Friday, March 27, 2009

Perfect Place

It hit me over a dozen cold, clean oysters in the Quarter today, that I was well into a perfect 24 hours in New Orleans.

Yesterday afternoon and early evening offered a ride down Highway 90 and over on 308 to Thibodaux, for a visit with the old men and dinner at Spahr's. The seafood gumbo and fried oysters on a bun were, as always, wonderful.

Highway 308 is beautiful in the daylight, with Bayou Lafourche on one side and old houses backed by cane fields on the other. But it's a twisty stretch and known to be treacherous. On the way back, the rain had made it wet and we had to turn around and cross the bayou when we came up on a wreck that looked like it would take a long time to clear from the two-lane blacktop.

That was precursor to the storms that have continued through the night and into today. I sat up until 1:30, waiting for a tornado warning to pass. It was extended instead, and I slept uneasily all night. But for two hours I watched a screen filled with little curving arrows indicating "circulation" -- tornados! -- and clusters of white lightning bolts, all against blobs of red and green that mark the degree of storm and level of rain, stretched across a map encompassing Southeast Louisiana and the Gulf Coast. I give big props to Margaret Orr, the only weather caster in the City to track this big storm through the night.

Here in our house we call her Mary Margaret Orr, remembering her many years back, losing her composure a bit and urging us all to run for our lives as Georges approached. By the time of Ike, she'd gained gravitas and poise, and now she's our elder weather stateswoman, as worthy a successor to Nash Roberts as we have. But when the hurricane is closing in, it appears that she accessorizes with progressively larger crucifix-wear, and hence, she becomes Mary Margaret.

It continued raining today, but with less drama, and we headed to the Quarter for the first of several events we'll enjoy at the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival. We parked in our favorite lot, on Toulouse between Chartres and Decatur, and reminded ourselves to stop and take in the things we love, as we scrutinized and photographed the old walls backing onto the lot. Then, a quick lunch before masterclass with John Berendt, whose work "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" we'd both loved.

His teaching was on place, and it was appropriate. He quoted Wendell Barry, saying "If you don't know where you are, you don't know who you are." I know that of all the places I've lived, I am what New Orleans has made me.

Sitting in the cafe, with its full-length doors open to the Quarter sidewalks and the rain punctuating the conversations drifting around the room, I tucked into a stellar platter of oysters. They came on a bed of ice, just as cold as they could be. The schucker had cleaned them well, and the purple and white shells sparkled against the shine of the ice.

I can't imagine living anywhere else.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Oyster Bliss

I had an envie for oysters last night and persuaded myself to buy two dozen from Whole Foods, at 49¢ each. That's less than the average at an oyster bar, except for Wednesday nights at Jaeger's. And though I did a pretty good job shucking them, I worked up a sweat over just those 24 ersters. I don't think anyone would want me behind the oyster bar on cheap oyster night.