How could I get to Downtown New Orleans from the Red Stick on a Friday after work, to make it to the Palace Café on Canal Street for 6:30 p.m.? I didn’t want to have to pay $20+ just to park for a few hours, like I had a few months earlier when I went to have lunch with Howard at NOLA, an Emeril restaurant, during one of the Jazz Fest weekends.
I really looked forward to getting with Maria for dinner, since we hadn’t seen each other for 32 years. We had both done volunteer work during the summer of 1978 per the Eucharistic Missionaries of St. Dominic, and were assigned to help in outreach ministries at San Pedro Pescador (St. Peter the Fisherman) Church in Yscloskey—way down in St. Bernard Parish, which unfortunately was closed after all the devastation in that area from Katrina.
Maria and I had been a part of the volunteer program with about 12 others from around the country doing various church and social service assignments for the sisters. Being the only volunteer who was a native of Yats Town, I had fun at orientation and other gatherings showing the other volunteers around, such as to the French Quarter, Lake Pontchartrain, and on an actual oyster-dredging ride with some fishermen. I will never forget the sight of Patty regretfully eating a freshly shucked oyster from the bayou for the first time ever!
Like so many other people, we were able to track each other down via Facebook. While it has been fun to relay messages about our memories and stories online, there is nothing like being able to reunite after all those years. Since Maria’s hotel was in the French Quarter right off of Canal Street, I picked the Palace Café, a Dickie Brennan restaurant, so it would be within walking distance for her, and I’d always heard about their fantastic cuisine! Also, it is the site of the former Werlein’s Music Store, where I got my first guitar in 1973. The Epiphone that I got subsequently and still have was used a lot at masses and outings during that summer volunteer service with the nuns.
With all the concerns then on my mind about the terrible oil spill that was going on in the Gulf as I was anxiously awaiting this reunion gathering, I certainly hoped that I would still be able to get some oysters then, as we have been encouraged to support our statewide fishing industry in whatever way we can. The online menu had noted fried and poached oysters, as well as something I hadn’t had in a long time: turtle soup with sherry. I was really looking forward to the entire meal and get-together!
So back to my herculean task of driving from Baton Rouge to New Orleans at rush hour on the Friday before the 4th of July in two hours, since I couldn’t get off work early. It all of a sudden hit me: why not park somewhere safe off the beaten track of the Downtown area, where I could take a streetcar and have a little more fun while saving a bunch of money? After getting out of the Red Stick at 4:20 p.m. fairly quickly per Airline Highway and Barringer Foreman, and getting on to I-10 East to bypass most of the heavy traffic, I was on my way into the Big Easy in no time flat.
At about 6:10 p.m., I found a great place to park right at a metered spot right off the St. Charles Ave/Barrone Street exit near Lee Circle in a well-lit area by a gas station. And the greatest thing was that you didn’t have to feed the meter after 6 p.m.! No sooner had I parked my car, put the “club” on my steering wheel, rejoiced at not having to put any money in the meter or worry about a “Lovely Rita, Meter Maid,” as the Beatles noted on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band LP, than I spied a streetcar coming nearby. So I dashed to the streetcar line pick-up spot about one block away, wearing my all-American 4th of July hat, and only had to dish out $1.25 for the fun-filled ride Downtown—about 1 ½ miles.
By 6:20 p.m., I had disembarked the streetcar on Canal Street, walked a few blocks to the Palace Café, and called back home to my wife, who couldn’t attend the gathering, to tell her that all was well! A few moments later, I was reunited with my long-lost friend, and we had a blast catching up on old times and thanking God for all of his blessings during that patriotic weekend. While the food was certainly scrumptious, especially the oysters, the fellowship and friendship renewal in the Lord was overwhelming. As I was departing the Café and wishing my “Godspeeds” to Maria, I headed back for another fun-filled streetcar ride to my car to head back home. While it may not have been called “Desire,” that streetcar certainly filled all of mine that da