Tennesee Williams, the playright who
wrote “A Streetcar Named Desire” said: “There are three
American cities: New York, San Francisco & New Orleans. Everything
else is Cleveland.”
I have been thinking about salesmen and
winter, and although it never snows in New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA),
Brandon Fried must be combating, with characteristically dogged determination,
what must be a blizzard of uncertainty during this pandemic, readying
Air Cargo 2022 set to begin in NOLA next Tuesday January 17.
By now, who is in and who out is decided
about this event.
So If you are there in NOLA, and there you
are, here are some words of passion about this great world city.
Michael Webber is an airport consultant
who has lived many years of his life in New Orleans. Mike went to college,
got married, raised a family and knows New Orleans up close and personal.
We love you. If you are planning to get
to New Orleans next week, don’t miss it.
I moved to New Orleans in the late 1980s to complete my MBA at Tulane
University where I met my wife who worked for Tulane’s Latin American
Studies Department. Our firstborn arrived just as I was starting final
exams in my second year of graduate school.
Still in my mid-twenties,
I started my career in the Crescent City with experience that still informs
the work I do today in my late fifties. In addition to working in the
international division of a big Louisiana bank (First NBC), I briefly
led a trade association comprising New Orleans International Airport (MSY),
the Port of New Orleans, the IFFCBANO - International Freight Forwarders
and Customs Brokers Association of New Orleans and the New Orleans Consular
Corps. The conclusion of my formal education was the beginning of a lifetime
of collaborating with freight forwarders, airport operators, airlines,
cargo handlers, trucking companies and regulators. The Airport’s
cargo manager Larry Johnson (pictured here) and forwarders like
John Hyatt (then at the Irwin Brown Company) and Billy App (J.W. Allen)
were my early mentors.
Exactly thirty years after we married there
in January 1992, Marta and I headed back to New Orleans to celebrate our
anniversary this coming weekend and then I’ll continue retracing
my own steps at Air Cargo 2022 - the annual event presented by the Airforwarders
Association (AfA), the Air & Expedited Motor Carriers Association
(AEMCA), and Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA).
Undoubtedly, the event will be affected
by the ongoing pandemic but let’s compare to New Orleans, itself.
NOLA was rocked by the almost incomparable tragedy of Hurricane Katrina
and more recently has been staggered by Hurricane Ida but through it all,
remains the American city that feels least like any other American city.
New Orleans Imagine having cocktails and dinner in the courtyard garden
of a place created for Napoleon Bonapart, where playwright Tennesee
Williams, a century later wrote “A Streecar Named Desire”.
Here, from the movie version Stanley
Kowalski played by Marlon Brando utters the best-known line in the
film. After lunch, dinner or just for the hell of it, take a short
hop on “The Streetcar”-The St. Charles Avenue line that
has been in business since September 1835 and today is an operating
Conference goers should be diligent, regardless
of their immediate settings but fortunately, New Orleans offers many outdoor
dining options and beautiful parks and neighborhoods to walk. As far as
dining goes, I’ve prepared a few recommendations, but diners are
cautioned to check pandemic-related closings and changes to operating
hours. If you have never set foot on Bourbon Street, you probably should
but much of it comprises the least charming blocks in New Orleans. The
blocks of Bourbon Street closer to Esplanade are more appealing than those
closer to Canal Street but just one block over (towards the Mississippi
River) is Royal Street which is one of my favorites.
When I lived in New Orleans in the late
1980s and early 90s, we relied mostly on word-of-mouth for information
about events and dining but there was also a weekly alternative newspaper
(Gambit) and the weekly insert, Lagniappe,
in NOLA’s daily - The Times-Picayune. Versions of both still exist
on-line in some form. A “Best of Dining” and an events calendar
can be found at Lagniappe - My New Orleans, while Gambit
offers the same. Either will give far more extensive options than I can
possibly fit here.
for those interested in my recommendations, I’ll start with a few
within walking distance of the convention center. The usual suggestion
to try the Muffuletta sandwich is Central
Grocery & Deli – Home of the Original Muffuletta in the
French Quarter but Hurricane Ida closed it for repairs. A worthy alternative
very near the convention center is Cochon
Butcher in NOLA’s Warehouse District. For a Muffuletta in an
incomparable historical setting, Napoleon House was built as a residence
for Bonaparte-in-exile but he died before he could be relocated there.
Its patio was also a favorite writing spot for Tennessee Williams.
You can get New Orleans staples like gumbo
and red beans & rice almost anywhere (including the aforementioned
Napoleon House), but I recommend taking the Canal Street streetcar to
Start with the crab fingers in wine sauce as an appetizer and then the
softshell crab po’ boy sandwich, or perhaps the 1⁄2 and 1⁄2
(shrimp and oysters).
Eating a hamburger in New Orleans might
seem counterintuitive but this native Kansas Citian recommends doing just
that at Port
of Call located on Esplanade (the opposite edge of the Quarter from
the convention center). If walking, you can pass through the French Market
and Café du Monde for café au lait and beignets. Port of
Call is a neighborhood joint that will also place you strategically near
another great neighborhood – Faubourg Marigny where you’ll
find the venerated Snug
Harbor Jazz Bistro.
New Orleans Regional
Transit Authority operates a comprehensive public transit system with
multiple streetcar lines and webs of bus routes. Rather than carry a bunch
of cash (conductors don’t make change) I recommend getting the RTA
App and prepaying fares that can be used repeatedly to pay for couples
and groups. These streetcars are critical public transit nodes and not
just portable tourist cabs, so be prepared for familiar “rush hour”
experiences that could be unnerving during a pandemic. I didn’t
own a car during graduate school, so the St. Charles streetcar was my
primary transportation to Tulane.
The most famous local streetcar line is
Charles. There is no better way to see miles of New Orleans than from
the streetcar but it is also possible to get off and walk through the
Garden District or further uptown to Audubon Park across from Tulane and
Loyola Universities. From St. Charles, one could also easily walk over
to Magazine Street – one of my favorites for dining and shopping.
That same streetcar runs uptown around the Riverbend and onto Carrolton
– also ideal for long walks outside where social distancing
should be much easier. Around the bend is where you’ll find the
serving diner food – ideal for breakfast – in a setting apart
from any diners found elsewhere in America.
The more intrepid willing to drive a ways
should consider the 45-minute drive from downtown out to Middendorf’s
or closer to the airport, the excellent Harbor
Seafood and Oyster Bar. For those flying into MSY, the Harbor is very
near the Airport, so could be timed as your first or last stop. Alternatively,
leaving from the Airport would cut the trip to Middendorf’s in half
compared with a downtown departure. Another great option is Mosca’s
on the West Bank in Westwego where possibly my single favorite dish (the
baked oysters) in all of New Orleans is served.