The Niners are headed to Super Bowl XLVII next week, and I've been feeling very NOLA lately -- you know, New Orleans, Louisiana, the site of that little ol' game set for Feb. 3 with the Baltimore Ravens. I've never been to The Big Easy, but its mighty mojo has clearly made it out here to BACA -- you know, the Bay Area, California, the location of everything else.
Sure, there are special things native to N'awlins -- the bayou, parishes instead of counties, Emeril Lagasse, humidity, jazz funerals that weave through the streets, krewes, muffalettas, gumbo, voodoo, corrupt ex-mayors. But it is at least possible to get a taste of that tantalizing town right here at home -- quite literally. For starters, there's the food -- look for a roundup in our Jan. 31 Food & Wine section.
The San Francisco 49ers will be in New Orleans for the Super Bowl, but there s NOLA love here at home in the Bay Area. (Josie Lepe/Staff Archives)
But this got me thinking about other local surrogate NOLA experiences of my own: Zydeco. At the Eagles Hall in Alameda, there are regular dances with bands like Dikki Du & The Zydeco Krewe, The Zydeco Flames and Stompy Jones. Zydeco is that super fun music where the floor becomes lava and you simply must move your feet and it doesn't matter how -- it can be the free-form, extremity-flailing, uninhibited dance of small children or Elaine from "Seinfeld" and nobody cares if you have a partner, real or imaged. Mardi Gras. At the Oakland Tribune, our motto has long been, "If it's Tuesday, it must be Fat." Yes, every Tuesday is Mardi Gras in our office, where the coin of the realm is a chocolate-chip cookie. As Trib lore goes, it began circa 2000 when late-shift copy editors brought in treats to propel them through the night. Reporters -- no shrinking violets in the snacking department -- horned in on the booty, and it soon evolved into an organized event with an assignment list and even a Fat Tuesday Administrator (me, for a few years) to nag everyone to follow through.
Recently, I relinquished my title to our illustrious city reporter Matt Artz. He's perfect for the job. "I enjoy nagging," he said. His city sources confirmed this statement. Mardi Gras beads. I have piles of these -- not obtained by exhibiting certain body parts, but merely purchased at Party Warehouse a few years ago to fill up a treasure chest for my pirate-themed Halloween party. They were also handy as jewels from an ancient pharaoh's tomb for the Egyptian party. I might keep them for, I dunno, Mardi Gras? Hurricanes. Here in BACA? Why, I was in one just the other day, in the bottom-level walkway of the parking garage at the Bay Street mall in Emeryville. OK, so it's actually a "hurricane simulator," a clear plastic booth next to the Pepsi vending machines. You put $2 in the slot, step inside and get about 30 seconds of air blown on you at speeds up to 80 mph, which leaves your hair looking like it was styled by Jackson Pollock. It's probably fun and cute when a bunch of teenagers are doing it, giggling on a Saturday night. But when you're a grown woman standing in there by yourself on a Thursday morning with Jackson Pollock hair, it's just kind of weird. A shopper walked by and laughed. Shoppers can be so cruel.
Besides, my hurricane only reached 78.7 mph, which is barely a Category 1. As the air picked up speed, a recorded voice said, "This is an emergency broadcast alert," followed by crashing noises as if things like tree limbs and maybe Emeril were being flung about. So it's just exactly like a real New Orleans hurricane, only when it's over there's no FEMA outside to help. Oh, wait ... Me. New Orleans has an Angela Hill! She's a longtime, super popular, award-winning TV journalist on WWL-TV Eyewitness News, co-anchoring at 5 and 6 p.m. and making the rest of us Angela Hills look bad by doing all manner of good works like promoting animal welfare and leading walks for diabetes. Her/my name always pops up whenever I've Googled myself in searching for an old article, and I thought I'd finally get in touch, so I e-mailed her last week and she wrote back! She's super nice, and we talked about middle names and how I often get people calling me Anita Hill and she gets people calling her Angela Davis.
Ah, small world. Same names. Same type of profession, although she covers actual hurricanes whereas I get laughed at in a $2 hurricane simulator booth. On a Thursday. In a mall. Life can be so cruel.
Contact Angela Hill at email@example.com.