Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"I'm walkin' to New Orleans..."

ROSEMARY: Not really walking, but I love that song. Fats Domino.
Once again I've been asked to put together Mystery Day at ALA. ALA is the American Library Association and twice a year they hold conferences which get anywhere from 8,000 to 20,000 attendees (depending on location.) It is a lot of work, but I love it and it lets me hang out with some really cool writers.

On Saturday June 25, we'll hold panel discussions and one on one interviews all day and we have a stellar lineup which includes Amy Alessio, Frankie Bailey, Rhys Bowen, Jane Cleland, Barbara Fister, Steve Hamilton, Carolyn Hart, Libby Fischer Hellmann, JA Jance, Ken Kuhlken, Nancy Martin, Cathy Pickens, Karin Slaughter, Julie Smith, Elaine Viets, Michael Wiley...and me. And what better city to party in than New Orleans?

I confess I was not always a big fan of The Big Easy (actually I'm a big fan of Ellen Barkin so I love the movie of the same name) but it's hard to stay on a diet there, the streets are frequently crowded with rowdy college students and then there's the whole boobs and beads thing which I just don't get. It didn't help that when I was in the video business I had to go there once a year for a television programming conference and one year we had the misfortune of booking a party space right next to a place where Howard Stern was having a party. It was a disaster.

But one thing changed my mind - Preservation Hall.
A friend in the music business took me there years ago and now no trip to NOLA is complete without at least one and usually two trips to Preservation Hall where the musicians change but the music never does. And I always request the same song, Petit Fleur by Sidney Bechet. They don't serve food or alcohol - that's okay there's no shortage of either in Nawlins - and they shoo you out after one set, but for me it's the quintessential New Orleans experience and I can't wait to go back. Anyone else know what it means to miss New Orleans?

HANK: I covered the Super Bowl there! When the Patriots played the Bears. It was hilarious..and because I was the feature reporter, I went everywhere and saw everything. That was pre-Katrina, of course, so I know it's all different now. SO sorry to miss ALA this year..sigh. Have chicory coffee and a beignet for me.

HALLIE: New Orleans is always about the food for me. YES, chicory coffee and beignets. Crawfish. Oysters oysters oysters. Po-boy sandwiches eaten on the street while listening to jazz. Are they eating local seafood again? Bread pudding so many wonderful ways. Bananas Foster. (Hank, I think we were there that year - I remember the hotel was crawling with football players.)

ROSEMARY: Hank, you covered the Super Bowl..that's so cool. Bananas Foster...does anyone know who Foster was? Acme Oyster House, Jacques Imo and Mother's. Actually saw Dr. John having lunch at Mother's once, peek experience. And zydeco at MidCity Bowling Alley.

HANK: Yes, it was wonderful..although we stayed on a river boat that was under construction--what I remember most about it: the towels were the size of--dish towels. But when you cover a story like that, there's zero time for sleeping--I remember being up literally all night editing in room we had rigged. But I saw Richard Gere in Jackson Square, and at Galatoires's, Jimmy Buffet!

ROBERTA: Funnily enough, just saw Ellen Barkin in THE NORMAL HEART, which we talked about here a couple weeks ago. About as far from the big easy as she could get!

I love NOLA and am very sorry to miss the ALA mystery event you arranged Ro! When I was in graduate school, the powers that be let us students borrow the "research Winnebago." We loaded it with beer and other refreshing drinks and drove ten hours. About half the crowd slept in the trailer in the parking lot downtown. Such Fun! The administration curtailed further excursions when the next driver sheered the top of the vehicle off by driving under something too low for its height. Tee hee, those were good times.

Oysters, beignets, and don't forget the muffalottas! Julia Reed's THE HOUSE ON FIRST STREET is an interesting foodie memoir about rebuilding a home after Katrina.

DEB: Oh, I'm hungry just thinking about it. Oyster po'boys! Beignets. Crawfish anything. Haven't been to NOLA in way too long. So sorry I'm missing ALA this year. Sniff. Ya'll have fun without me . . . The Big Easy, by the way, is one of my favorite movies ever, and I LOVE the soundtrack. Any votes on who's aged better, Dennis Quaid or Ellen Barkin? Mine goes to Ellen.

Oh, and Roberta, thanks for the book recommendation. That's just the kind of read I love.

ROSEMARY: Ellen! No contest!! Okay, since we're talking about Ellen Barkin, I saw her once at Canyon Ranch in the Berkshires. Gorgeous. When they called my name for my treatment, she said "good name." I was so excited I didn't relax during the massage. I've always thought she would make a great Babe Chinnery. Ellen, are you out there..I know where you can get the rights ;-)!!

What should we not miss in New Orleans?? Best recommendation gets a container of chicory coffee and a box of Cafe du Monde beignet mix.


  1. For the authentic muffuletta experience, go to Central Grocery on Decatur. You can eat in the back.

    The National World War II Museum, founded by Stephen Ambrose, for history buffs. It's on Magazine Street.

    Jackson Square, of course, and the French Market on weekend mornings.

  2. Ooooh, the WWII museum could be good, I'll be there with my husband.

  3. You should definitely try the Pirates Alley Cafe, in Pirates Alley alongside the church that faces Jackson Square.

    They have every price point of absinthe, served the traditional way, over a flaming sugar cube, and with chilled water from an urn. The place is perpetual Halloween decor, and lots of fun. Absinthe is an acquired taste, but Pirates will help you find it!

  4. Uh, that Anonymous comment was mine. Sorry.

  5. When I was in college, one of my friends' parents lived in New Orleans, on St. Charles, and we gathered a group together there. Yes, we did all the touristy things, including the French Market and Preservation Hall. I remember that in one single day we ate eight times. Oh, to be that young again!

  6. I love the accents and the way the guys, like Dennis Quaid or Taylor Kitsch (Remy/Gambit from Wolverine) say, "Cher."

  7. You know, I've been to a lot of cities and towns around this country, but for some reason, I've never been to New Orleans. Clearly, I'm going to have to put that trip on my bucket list.

    A too-little-seen New Orleans movies: "Undercover Blues." Dennis Quaid and Kathleen Turner play happily married ex-spies vacationing in the Big Easy with their one-year-old when they're called back into action. Stanley Tucci is their accident-prone antagonist. It's exciting, scenic, and very funny. (In my family, you can get a sure-fire laugh by saying, "My name...is Muerte."

  8. Julia, will put the movie on my Netflix list. And I think I have to dig out my copy of The Big Easy. Time to organize those DVDs . . .

  9. Late to the party but had to chime in anyway. Lucky ladies, getting to visit my old hometown!

    First thing that came to mind is it'll probably be screamin' hot in N.O. that weekend (usually is til, oh, October)so don't pass up a chance to cool off with a real New Orleans Sno-Ball (snow cone, but better). Lots of stands sell them but the most famous are Hansen's SnoBliz at 4801 Tchoupitoulas St. You can mix and match any flavors, and order by price/size of the cups on display. They're open from 1pm-7pm every day but closed on Mondays. If the wait is too long at Hansen's you can try one anywhere, but Plum Street & Burdette are the BEST.

    Also, lots of high-end restaurants, like John Besh's Restaurant August,Commander's Palace, etc. have prixe fixe lunches on weekdays, and usually run around $20. Another great spot for lunch/drinks is Cafe Adelaide in the Loew's Hotel at 300 Poydras, where they serve regular lunches BUT they have 25 cent martinis, with each entree ordered! (limit 3)

    Oh, and if you want to ride the bus or streetcar, you can get Regional Transit Authority Jazzy Passes-- cards at the Convention Ctr. Visitors Bureau and other places, for 1 day,3 days rides, etc. that save a few pennies while sightseeing.

    Hope that helps y'all to "pass a good time"!