lighter and lighter. The plays got better and better. Peyton Manning threw the winning "pass" to our Tracy Porter who scampered down the field for the touchdown that sealed the deal. The clock ticked down to Zero -- and the City That Care Forgot exploded!

We forced ourselves to stay inside and watch while Deuce McAllister presented the Lombardi Trophy to Sean Payton -- such a little kid to be such a big, bad football coach! -- and to see precious Drew Brees hoist his grinning son into the air and be named MVP, then we all floated out onto the balcony to shoot off fireworks (along with thousands of others across the City -- the skies were mottled with sparkling pockets of pyrotechnics) and to toast the Bless You Boys with "Who Dat Champagne!"

I trust Aaron has good fire insurance. It didn't occur to me to worry about it at the time.

Then we set off on foot on the 1.42 mile trek to the French Quarter. Along with countless other folks. Countless, yes, but a good estimate would put scores of thousands out there -- and every single one of them is now my new best friend! I hugged and high-fived more strangers than I could ever possibly imagine -- including a couple of policemen -- and haven't come down with any strange new diseases yet. Just a chronic case of Saints Fever.

We're a couple of decades older than most of Aaron's guests (especially his girlfriend!), so we left the Quarter earlier than they did so we could head home to liberate the dogs and watch the ongoing celebration on local tv. By the time we started back to the Warehouse District to pick up leftovers and the car, the police had shut down and barricaded Canal Street to accommodate the swelling, jubilant crowd who wanted to be in Dat Number. Swarms of fans were still heading toward the Quarter! I stayed up until 2:00 in the morning watching the delirious throng in disbelief -- the 'Aints had actually won the Superbowl.

I slept well, but not long.

On Monday, I joined Shay's fiance and his grandmothers -- all of us decked out in Saints finery -- for lunch and took him to the airport to catch a plane home. Having stood in line for hours with thousands of his newest best friends at Academy Sports so he could be among the first to acquire Super Bowl Champion goodies, Tim was pretty tired, and we were doubtful that he'd even be able to make it home since Little Rock had been struck by an unexpected blizzard that shut down the city and gave Super Bowl revelers a bonus "snow day." But, we ate and re-played the game over and over at a really good Po boy shop, shaking our heads every now and then as the reality of the victory began to sink in. En route to the airport, we passed the team buses heading back to the Saints' practice facility on Airline Drive! Thirty thousand had shown up to welcome them home, including Tim's Aunt Patty.

On Monday night, we ate leftover pork tenderloin with Creole sauce. Who could cook!

Then came Tuesday -- the Saints Super Beauxl Victory Parade!

Bear in mind that there would have been a parade regardless of the game's outcome, but it might not have been of that magnitude had the score been flipped in the Colts' favor. And the scale of this parade, thrown together in just a couple of days, was nothing short of freakin' un-be-lieveable.

Entergy released its employees to go home (or to stay and watch) at 2:00 since its building sits right on the route, so we decided that I'd ride the streetcar downtown to meet Pepper, who would just stay at work until parade time at 5:00. I planned to leave early to try to avoid the crowds, so I locked the house and arrived at the stop at 2:00-ish and managed to get on a streetcar pretty quickly. A jam-packed streetcar. A streetcar that turned out to be the next-to-last car to run before they shut them down! Everyone was carrying posters and wearing Saints-emblazoned gear and smiling smiles so big you wondered whether their faces might permanently freeze that way. Everyone talked to everyone else -- there were no strangers on that streetcar, we were all family.

When I ride the streetcar down to join Pepper for Hornets games at the Arena, I get off at the Girod Street stop and walk the 5 or 6 blocks to the Entergy Building, so, of course, that was the plan of action that day.


The driver stopped just short of Emeril's Delmonico and announced, "End of the line!" So, even though a little taken aback, off we trooped, "Who Dat-tin'" down the neutral ground. It was a beautiful, sunny -- quite nippy -- day, perfect for the mile or so stroll to Pepper's office.

When I got to Lee Circle, I figured out that this wasn't going to be any regular ol' parade. Lee Circle was already gridlocked at 2:30! People were sitting in camp chairs or standing 5 or 6 deep! I barely managed to get across to Carondelet to wend my way to Girod.

I passed a man sitting on the steps in front of a one-story office building and commented on the crowds. He said he had been waiting for a taxi to get home for half an hour -- I told him that probably wasn't going to happen since Lee Circle was already impassable by car, and wished him luck. He said, "Damn. Go Saints!"

I seriously almost didn't make it across Loyola, the street where the parade would roll several hours hence, and once across, I had to go through the parking garage to access the building. Security was a little overwhelmed, to say the least.

Once in Pepper's office, I took in the whole scene. On the Super Dome side, I watched as the floats -- loaned to the City by several of the Carnival krewes -- were being lined up and loaded, shepherded by a fleet of blue-light-flashing vehicles. On the Loyola Street side, I saw tents where people had camped out overnight to secure a spot in history. I saw traffic at the Camp and O'Keefe Street exits of the Ponchartrain Expressway backed up for miles, two full hours before the parade was scheduled to roll! I saw people dancing in the streets and celebrating, heedless of the encroaching cold, and loving their fellow citizens of the Who Dat Nation. "Thank You!" banners fluttered from parking decks, fleur-de-lis flags proudly flew atop high-rise buildings. Helicopters buzzed over the parade route and zipped through passages among the buildings -- even a Black Hawk! The joy was literally palpable and contagious-- even 22 stories up.

When we went down to the street as the parade began to roll, we couldn't get any closer than 50 people deep to the street, but, that's okay with me, cause I'm an edge-of-the-crowd kind of gal, even though I'm also a short kind of gal. So, my pictures aren't too good, but they are sharp and indelible in my mind -- I wish you could see them as I do.

A fighter jet flyover and the newly-elected Mayor passed by -- then came The SAINTS! Pepper actually managed to snag a string of beads flung from the Budweiser wagon! And the roar of the crowds was deafening -- for hours! 800,000 souls had made their way into the City for the canonization of their team. What a ride!!!

And then it was Wednesday. And it sleeted in New Orleans. Hell had indeed frozen over.

We all stood a little taller; we all held our heads a little higher. And, from that moment on, time will be measured a little differently. We can now move past The Storm. Time in New Orleans will not be measured in increments since Katrina -- it will date from that Magic Moment when the Saints rewarded the faithful with the Lombardi Trophy. We're back.

Next up -- a Most Magical Mardi Gras.


  1. Great AAR, Moogie. I felt like I was right there witcha.

  2. Yeah, what Buck said! It's gotta be a hoot and a half...nothing puts a spring in a step like winning. I'm sure the Crescent City has never been more fun!