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One Hour in New Orleans

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St. Louis Cathedral and Andrew Jackson on Jackson Square, New Orleans (AE, NGS)

“That man does not love you, he is not in love with you.”

From behind the closed curtain I can hear a smoker’s voice rasping into a speaker phone, “He has never loved you but don’t worry baby, I see another marriage for you next year and then another baby–healthy, of course.”

The psychic reading continues by phone in the back of the shop. Up front, all the house blessings and money candles are sold out but nobody’s buying the “Remember Your Ex” Hex.

On the uneven sidewalk, characters stumble past me: a bald man with a dyed pink beard and mustache, another in skin-tight black velvet pants and a cape with all the planets printed across the back. One more walks by with a crown fashioned from animal balloons.

An Alanis Morissette look-a-like croons the blues into a microphone on the sidewalk and strums an electric guitar. The sun shines through her hair and the crowd at Cafe Du Monde applauds with tiny clouds of powdered sugar claps over their plates of beignets.

“Can anyone sing here or do they have to audition?” I ask a waiter.

“Anyone. This girl here only knows how to play four chords but she sings good,” he confides in me, then adds, “If someone was a Raiders’ fan then no, we wouldn’t let them sing on our sidewalks. Anybody else, though, yeah.”

I cross Jackson Square and take in the silhouette of Andrew Jackson on horseback. Fortunetellers outnumber the pigeons. Another block later, I see blue and red police lights flashing and my mind thinks: crime.

But instead of sirens I hear the horns: trumpets, trombones, tubas.

The parade erupts in my face — whole high school bands beating a street-shattering rhythm into the air, followed by grinning majorettes in white boots and random marchers in full costume. Somebody’s dressed as a chicken. Others just join in and dance in the streets.

“What’s the parade for?” I ask another spectator.

“It’s just a parade,” they say. “They’re having a parade to have a parade.”

Three blocks later I run into another parade–different bands, different crowds. The music is loud and infectious; the melody follows me all the way down Burgundy Street. It’s not Mardi Gras–it’s just Saturday. A good day for a parade or two.

I walk past the painted wood houses and watch my step on the stone curb. That’s when I see the powdered sugar hand print on my jeans.

Fortunately, it matches my own hand.

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