The only chance I ever had to go to New Orleans, I jumped at it. Bill and I boarded a plane and headed there for the New Orleans Jazz Festival in the year 2003. What a trip that was!
We stayed in an adorable little Bed and Breakfast in the French Quarter. The room had vaulted ceilings and was just across the street from Richard and Gloria. Several friends of Bill's went, and with the large group we had, fun was sure to come naturally. Within no time at all, I was proven right.
Bill and Phil got along the best. It was almost as if the two were separated at birth. They had all the same taste and I adored them both. They could make an entire room of strangers crack up with laughter as long as the people within it were intelligent enough to understand the rich and brilliant humor the two were graced with. That entire trip was spent with me nearly in stitches.
One night at dinner, Bill and I accompanied Phil and his girlfriend, whom I adored. For privacy reasons, I won't list her name. We were sat at a tiny table and ended up with a horrible waitress. When she brought us refills on our waters, she refused to pick up the empty glasses. When Phil's girlfriend ordered two entrees with the purpose of having left overs the next day, the waitress refused to take the order saying "That's too much food, you'll never eat it all."
Phil's girlfriend was an outspoken and opinionated woman. The first time I ever met her, she just about bit off the head of a waitress that asked what my age was instead of asking for my ID when I ordered a glass of wine. That's a story for another day - but my point was that she didn't take crap from anyone. She spoke her mind and there was never a mystery as to what she was thinking. That's one of the many reasons I adored her. She was the polar opposite to Gloria.
Our server very nearly dumped my food in my lap and Bill had to catch it. She slammed plates on the table and slapped her hands together in frustration each time we asked for something. By the end of the meal, there were around 16 glasses on the very tiny table and tons of empty plates. The waitress refused to bring a container for the leftovers. She left us at a dirty table for more than 30 minutes before we were able to flag her down and ask for a check. When we finally got it and the credit card was put inside the black book, it took another 15 minutes before it was picked up.
The bill turned out to be $99.98 with tax and everything. She didn't even get a two cent tip. "Someone" wrote "Worst Service in New Orleans" on the top of the bill.
The Jazz Festival was amazing. Walking from stage to stage, I got a chance to see Joe Cocker, John Cleary, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Dr. John and many other big names I loved the moment I heard them for the first time.
When Joe Cocker took the stage that afternoon, the sun was blazing outside and people were everywhere. Joe Cocker looked like a speck on the stage from as far back in the grassy field as we were sitting. He started off with some of his most popular songs, and the crowd really got into it. "You Are So Beautiful To Me" was a huge hit. People everywhere were singing along and swaying. When he sang "You Can Leave Your Hat On" were dancing even in the heat. "Don't You Love Me Anymore" brought a few tears from some emotional drinkers. Many were drunk or were drinking, some were a combination of both. Occasionally the wafting smell of marijuana could be smelled among the people and joints were freely passed to total strangers. Believe me, I didn't partake. It's not my thing.
His final song on stage that night was "Have a Little Faith in Me" and the massive, excited and exuberant crowd suddenly hushed. It seemed as though the entire night hinged on this moment. He lead up to it slowly, knowing exactly what everyone was waiting for, and at that precise moment - Joe Cocker nailed that famous scream of his in that particular song. The audience went crazy, screaming like there was a fire on stage. Joe Cocker certainly was on fire. It was, by far, one of the greatest live performances I have ever been to.
Though the entire trip was far more than simply a memorable trip, the most memorable occasion was Bills Birthday. Before dinner and after the myriad of concerts, we were walking to the cab pick up point when I took a tumble. My ankle twisted under me and I limped for a good 5 minutes before I managed to shake it off. I swallowed the pain, slipped into my black sequined sling-back heels Bill bought for me in November of 2002 and we all went to dinner.
My ankle throbbed under the table until I wanted to cry. Never once did I complain because I didn't want to take focus away from Bill's birthday. The meal came out in around 7 courses. The spread became a feast, and for as long as I live I'll never forget the soft-shelled crab set before me. It scared me at first, since I'd never seen one - but I'm always willing to try anything once. I still love the taste of soft shelled crab, and it always brings back the memory ofBrigtsen's Restaurant.
Frank Brigsten turned out to be a friend of Bill and Phil's. That night, we were treated like royalty. By the end of the meal, I was so full that the pain in my waist was far greater than the pain in my ankle.
My trip to New Orleans was filled with fantastic food, the worst waitress in the history of food service, amazing concerts and friends that I'll never forget - though I'm almost positive some have forgotten me.
There's one though that never has - Thanks, Bill.