New Orleans Impressions

My head is still whirling after four days in New Orleans. That's partly due to the mild sunstroke I probably suffered after walking out under a burning noonday sun that hung in what Louisiana novelist Shirley Ann Grau has called "The Hard Blue Sky". It's also because I'm trying to sort through the contrasting images of ruin and recovery: the feral cats (orphans of the storm?) depending upon the kindness of strangers in Jackson Square, the sunset wedding of a young couple against the dramatic backdrop of St. Louis Cathedral with only French Quarter tourists as their witnesses; the newly refurbished Inter-Continental Hotel where Library Journal staff stayed and across the street the shuttered and forlorn Hotel Monaco. The people of New Orleans couldn't have been more welcoming, from the lively jazz band that greeted arriving librarians at the airport to the cab drivers and the greeters at the Convention Center who thanked ALA attendees for coming to their city. And despite everything that has happened, the food and music is still great. Where else but New Orleans can you enjoy a spicy seafood gumbo while waiting for your weather-delayed flight home at an airport named after a jazz musician.—Wilda Williams