Posted by: Mickey Goodman | November 4, 2010

Let the Good Times Roll — In New Orleans

Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez

Jackson Square

I’ve never needed an excuse to return “home” to New Orleans (one of 13 cities where I lived as an Air Force Brat), but an invitation to come to an East Jefferson High School reunion sent my fingers flying to Delta.com to buy a plane ticket. Joining four of my best friends was icing on the cake.

The sophomore, junior and senior classes were a special bunch, the first to walk the halls of a brand new consolidated high school. Some kids hated the idea of having to transfer, but to a newbie like me, it was a dream. We were all paddling the same boat, forging new friendships. Fast. The first football game was a few weeks hence, and disention among former rivals wasn’t going to work if we planned to win. Which of course, we did.

My trips to New Orleans in recent years haven’t been idyllic. I returned two years after Katrina flooded 80 percent of the city and, heartbreakingly, the outlook was still grim. Familiar sections of the city were still unrecognizable, including my old neighborhood where blue tarps drooped sadly over roofs and FEMA trailers sprouted on nearly every yard. Others neighborhoods were vast wastelands with empty-eyed windows peering out onto streets void of human life. I took some solace in the fact that the French Quarter bounced back quickly and most hotels and restaurants were open for business. Many of the famous antique shops, still reeling from massive damage to valuable merchandise, hadn’t reopened.

I was a basketful of apprehension when the hotel shuttle picked me up at the airport. Would my city look vastly different on this, the fifth anniversary? To my relief, construction cranes loomed over the industrial and commercial areas and neighborhoods sported fresh paint and healthy yards instead of FEMA trailers. Though America’s Paris may never be quite the same, the new normal is looking mighty fine.

East Jefferson Reunion

As for the reunion, it didn’t disappoint. Oh, there were a few who had put on the dreaded 100 pounds and others who had paid far too many visits to plastic surgeons, but for the most part, we looked great – for old folks. Waists had thickened, hairlines had receded and many “color corrections” were in evidence. But with the assistance of name tags, it wasn’t too hard to recognize the former high school beauties, total brains, class clowns and football stars. Amazingly, we all grew up to become upstanding citizens!

Between reunion events, my little enclave and I headed for the French Quarter. Jazz wafted out the doors of the bars and raunchy strip joints that dot Bourbon Street, but even the throngs of LSU and Saints fans roaming the streets after weekend games at the Dome Stadium behaved well.

By day, Royal Street was awash with tourists strolling in and out of the same antique shops that have been around for decades – M.S. Rau, Keil and Moss Antiques, Rothschild’s. Happily, New Orleans has maintained its reputation as one of the world’s top antiquing cities.

Though I wasn’t in the market for a major purchase, I couldn’t resist a peek into M.S. Rau where I spied a gold encrusted Romanoff walking cane on sale for a mere $43,850. Other unmarked items caught my eye. A silver tea pot crafted by Paul Revere, an original Norman Rockwell painting and a spectacular 29-carat yellow diamond ring. I guess if you have to ask “how much?” you can’t afford it!

As for dining, no American city can top New Orleans. Despite a proliferation of new restaurants, perennial favorites again stole my heart. The Roosevelt Hotel’s Sazerac Restaurant and Bar, Galatoire’s with its paneled walls, staid waiters and crystal chandeliers. Antoine’s. Commander’s Palace. The Court of Two Sisters. And no visit is complete without repeated trips to Café du Monde for their world famous beignets and café au lait.

Breakfast at Brennan's

That said, no restaurant beats Brennan’s New Orleans for sumptuous breakfasts, first made famous in 1946. Just walking through the elegant doors of the iconic family owned pink building on Royal Street makes me salivate. Each time I open a menu, I promise myself I’ll try something new, but I always fall back on Eggs Sardou (creamed spinach and artichoke bottoms topped with gorgeous poached eggs and Hollandaise sauce). This time was no different.

My friends were a bit more daring, sampling Eggs Bayou Lafourche (eggs atop Louisiana Andouille sausage slathered with Hollandaise sauce and Eggs La Nouvelle Orleans served on a bed of crabmeat. We also blew through far too many loaves of warm crispy French bread with bellies as fluffy as cotton. Of course, there was no way we could neglect Brennan’s signature Bananas Foster prepared at our table by “Super Mario,” a waiter extraordinaire for the last 39 years.

"Super Mario" prepares Bananas Foster

On the last night of the trip, I luxuriated at the fabulous Monteleone Hotel, home to the Carousel Bar where we had a nightcap. Just walking inside the lobby is a treat. Spectacular crystal chandeliers and mirrors add to the old world charm of the hotel that was purchased in 1886 and increased in size five times. As an added bonus, the Monteleone comes replete with friendly resident ghosts, though I have to admit that I didn’t run into a single one – friendly or un.  On my next trip, maybe I’ll have an ethereal visitor!

I hope I can return to New Orleans more frequently than I have in the past, but of one thing, I’m sure. When the first classes of East Jefferson High School reconvene three years down the road, I’ll be there. We will likely have added a few more pounds and lost more hair, but my guess is that the bonds formed five decades ago and reinforced this year will lure us back to East Jefferson and New Orleans where the good times always roll!

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Responses

  1. Thank you for a wonderful article on our school & our city. I am a ’58 grad., but unfortunately was not able to attend. Have participated in planning & attending in the past & hopefully will be able to continue. We all love the reunions & even more so when our companion classes of ’56 & ’57 join with us. Looking forward to 2013, see you then !
    Paula

  2. It was lots of fun and enjoyment with the classes from the beginning of EJ. I really had fun talking about old times, events, and seeing pictures of things we did.. Faces (and bodies) were “a little” different..but the personalities were just the same!!

  3. I look forward to seeing you at the NEXT reunion!


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