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I Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans

2009 JazzFest musicians
2009 JazzFest musicians

By Jeff Hoyt


I enjoyed my first visit to New Orleans so much, that I was on the verge of renting an apartment there. But tragedy struck, and somehow, it took me more than two decades to return. I vowed to visit this year, but once again, fate stepped in.


In 1986, I drove to the Crescent City for the one-sided Super Bowl between the Chicago Bears (of Super Bowl Shuffle fame) and the New England Patriots, and fell in love with the city’s music, food, and joie de vivre. My traveling companion and I made plans to rent a place so we could stay at least through Mardi Gras.



But a few days after the game, tragedy struck the USA as the Space Shuttle Challenger blew up shortly after take-off, killing its crew of seven. I rushed to the airport and flew to Houston to cover the story, traveling from one of the happiest places in the country to one of the saddest. I once again found my feelings amplified by a large gathering; but this time, instead of cheering on William “The Refrigerator” Perry scoring a touchdown in the Superdome, I was moved by the sight of President and Nancy Reagan comforting the grieving crew’s families at Johnson Space Center.


A few years later, I decided to attend JazzFest, and bought a ticket to New Orleans. I ended up traveling to Turkey instead, and never used that plane ticket.


Finally, last year, I had a great time in Lafayette, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans, as I visited music festivals across the great state of Louisiana. I vowed to attend JazzFest again this year, no matter who was playing, and lined up a place to stay. I was looking forward to finally seeing the Black Crowes and Pearl Jam, enjoying some of my favorite live acts (The Allman Brothers Band, George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic, Elvis Costello, and The Neville Brothers) and watching Paul Simon re-re-re-unite with Art Garfunkel.


But before I bought another New Orleans plane ticket, I realized that my wife’s due date for our second child was dangerously close to JazzFest. Our first daughter was three weeks early, and the festival started just 17 days before our second daughter was expected. I couldn’t run the risk of missing the birth, or I’d be singing the blues.


So, I know what it means to miss New Orleans. Although this time, it’s for a happy occasion. I guess I’ll just watch Treme on HBO instead. And maybe I’ll take my kids to Mardi Gras 2020.


Read more about the Big Easy with our New Orleans Hotel Guide, Restaurant Reviews, and 72-hour New Orleans Vacation Guide.


You can click on each photo to enlarge.