In 1987 or so, an editing colleague gave me some advice. “There’s something about landing at the New Orleans airport that makes you capable of eating more and drinking more than you ever thought you would,” he said, “and it disappears as soon as you leave.”
I tried that out a couple of times in the 1980s with some success, back when vices like that wouldn’t trigger days of nausea and pounds of unwanted weight, and I realized how much I liked New Orleans.
I last was there in 1992, when I got smacked upside the jaw by a doubloon that got thrown at a Bill Clinton presidential campaign rally. The thrower immediately apologized but I thought the clearly accidental act was hilarious. You’re just not allowed to get mad about being doubloon-smacked in New Orleans. That’s the rule.
A bunch of us got together at that event and sent one of our colleagues on a very important mission: Getting takeout Cajun food for 20 or so people. He went off to Mother’s and came back with a pile of po’ boys, some red beans and rice with andouille sausage that I can still taste when I exhale just right, and a few tubs of etoufee and/or jambalaya. We dragged it onto the campaign plane and set into it like wild animals. Good times.
I return Thursday night. I’m too much of a high-mileage model now to get very crazy, and this trip includes a Valentine’s Day meal at Commander’s Palace that will probably cost as much as that meal for 20 at Mother’s, and Katrina wiped out a chunk of the New Orleans that I remember.
But I still suspect that when the plane lands, I will undergo at least a little bit of a transformation. “Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?” Louis Armstrong asked. Yes, I do.