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New Orleans; 50th Reunion; World War II Museum; Dinner at Arnaud’s; Where Were You…? Breakfast at Brennan’s

We arrived in New Orleans amid a passing cold front, complete with thunder, lightning and heavy rain, but the weather cleared and we’re enjoying cool, dry temperatures, with highs in the 70s and lows of 55. The coach is set up in the Elks Lodge parking lot next to two Mardi Gras “truck floats”. These are not the fancy huge equipments that the big parades are famous for, but are the much less expensive neighborhood variety, and were pulled by tractors in the Irish-Italian Parade here in Metairie, the principal suburb of New Orleans. 
One of the reasons for our early departure from The Villages this year was to attend my 50thhigh school reunion. This reunion of the class of 1965, New Orleans Academy, an all-boys military prep school, is our first ever. Of the original 26 graduates, 3 have made the transition to another reality, and 16 of the remainder were able to attend this weekend’s festivities. I am including this original graduation photo of our class; when My Lovely Daughter Elisabeth first saw it in a past blog, she told us that she thought it was a photo from the Civil War. She has such a sense of humor… 
Before meeting my classmates, we went for an early snack at Drago’s, a fabulous oyster bar that specializes in oysters on the half shell, but charbroiled over a raging fire with ladles of butter, garlic, herbs and a Romano/Parmesan cheese mixture, then served with French bread. 
On busy days, Drago’s will serve over 900 dozen oysters to loyal and perfectly satisfied customers, mostly locals. (We only accounted for two dozen on this visit…) A culinary nota bene: we have lived around the world, and Louisiana oysters are the very best; sorry, Florida, Washington and Maryland, yours don’t even come close to the size and succulent taste of oysters from the Pelican State!

Our first reunion event was an amazing cocktail party graciously hosted by Teddy Baer (yes, that’s really his name!) and his wife, Suzanne, in their highrise condo overlooking Lake Pontchartrain and the city’s largest marina (destroyed during Hurricane Katrina but recently rebuilt). 
On Saturday our group visited the National World War II Museum, and had an introduction by Bill Detweiler, who was one of its co-founders, along with historian and author Stephen Ambrose. We then toured the many spectacular exhibits detailing the events of the most costly war in human history, which could have been easily prevented if milktoast diplomacy, pacifism and unilateral disarmament had not so weakened the US military and encouraged Germany, Italy and Japan to attack their neighbors and try to take over the world. It was a moving experience, with recognition and applause for several World War II veterans, all now in their late 80s/90s. (There is much to be learned here, but no one in the White House seems to know much about history and its bloody lessons…)

Remember the Rosie the Riveter poster from WWII? In honor of the hundreds of thousands of women who worked in factories and shipyards to free up men to fight, Suzanne donned bandana and work shirt to pose as a modern day Rosie.

Here are the class members and two of our coaches/teachers at our class reunion dinner at Arnaud’s. Coach Myers (sixth from right, back row) was our coach (all sports) and also our chemistry and Latin teacher; at 92, he is still teaching chemistry and Latin! From that group of sharp-looking young men from 1965 have come three retired Navy and Army officers, several lawyers, a federal judge, a racing thoroughbred farrier, a pharmacist, computer and electrical engineers, an airline pilot, a state police sergeant, a hotelier, a developer, a heavy construction engineer, a hospital administrator, a school principal and an architect. Fortunately, there have been no felons or axe murderers associated with this class (at least to this date). One classmate, Rick Thompson, flew in from Israel, winning the Most Distance Traveled Award.
Arnaud’s is a world famous French Quarter restaurant that was rated one of the world’s 5 best restaurants when its previous owner, Germaine Wells, ran the place in the 50s and 60s. The food is still fabulous, and included Shrimp Arnaud with a Creole Remoulade sauce, Seafood Gumbo, Red Snapper Pontchartrain topped with crabmeat and a cream sauce (or filet mignon au poivre), and flamed strawberries Arnaud.
Suzanne and Valerie Hiser are seen here getting acquainted and enjoying the ambience of Arnaud’s. Suzanne had only met two of my classmates over the past 18 years, and appreciated the gracious and warm welcome accorded her by everyone she encountered.

Our table included the Drells (Dee is a sitting federal judge and his wife Suzanne a substance abuse counselor — yes, that’s 3 Suzannes at these events) and the Parras (Wence is an attorney and Sharon an art teacher). Judge Dee Drell recalled that on the day President Kennedy was shot, Your Faithful Correspondent was one of the first to hear the news (I think I was up at the front office, being recognized for some sterling act of deportment, I am sure) and came running across the schoolyard to announce that historic event to my 11th grade classmates. Dee mentioned that every American remembered where they were when they heard the news, and then asked Suzanne where she was at that moment. There was a pregnant pause, and My Lovely Bride replied with a straight face, “My mother told me I was asleep in my crib.” After a moment of stunned silence, those at the table broke into laughter… Suzanne was only 2 years old in November, 1963, whereas most of us around the table were 16.  (Please keep any comments about my being a cradle robber to yourselves!)
Food is always a problem when we visit New Orleans. What I mean by that is that we are always eating delicious (read “rich“) Cajun cuisine and fresh-off-the-boat seafood. On this trip we decided to buy a week’s gym membership at the nearby French Riviera Fitness Center; while it didn’t serve bouillabaisse or Tarte Tropezienne in the health food bar, it was only a quarter mile from the coach. An added benefit was that we could work out and shower there daily and minimize water usage that would have otherwise filled our gray water tank in 3-4 days. Since we were eating many meals out, we also didn’t have to wash dishes very often. In fact, after a bike ride on the lakefront levee, I convinced Suzanne to stop for cafe au lait and beignets at Morning Call, a New Orleans institution, on the pretext of saving even more water. She kindly agreed, but demurred on the beignets… “Darn, well, you can’t leave anything on your plate, so… pass the powdered sugar, please.”
Our final class event was Breakfast at Brennan’s on Royal Street in the French Quarter. Their beautiful courtyard is famous, as is their food. Their web site states that “…breakfast revelry is taken as seriously as a decadent dinner.”
This was another “dress-up” event, as you can see by the svelte and lovely young lady on this gentleman’s arm. The eggs, omelets, bacon, hash browns and coffee were delicious, but “over the top” was the only way to describe the flaming Bananas Foster. “Okay, Ty, it’s back to the gym this afternoon for you!”

1 Comment

  • Anonymous
    Posted March 31, 2015 at 4:24 pm

    Was just in NOLA for St. Patrick's Day. A bunch of police and firefighters walk in the parade wearing kilts (Braveheart style). I missed last year but enjoyed great weather and comrade tie this year. Bourbon Street was a little wild that night although I chose to not hang down there long! Brad


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