Posted by: Michelle | November 24, 2011

Hurricane Preparedness – New Orleans Style

Ions ago I lived in Charleston, South Carolina. Due largely in thanks to Hurricane Hugo, I familiarized myself with what to do in the event of a hurricane. After doing my due diligence I decided (without any doubt), if there was anything resembling a hurricane barreling towards me, I would hightail it out of the city. In other words, you would not find me hunkered down in my home, sitting in a tub with a flashlight and battery-powered radio eating cold pork and beans out of a can. Nope, not me. Rather you would find me at a Hilton or Marriott further inland watching the drama unfold. No need to store bottled water, batteries, cans of food, can opener, etc. Seriously, why mess with mother nature when obviously she could really mess with you?

Fast forward back to present day. So when I found out our annual Client Summit was to be held in New Orleans I didn’t even bother about preparing for hurricanes, even after watching the devastation caused by Katrina. It was at the tail end of hurricane season so no worries there. Or so I thought…

Maybe I’m a bit naive, but no one warned me about the other hurricanes. The one that comes in a souvenir glass with two straws, an orange slice and a cherry. Why hadn’t anyone warned me about those? I was woefully unprepared for this storm. Many moons ago, I drove through New Orleans on a cross country trip from Seattle to Orlando. My memories existed of glimpses of cemeteries filled with marble tombs (somewhat reminiscent of the cemetery in Paris where we visited Jim Morrison’s grave) and The Hard Rock Cafe. This would be my first “real” visit to the city and I was looking forward to a few days of exploring before getting to the work part. After arriving mid-afternoon and checking into the hotel, we were off to the French Quarter (after a brief stop at Starbucks of course). First stop was Jackson Square where slaves were auctioned off then Cafe du Monde for some beignets. The cafe was unlike any place I’d ever been. It had a large covered patio area bustling with people. Basically you wander about until you find an empty table then you make a dive for it before anyone else does. We found one pretty handily although it was sticky and covered in powered sugar. Soon a harried waitress stopped and took our order. It wasn’t hard to make a choice. The menu consisted of 3 beignets for $2.42 and a variety of soft drinks, milk, coffee, or water. Not knowing what to expect (but anything deep fried and covered in sugar can’t be all that bad), I shared my first order with Aliena. All I can say is they were indeed very tasty although I regretted wearing black as the pastries were covered, literally, in an inch of the fine white sugar. After getting a sugar high (remember, we had a caffeine fix earlier) we hit the streets again. After meandering about for a bit, we deemed it time for a hurricane at the famous Pat O’Briens. (Despite it’s famous standing, I had never heard of the place, nor its relevance to New Orleans.) After some misguided instructions from the iPhone and Siri, we finally asked a guy who directed us to Pat’s (turns out there were two streets with similar names so it was no wonder we were confused – St Peters vs. N Peters!). By this time, we were ready for some food that wasn’t comprised of sugar. Despite not being much of a drinker or lover of rum, I still had to go for the hurricane as this is what one does whilst in New Orleans. So how come no one prepared me for the effects of this particular hurricane?

Here’s what would have been nice to know: It is comprised of several rums, dark and light and what I can only assume is some kind of Hawaiian punch. It is deceptively strong. First sip, not very tasty but it does get better as you drink it which is why you get sucked in. This is a no-brainer but something I overlooked; you should definitely eat something before indulging to give yourself a fighting chance. You should also give your phone to a designated person who will keep you from texting or Facebook posting anything potentially embarrassing. Never, ever break the seal! Females know what I’m talking about; once it’s broken there is no turning back. Although Pat O’Briens is fairly large the bathroom is quite small, and challenging for those who might be “impaired.” Case in point: You know those seats that have a plastic coating and you are suppose to hit the green button before sitting down? Well, if intoxicated, it can be a bit tricky. I hit the damn thing multiple times before I figured out that wasn’t how you flushed the toilet. In addition, beware of nearby karaoke bars with cheap jello shots. One minute you are enjoying a red, fruity drink the next minute you are sucking red jello out of a mini plastic dish and singing at the top of your lungs (thankfully it was not on stage with a microphone). If anyone every heard me sing… well, let’s just say I couldn’t carry a tune if it had a handle. I’m that bad.

It wasn’t all about the alcohol. From voodoo to people watching; we took it all in. We went on two walking tours, visited a couple of museums, attended a roof top cocktail hour, listened to some music, shopped, ate some good food and did I mention have a few adult beverages? There was a wedding parade and even a funeral procession. Beads, beads, and more beads. All in all it was a great time. Las Vegas has nothing on Bourbon Street. There were things we witnessed that I’ve never seen in Vegas. Oh, I know it goes on. It just goes on behind closed doors. Not in the middle of the street or even in a doorway.

And the work part? What can I say? It was work. Long days but still managed to have fun, bonding with fellow coworkers in the evenings thanks to the French Quarter and all it has to offer. It’s also a plus when I get to know the baristas at the local Starbucks so I don’t have to explain my drink every time I walk in which always makes for a pleasant trip. What can I say? Starbucks is also another important part of hurricane survival. Which reminds me, probably the most important in preparing for the New Orleans hurricane, be very conscientiousness of the next day’s activities. Meaning: if it requires brain power you may want to rethink the hurricane and stick to something a little less noxious. Like tequila shots. At any rate, you’ve been warned. Proceed with caution!

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