Well to answer that question people around the nation might look at the recently released statistic that 63% of our damaged homes are either fixed or currently under renovation, the fact that 2008 freshman applications to Tulane and Loyola have skyrocketed or the the fact that the St. Charles streetcar line has finally opened all the way to the end of the pre-Katrina route.
But here in the Big (Hot Humid and Damp) Easy, we look to the running of the bulls to signify that all is returning to normal. I know, you’re thinking “boy, Tom has suffered some serious geographical degradation since he moved to NO full time. Is he going to school down there?” But fear not. We’re well aware that somewhere in the north of Spain there’s a little town called Pampasomething where some guy named Henway or something (and don’t even ask a local down here what’s a henway) wrote about some little bull running event. But I mean really, how good a writer could he be if he never lived in the French Quarter? Williams, Faulkner, Walker Percy, James Lee Burke…these are the giants of American literature. OK, we’ll give him credit for a year or two in Havana but he was mostly fishing and drinking, right? OK again, the drinking gets him major cred in the Quarter, and throughout Looziana for that matter, but still….
No, the REAL running of the bulls occured this morning at 8AM on Bourbon Street. Sort of.
A group of locals, several who have run with the bulls in Spain and one of whom is a member of the NOPD (really) decided to recreate the event here in town. They didn’t have access to bulls but they did know the next best thing for mayhem, violence and goring the not so fleet of foot. The BIg Easy Roller Girls. (really redux) In fact, Chris Rose reported in his column this week that when the leader of the BERG team (whose skating name is Archbishop Pummel) was asked if they could impersonate bulls, her reply was : “Sure, I’ve got a bunch of bad-ass chicks on wheels who probably wouldn’t mind beating up on a bunch of guys.” That’s the way the girls are in NOLA.
So there I was at 8AM on the corner of Bourbon and Orleans Streets, standing in front of Johhny Whites Sports Bar, drinking coffee with a couple of cops and several puzzled tourists. Johnny Whites is best known for staying open throughout the Katrina disaster and it’s a complete mystery why it is called a Sports Bar since it is about the size of a VW camper van, has 6 bar stools facing one tiny TV and the only sport going on in the place is extremely serious non-stop alcoholic beverage consumption.
But they have coffee. Very good coffee. For a dollar. I can’t remember if it was Chris Rose or Ernie The Attorney who said the best place to find coffee in the morning in New Orleans is in a bar although I’m leaning to Rose since it just sounds like something a newspaper guy would say. At least the newsies I used to know like Pete Dexter …. well before he went Hollywood on us. But Ernie has his moments too.
Anyway, at 8:15 here comes a couple of hundred people of all ages and sexes (in New Orleans we never say “both sexes”… too confusing) dressed like French waiters and screaming and yelling and running like they’re being chased by, well, a bunch of ladies on roller skates with tattoos and whiffle ball bats. I gotta tell ya, it made me proud to be an American.
Across the street a couple came out on the balcony of their room at the Bourbon Orleans hotel and looked down at all the commotion. One of them yelled down to me, “Do they do this every Saturday morning?” I was going to tell him the whole story but it was too long and complicated and he was too far away so I just yelled back, “yeah, it’s a tradition for the French Quarter night shift bartenders and waitresses on Saturday morning.” The cops gave me a funny look and I said “Hey, that’s going to sound a lot better when they tell the story back home in Spokane.” They nodded in agreement and we all went back to sipping our coffee and watching the bulls.