Magical Rhythm Of Nola

On the first Saturday of Summer, Cori and I prepared for our night out in New Orleans, LA. I searched for places to go on my phone, read some reviews while Cori munched on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. When we were both dressed up and revved up - ready for our evening to begin, we went downstairs as the sun set.

Walking down Canal Street, a brass band lured us into Bourbon Street and the French Quarter enveloped us into her hypnotic and humid stupor. A wedding parade sauntered past us and we latched on to the tail end of it, just to catch a hint of big, easy Bacchanalia.

We wanted to stop by the Old Absinthe House first, just to say we had drinks at a place that serves real Absinthe...Cori and I read this hilarious review online, it piqued our curiosity.

Before I finished my gin and tonic, my hunger grew and my mood began to sink. Cori’s PB&J satisfied her, and for this I wanted to lash out, yell, cry or do something emotionally immature.

I grew more desperate as I followed the map on my phone in the vain attempt to dine at EAT. By the time we reached the place, the restaurant had closed (while patrons still feasted inside). We had diverted from Bourbon; as we turned around, I silently bit my lip and dug my nails into my palms with frustrated fervor.

When we reached Bourbon Street again, we saw a young man holding a menu and in my defeated state of dismay and famine, I agreed to go upstairs. I remember thinking, "Here I am in a city renowned for its culinary establishments, and I'm going to this dive!"

If there really is magic in the air, its efforts resonated and guided us to that particular restaurant. At Johnny White's, a bar in New Orleans famous for staying open during Hurricane Katrina, our green-eyed waiter, Oscar from Honduras, warmly welcomed us and flirted with us. We told him we traveled from Miami and he deduced our Cuban heritage. His intuition surprised us furthermore when he asked Cori if she was from Kendall.

A glass of pinot grigio and a plate of fried trout lifted my spirits. From our pictures that night, Cori looks buzzed and I look a little sinister... (combination of heavy eye make-up and extreme hunger).

Cori, with her talent to make things happen and rally people together, asked Oscar what he was doing after work. He just so happened to have some Cuban "cousins" who wanted to hang out after his shift. The guy holding the menu downstairs, Jason, a Cuban/Sicilian, told us about this local club that played hip hop. We agreed to go once Oscar wrapped up.

The rest of the evening, a fabulous and enchanted whirlwind, will remain in our blurred memories.

Cori and I went to the bar downstairs to wait. Two young men walked in and asked for Oscar. I immediately knew that these were the "cousins" before they even asked.

Oscar and Jason came downstairs; our little posse of Hondurans, Cubans/Islanders commenced our march around the Quarter rolling towards our good time. On cobblestone paths, Cori and I, surrounded by young men, vying for our attention, did not know what the night beheld for us. The young man, Rob (or Tito), took my side as we trotted through Jackson Square and north on Decatur Street and asked me questions about myself, spoke in Spanish, flirted. Before I knew it, he and I had quickened our pace and lost the group. My phone rang, Cori, in a serious tone, told me to stop right there. When they caught up a few minutes later, Cori warned me that we couldn't look out for each other if we weren't near each other.

The magical rhythm of New Orleans pulled us forward. Jason, with his passion for beats and hip hop, picked up a rainbow umbrella and danced a little jig as we crossed a street. Rob started free-styling in Spanish and English, I danced/strutted down the street in my high heels feeling like I was in a movie or a dream, complete with a soundtrack and mysterious vibes.

Rob told me about the Hispanic community in New Orleans.  A lot of Spaniards live there, as well as Cubans, Hondurans and people from the islands. His father is Cuban and his mother is from Spain, from the Canary Islands. He considers himself an “isleño.” I told him about my Cuban heritage.

We reached the club finally and started dancing, drinking, and enjoying the air, both inside the club and on the balcony. Almost on cue, Rob and I danced together in a way that was almost like expression, dialogue, and performance, but without words. The DJ, also a "cousin" or some sort of relative, spun hip hop and reggae, and I don't know if I imagined it, but a drummer chimed in the music with that New Orleans flair, the same as the brass band at the corner of Canal and Bourbon. Rhythm, rhythm, rhythm, rhythm, again. Rhythm that makes you wonder what is real, what isn’t? Where reality feels like a dream or vice versa. What is it about the air? It presses down on you because it's so heavy with moisture, but it also sets you free and propels you.

Cori and I impressed the boys with our knowledge of the songs and the fact that we could get down.

Later, when we left the club, Rob told me that he liked the way I danced, the way that we danced together. He looked around and noticed others who weren't as in sync as we were. He said I have that "sabor"(pronounced like "saborrrrrrrr") and that I could live in New Orleans. I told him I felt that "magic".  He smiled and draped his arm around my shoulders. Our group was drenched with sweat from dancing at the club, but as Cori said, "If you aren't sweating in New Orleans, you aren't having fun."

Rob and Jason started rapping and beat boxing, I hummed along.

We walked to a pizzeria and joined the rest of the late crowd. We hung out there for what felt like a couple hours. Cori called me again not knowing where I was, but then found me sitting on a stool with the rest of the group.

As the others ate pizza, Rob and I conversed. Rob told me about the local colloquialisms. He said that when someone wants to emphasize a large quantity of something, you say ‘Beau coup’, as in, “We had beau coup, beau coup fun.” Or in agreement, a quick, “Yeah, you’re right.” punctuates the other person’s statement. Or when you’re asking someone how they’re doing, you say, “How’s your ma and them?”

I looked at him, his creamy white skin, blue eyes and red lips, his reddish/golden facial hair, wondering if / hoping he would kiss me. He said something like, "Isn't it crazy that we meet tonight and we might not ever meet again?" I replied, "Yes, but we're here now." and he agreed. We then exchanged e-mails and lingered a little bit longer before it came to that awkward moment when we didn't know how everyone was going to part ways.

Before I knew what happened, I followed Cori outside and Oscar and Rob came out. The rest of the boys stayed at the pizzeria. Rob and Oscar escorted us home.

None of us wanted the night to end. We wanted to perpetuate this dream. It was getting late, or rather, early the next day. Rob and I walked ahead. Crossing the front of a building, he pulled me swiftly to the other side of the steps as if we were playing hide and seek and he kissed me, tasted me. I heard Cori yell some lewd but funny comment and we stopped. Rob noticed the minty flavor on my lips which were now on his.

This is close to where our adventure for that evening ended. Cori and I took a cab home (a couple more blocks on Canal that were absolutely impossible to walk) and dragged our exhausted feet into the room. She passed out almost immediately. I looked out the window and the sun began its debut upon the horizon.

sofian sofian
Feb 23, 2010