Greetings. Given approval, I have the opportunity to attend one conference a year through my employment. I became a member of the Association of Educators of Imaging Radiologic Sciences. or…..AEIRS. This year, their annual conference was in New Orleans, LA. I thought it may be good to meet other educators, see some I know, and perhaps….learn something. I take my profession seriously so I was excited at the opportunity. It had been my thought that in down time, I would complete my novel. Well, I didn’t. But I will! In the meantime, I thought I could describe the time here that ate up the writing time.
I arrived Wednesday early evening. I was fortunate to meet up with a fellow educator at the airport which made waiting tolerable. He is sort of the ‘Oracle’ of Radiology so I always learn a lot even from brief interactions. We made a plan to share a cab to the hotel which made arriving a little less scary. Not that I was scared, but it always different arriving in a city you don’t know. I’ve never been to New Orleans, so it was nice to know I’d recognize someone at baggage claim!
I arrived at the airport, having been delayed from a poor puker on the plane prior….I skipped the final 20 minutes of ‘new member reception’ and opted to relax in my room. 6am would be here before I wanted it. Driving into the French Quarter (the conference is on Bourbon Street) I was intimidated. I do not get intimidated! The streets were narrow, there were a lot of people and the streets were all one way.
Thursday: Sessions started at 8 and I made it to all of them throughout the day. I am a believer in the lunch/business meeting that all associations have. Business meetings are always very informative and give insight into the society. Although I had signed up for the lunch/business meeting an invite was not included in my welcome packet. This is where I got all Zen. I could have asked, but rather trusted there was a reason I wasn’t given the card to attend and opted to try lunch out. I had googled vegan restaurants in New Orleans and can you believe it….I didn’t find many! But I had found three vegan friendly places and one was close by. On the inside I was petrified, but I headed out. I made my way to the Green Goddess. A cute, quaint little cafe on an alley which is unusual. Chef Paul did NOT disappoint! I ordered Muharmmara, which is an ancient Syrian dish, roasted red peppers, walnuts, bread, spices and pomegranate molasses dip with a variety of raw and cooked veggies. It was absolutely delightful. I managed to find my way back to the hotel for the second half of the conference. Once the sessions completed I forced myself to go out exploring. Thankfully, when I am full of fear, I go into it. Since I can remember I’ve been that way and I have yet to be sorry. I took my map, a bottle of water, a promise to myself that I would trust my instincts and headed out. I had googled another place called Carmo, a tropical cafe. It was in the Wharehouse district. It was only under a mile to reach, and on the way I found the US Appeals Court, which excited me…the history buff in me….and took in Lafayette Square. When I arrived at Carmo I learned they weren’t open until 5pm, so I kept walking. I made it to the Superdome and the water front. it was a nice detour, enabling me to take in much of the district. There were wonderful art galleries and museums along the way. When I made it back I ordered their soup special, a vegan spicy wonton soup. You would never know it was vegan, so flavorful. Then I ordered a small Esmeralda Salad. This was quinoa, black beans, corn, peppers, cilantro and a chili lime vin. with pumpkin seeds on greens. The best vegan dish ever, even beating out San Francisco and the cutest cafe I’ve seen. I enjoyed every bite. If you’ve seen Eat, Pray, Love….when she ate her spaghetti….same scene, same smile on the face. See their website here: http://www.greengoddessnola.com/ It’s interesting to me that of all my choices, choosing a vegan diet has been the most ‘controversial’ in my life. I googled it to try to understand why what I choose to put into my mouth is so distressing. I read that often vegans are very self righteous. I hear that, I know and am even related to some that are so. Having said that, I don’t believe there is anything other than love in this world that is right for everyone. In any event, I will eat what I decide to eat and people will think what they need to think. Back on track….I headed back after dinner, took a picture of myself in a ‘mask’ provided in my goody bag at the conference and was asleep shortly after 9.
Friday: I headed to the conference for my 8am start. They had beignets for the morning refreshment, which I’m guessing was not vegan, but which I enjoyed immensely. A had to try I heard, so I did. I attended class until the lunch break. Headed out for lunch I got Zen again and decided that whatever led me, I would follow. Be it back for the later afternoon session before its conclusion or not. I was feeling more confident and it ended up I kept walking. I headed out on Bourbon street in the hopes eventually I would catch the ‘Wandering Buddha’ the last of the restaurants I had previously googled. I was going to take the long way, so I ducked south to check out St. Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square by the waterfront. I headed that way and just really enjoyed every detail, the french influence, the spanish influence, the sweat pouring down me…. I had seen on the news this morning a shop that was locally owned and run called the Fleurty Girl. The owner is real proof of believing in a dream and they supported the local community. As luck would have, I walked right by it. So I paid them a visit, picked up a souvenir, ok…two souvenirs and kept on my journey. Leaving Jackson Square, I ran into the French Market which is blocks of vendors and food and sun. I browsed and had a quick bite there of Fried Green Tomatoes. The server asked if I liked spicy food and she gave me a free sample of chow chow (sp) which was a spicy relish really that was absolutely unbelievable. I did do a little shopping. Found an x-ray and exam voodoo doll, which seemed appropriate, among a few other things. From here I headed to Frenchmen Street which I was told by a housekeeper at the hotel was more authentic of the French Quarter. It was truly lovely, but soon noticed I was the only one walking the sidewalk and things were looking a bit run down. Trusting my instinct I tailed it back. I had heard that in the French Quarter you were safe as a baby in arms, outside it, not so much….Frenchmen is in Faubourg Marigny neighborhood, and while I enjoyed what I saw, I followed that instinct.
Headed back the one thing I had wanted to do was see the cemetery. You hear a lot about them, from the moment I got to NO I had heard only of Drew Brees (Who just signed 5 years) and the cemeteries. There were numerous mule drawn carriages promising tours of the french quarter. They were all the same price. On a whim, I picked a guide. Being solo, unless they could find 4 other takers…I would be on my own. The tour guide said if he could find others to join me, he’d take me. So I sat in the front seat and trusted if it was meant to be, it would be. Thankfully, it was meant to be. 4 others exactly, from Missouri with MN roots, came aboard and away we went. It was not budgeted money well spent. We learned a lot of history even regarding the architecture. Things I’ll bore family and friends with later. And we did get into the cemetery, 20 minutes before they closed. Learned why they are buried above ground, and where the terms ‘saved by the bell’, ‘wake’s’ came from, etc. Saw the Pitt-Jolie, and Cage properties, and learned where to and not to get a Hurricane. Yes Mom, if you are reading this, the carriage stopped at Lahtte’s Blacksmith Shop so we could order a authentic, not sugar induced hurricane to go and this was the first alcoholic drink I had. Paid for by my new Missouri friends, which was an unexpected bonus!
Right as the hour tour ended there was a rainstorm, and I have to say, thunder is something in NO. Thankfully being next to the driver I held the umbrella! In any event, the tour guide gave us all his card so if we returned, he said he’d take us again on his own time. Strangely, I believe him.
In the rain, this left me stranded under an eave where I encountered a local artist (statute). Crazy in this heat you see them, bronze and absolutely still, for an hour at a time. wtf! I don’t know how you stay still in that heat, for that long. Absolutely still. We chatted football for 20 minutes. Soon I found myself immersed with four local artists. (3 statutes and one muscian) Each vented about the rain delay costing them money and inevitably the conversation turned back to football. I got a pic with one and when the rain let up he was back to his post and I was on my way. I headed back to the Green Goddess for dinner, ordered the South Indian Uttapam, which is a pancake folded over green peas, tomatoes, onion, peppers and pauch puran (no idea!) then young coconut slaw topped it. Fabulous it was! Leroy, a local musician stopped by for a salad and the place was a buzz. His picture graced the inside of the cafe and he grabbed a table by me. So I chatted it up with the local celebrity and listened to a few of his stories, he gave me his card. He has dear friends he said in the Twin Cities and if I call him, he’ll take me and my partner to lunch. And I believe him. From there, there was nothing to do but walk home in the rain, and that I did with a big cliche smile on my face. I was home in the hotel by 5:38pm.
Tomorrow, I’m sleeping in, or I could hit the City Park. There is a Bull Run too, roller derby girls run you over by the convention center. We’ll see what the day brings.
The book may not be finished but I am very grateful for the things I learned at the conference, the sights, smells and sounds I experienced, the people I met, the little sunburn I earned and the memories I will always have of the big easy. It all was exactly the way it was meant to be and I look forward to my next visit. I have to believe there is a swamp tour in my future!