New Orleans–American City of Legend and Legacy

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New Orleans - Bifocal Review

(B) There has rarely been a time in U.S. History where New Orleans has not been at the forefront of national attention. This importance might partly be because of the geographic location of the city, but it might be something else though. A few years ago, we decided to try and see as many of the great cities of the world as possible. I grew up in New Jersey, a short way from New York and had been, previously the wife of a cruise ship musician and had driven across country with two young children in tow. Therefore, I had experienced many of the great states of our wonderful country, as well as Canada and Mexico. My husband grew up in Los Angeles and had lived in Honolulu, but he hadn’t been anywhere outside of North America. Where did I want to take him first? New Orleans. For these reasons we decided there would be no better destination to give our Bifocal Review of than New Orleans.

My affair with New Orleans began in the early ‘70’s when my young family and I were driving, on our move from Florida to California. We stopped in New Orleans and I was immediately enchanted with the cobblestoned streets and the wrought iron balconies.  The beautiful courtyards with their plush gardens made me feel I had entered another world. There is something so magical about the sound of hooves on cobblestone mixed with the wooden wheels of a horse-drawn carriage. It is one of the few cities with so many cultures. The French Quarter is crowded with struggling artist and musicians now, where once the block where slaves were bought and sold many years ago. The French, Spanish and Creole all have a strong presence here.  One must never miss going to the famous Café Du Monde, where the best beignets in the world are freshly made in a plaza, not far from the port where Columbian coffee is brought in directly from the source.

New Orleans is famous for its cuisine.  Restaurants offer such a wide variety because of its many cultures. From casual to fine dining, whatever you fancy is right here. There is also so much history in this city. Over three hundred years old, it is as close to Europe as you can get and still be in the Untied States. The city has played an important role in most of the developmental decisions throughout our nation’s history. The sound of music is never far off, as Jazz (born here) breathes in every street, club, park, and bus stop like the background sound of moving water along the Mississippi River banks.  Nighttime and New Orleans becomes an Adult Disneyland, which I experienced my second visit to this extraordinary city. The city pulls in Bourbon Street and a virtual parade of the most elaborate array of people intermingle as club owners draw you in with peek-a-boo ladies of the night. You need not go far.  The main show is right there, walking on Bourbon St.  Jazz, with the aroma of creole food and all the senses are awakened!

(OG) One year after Katrina devastated the southern U.S., especially New Orleans, we were given an opportunity to have an adventure drive from Boise, Idaho to New Orleans. Barbara and I had planned on visiting the Big Easy the year prior, but Katrina had struck just two weeks before our visit. A year later, in an effort to revitalize tourism, a local hotel offered us a sweet deal if we’d consider coming down. We decided to drive and it turned out to be one of the most interesting drives of either of our lives. I’d always wanted to see the Mississippi, as Mark Twain is my favorite writer and there were many unexpected and pleasant stops that we will highlight in future destination piece; On this trip we saw a Saints game in the dome, haunted mansions along the way, historical plantations, Civil War battlegrounds and enjoyed some of the best food and nicest people I’d ever met. We also interviewed local residents and business owners. In light of the BP Oil spill, it is important to remember the need to support local businesses after a disaster. They still are recovering today. When we returned to Boise, Barbara and I interviewed a refugee from the hurricane, Kevin Layton, on local television (in Boise) on our Bifocals interview show. Kevin, an African American musician was one of about 100 New Orleans residents who had lost everything and were taken in by the hospitality of the local residents. Thousands of others had gone to almost every other state in the Union. Barbara had wondered how this was going to translate into a half-hour show, but I told her not to worry. “All you have to do is what you do best. Put him at ease and ask him one question. He’ll do the rest,” I said. When the show started, Barbara took the helm. “So Kevin, why don’t we sit back and let you tell us you story,” she prompted. We didn’t have to say anything else. He told us about the loss. His father died as a result of a head injury. His mother was airlifted off of the roof of his home–he thought to safety–and three days later he found her under a bridge, surrounded by dead bodies. This, after swimming through snake, dead body, and alligator infested waters to get to dry land. Was he angry or bitter? No. He was grateful to the people who had taken him into their home. He longed to return to New Orleans someday and help with the rebuilding. Sadly, only two years later, after all he’d endured, Kevin died of a heart attack while painting an elderly resident of Boise’s home as a goodwill gesture.

The author of Why New Orleans Matters, Tom Piazza said recently: “New Orleans is…a small model of all the best of America. You have a truly multicultural city, in which all social and ethnic and economic levels of society have somehow managed to fashion a distinct and beautiful culture out of the tensions among their differences…In a larger sense that is the story of the United States culture also, but in New Orleans the expressions of that culture have included jazz, rhythm and blues, a distinctive cuisine and so much more, and an attitude towards life that includes a spiritual resilience which has spoken to people around the world-for a couple of hundred years.”

In that spirit, we submit below, the Bifocal Review of New Orleans that was first broadcast on our YouTube Channel (grichiusa) under the heading, Bifocal Review of New Orleans.

BIFOCALS visits New Orleans

One adventure took us on a drive from Boise, Idaho to New Orleans one year after Katrina devastated the area. We saw a Saints game in the dome and enjoyed the many sites in this great city. We also interviewed local residents and business owners. In light of the BP Oil spill, it is important to remember the need to support local businesses after a disaster.

Known as “Ageless1der” Barbara Rich is an international freelance journalist with decades of broad experience. Her work (The Mended Cup) was first published in a collection of writings from Adams Publishing, A Cup of Comfort for Women. Her, The Gradual Diet appears separately as well as within the contributions to, The Five Principles of Everything, by Five Birds Publishing. She is an entertainment columnist, who has lived and written in New Jersey, Florida, Mexico and Idaho, currently resides in California, and now heads Bifocal Reviews in print and video covering travel, food and entertainment.

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