A friend asks, via email, if I am falling under the spell of New Orleans?
Let me see if I can answer that.
After last week's wonderful dinner with two young friends at Pascal Manale Restaurant literally a block away from where I am staying I decide, on my own this week, to go back for oysters. I arrive, walk up to the bar and ask for a beer and tell the bartender I'd like a dozen oysters. He pulls the beer, puts it in front of me and says that will be $10. I give him the money and he says to take my beer over to the other side of the room where the oyster bar is. He says, "not bad for 10 bucks, eh?"
He shows me where to get the necessary ketchup and horseradish. There is no one at the oyster bar and no seats. I am the only one there and it is early so only a few people are at the bar. The oyster bar is well worn white marble with a trough at the back. I get ready and wait. Soon enough Thomas arrives and starts shucking. Quickly, he puts a shucked oyster in its half shell right on the bar. I eat it and take a sip of my beer. Next minute or so he puts another oyster on the bar and I eat it. I notice he's alternating between big ones and little ones. They are very cold, salty and local from a nearby Parish. And yes, they are wonderful.
I can't help but ask obvious questions as Thomas shucks oyster after oyster. Nine dozen he says he saw one man eat a few years ago. I tell him what oysters cost in New England and he whistles, saying he sure is glad he doesn't live there. Me too, I am thinking. Oh shit, I think. I do live in New England.
New Orleans casting its spell?
As I am downing each oyster I am counting as Thomas lines them up on the bar, balanced right side up in the trough, thinking to myself with sincere loss, this is going to end sometime. We get to twelve, Thomas having shucked and me having eaten and Thomas provides one more, with a flourish, a baker's dozen in the land of oysters in New Orleans. I slurp the thirteenth, grateful to have it. I have paced this well as I now have the last sip of the Presentation Ale before me. Thomas is cleaning up the thirteen shells and I realize this is over. I ask him if I may leave him a tip and he nods and says, "sure". I put $5 on the bar, thank him and walk out of the restaurant.
These are from my neighborhood on Danneel Street.
Is New Orleans casting its spell over me?