I moved to New Orleans in 1980 to attend law school at Tulane. I lived in an apartment 10 blocks from campus in the bottom of a two story shotgun house on Freret Street in Uptown. A witch lived above me and insisted that she hang bird feathers over the transom of my front door.
Yes, New Orleans was a weird place, full of restless souls. I loved it. Every night there was lots of live music at Maple Street Bar, Tipitina’s, Snug Harbor and in the Quarter. Studying was impossible, being a 21-year-old-student in a city which was an excuse for a 24-hour-party.
Talking about not studying, one of my best buddies was Mike Delesdernier, a LSU football guard, from Metairie. Big Mike. He was around 260 lbs and could outrun me for the first 30 yards. He came from a family of river boat pilots. A funny guy. When he was being sworn into the Louisiana Bar, a Federal District Judge asked him why went to law school rather than become a river pilot like his brothers. His response – "afraid of the fog your Honor?"
Mike and I ate more oysters, crawfish and shrimp po-boys (dressed) and drank more Dixie beer than any 2 people in the history of the city. Our favorite spot was Sid Mars by the 17th Street Canal.
Mike’s dad was the Commissioner of the Super Dome – clearly a job with the best perks in the city. We had access to the Commissioner’s sky box, which was always full of lots of food, drinks, beauties, bookies, and infamous local politicians.
My first year in New Orleans, the Saints were 1 – 13. The quarterback was a guy named Archie Manning. Yep, Payton and Eli’s dad! My kids still don’t believe me. Some say Archie was the best quarterback to ever play in the NFL, but was cursed by having to play for the worse franchise in the league.
The 1980 – 1981 season was brutal. Howard Cosell called the team a "disgrace" on Monday Night Football. Half-way through the season, fans began wearing bags over their heads. They called the team the "Aints."
Mike and I watched a lot of losing games during my years there. The franchise started in 1967. It never had a winning season by the time I left in 1987 to come to Miami.
When I arrived in Miami, the city was in love with Don Schula and Danny Marino. The Miami Dolphins theme song played everywhere. But I loved my Saints. And I missed my oysters and Dixie beer with big Mike.
So here we are 23 years later. How things have changed. Mike is married with three kids. Sid Mars was destroyed, like my old house, by hurricane Katrina. And my Saints are in the Super Bowl.
When people ask what I loved about New Orleans, the answer is always the same:
Oysters, Dixie Beer & my New Orleans Saints . . .