Cry, the Beloved City

As New Orleans sinks into despair after Katrina, readers share fond memories of past visits - and their hopes that it will rise again in the future.

September 07, 2005

This isn't an obituary, for who could bear to write that?

Submerged and sorrowful, the New Orleans of today bears almost no resemblance to the New Orleans of memory, the city that has burrowed its way into the hearts of so many visitors over the years.

Dozens of honeymooners, spring breakers and other assorted revelers responded to The Sun's recent solicitation of readers' memories of New Orleans, while former residents cast their own wistful backward glances.

But nearly to a person, they expressed hope of someday creating newer memories, envisioning a day when the cries from New Orleans are not of despair but of, as Anna Maria Lucas of Owings Mills recalls from Mardi Gras parades of her childhood: "Thro' me sumthin', mista'!"

When I was a young teenager in the '60s, I went to New Orleans with my mom and dad. Artists were displaying their work around St. Louis Cathedral and Pirates Alley. My mom especially liked the watercolors that one artist was working on, so she struck up a conversation with him. His French accent was so thick that we could barely understand him. He asked where we were from and my mom told him, a Baltimore suburb you probably have not heard of, Catonsville. Suddenly, the French accent disappeared, and he said he was from Glen Burnie. My mom bought two of his paintings. -- Terry Neugent Weber, Middle River

Fifty years ago, I was 6 and New Orleans was home. Just a few short weeks ago, I was there and it all came back in a N'awlins minute. Listening to the street musician on the steps of the courthouse with the glorious soulful voice and smile and the tiny daughter who grew up dancing in the streets to her mother's music. The rarity of it all. What a gift. Barbara J. Williamson, Columbia

One of my favorite memories is riding the St. Charles trolley to the Camellia Grill for breakfast. The waiters behind the counter never write anything down -- they just call it out to the cooks and the order is always right! I think of Marvin who always sings to his customers and Michael who, when I said I thought the omelet was going to be too much for me to eat, told me, "Aw, you'll be all right."

I hope they are all all right, too.

-- Pat Moloney-Harmon, Baltimore

My memory of New Orleans dates to 1971 when, as a middleweight boxer out of Boston, I lost for the first time as a professional in the main event against "still undefeated" New Orleans native Tony "Machine Gun" Licata, who lived up to his nickname by out-pointing me over 10 fast and furious rounds. As salve for my pain, Boston pals Angelo Carlino and Tommy Sidoti treated me to a night on Bourbon Street. -- John T. Coiley, White Marsh

My wife, Kathy, and I eloped to New Orleans because a year earlier, she had visited a soothsayer there while on a business trip. She was told that if she wished her dream of finding "Mr. Right" to come true, she should write it down on a piece of paper, then burn it and scatter the ashes to the four winds. She did so, right there in the N'awlins airport before her plane brought her back to Baltimore. As it turns out, I happened to be Mr. Right. Next year is our 15th anniversary.

-- Gerry Hanlon, Baltimore

My best memory comes from Thanksgiving Day 2000. I woke up in the middle of the night to find my wedding ring turning my finger blue. We tried everything to get it off, but soon had to make our way to the emergency room at Tulane University Hospital. They were so wonderful. Eventually maintenance had to be called in to slice through it with 2-foot-long cutters!

New Orleans is a treasure.

-- Lisa Young, Columbia

My wife, Marcia, and I have scores of happy memories of this unique city and its unique outlook on life in general. Among the highlights: Riding the St. Charles streetcar through Lee Circle when a police car bumped into us and then waiting a leisurely hour and a half with the rest of the passengers to be interviewed by investigators while the driver fretted about missing his bowling night. Getting on the streetcar two days later, seeing the same driver and shocking him by asking if he made his bowling date.

-- David Holden, Baltimore

My husband and I chose New Orleans' French Quarter over San Francisco for our honeymoon in October 1989. That same week a devastating earthquake hit the Bay Area and we always considered ourselves lucky to have visited the French Quarter instead. We consider New Orleans an old and dear friend and look forward to meeting again by the Mississippi River to witness her glorious resurrection.

-- Debbie and Bill Kresslein, Westminster

On a vacation in New Orleans, we ventured onto Magazine seeking additions to our antique silver collection. The owner, a delicate lady, entertained us with stories of trips to the hinterlands of the South, to buy silver from once-proud families forced to sell heirlooms. She rued the decline of a younger generation that had no ability or interest in setting a proper table.

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