First, your intellectual challenge for the day: who is the Napoleon of New Orleans?
A few years ago, my office briefly enjoyed the fellowship of a 60+ year-old woman with the vivaciousness of a 20-year-old whom I’ll call DeeDee. DeeDee was born to party, raised to party, and born and raised in the City of the Big Party, New Orleans, Louisiana. You can take the person out of New Orleans, but you cannot take the New Orleans out of the person; furthermore, everyone in New Orleans knows everyone else in New Orleans. When I asked DeeDee if she had seen a recent episode of Iron Chef America in which John Besh defeated Mario Batali 55-49 in Battle Andouille, she replied, “I missed that?! And I know Besh! I would’ve loved to cheer him on!” She didn’t mail order Andouille sausage from Louisiana; she flew out there herself, picked and bought her own, and brought it back with her on the plane. On the Monday morning after the Saints won their first SuperBowl, DeeDee became a one-person Mardi Gras, distributing green, purple and gold beads to everyone at work. Hard core New Orleans.
You can imagine how well-liked she was, so when she disappeared one afternoon, it kind of sent a shock wave through the office. DeeDee was as punctual as she was Louisianan, so when she was an hour late returning from lunch our manager was ready to call the police. Just then, DeeDee reappeared. She walked unsteadily back to her cubicle, reaching out to hold onto anything or anyone that might keep her from falling over. She made it safely back to her chair, where she sat trembling and exactly one tear in each eye.
But she was smiling.
We had no idea if she was OK or not. As it turns out, all was well. Much better than well.
She had met the Napoleon of New Orleans on the streets of San Francisco.
The Napoleon of New Orleans is not a person–it is an antique vintage 1923 streetcar from the Crescent City that once travelled down or past something named after the French Emperor. Unfortunately, it is currently in the repair shop awaiting repairs, but a few years ago, it scampered up and down Market Street as if it was reliving the Jazz Age. It’s a great ride; the streetcar vibrates; if you sit, your derriere gets a free massage.
But for DeeDee, this particular Napoleon was much more than just a happy memory of her hometown. When she was a little girl, she rode streetcars to her grade school along the Napoleon route. But not just any Napoleon streetcar; her schedule meant that she always rode one particular Napoleon.
The Napoleon of New Orleans that rode the streets of San Francisco.
DeeDee hadn’t been missing for over an hour; she hadn’t been lost; she hadn’t disappeared. She had travelled back a half century in time, shedding a half century of years, and become that little girl again, riding the Napoleon of New Orleans to school. Lost? The exact opposite.
She had been found.
Vonn Scott Bair
PS–Until you read the phrase “one-person Mardi Gras,” I’ll bet it never occurred to you that you never realized that you never thought that you never imagined that you would ever read the phrase “one-person Mardi Gras.”