0

Darrell Huckaby - Ringing in the new year in New Orleans

Greetings, once again, from the City that C.A.R.E. - and FEMA, if you listen to a lot of the locals - forgot.

New Year's Eve on Bourbon Street. There's nothing like it, at least nothing that I have experienced, and despite storm and pestilence and all-consuming fire and all manner of abnormalities, this city perseveres. I wrote a few days after Katrina that New Orleans would survive because the city "is a tough old broad." Well, the red and black storm surge that began to envelope this city Saturday afternoon will find a city ready for celebration and revelry and a city full of warm Southern hospitality and great food and a city always willing to offer a little extra to make the day better for their guests.

I am sure there is another side, and we have driven through areas where the clean-up is slow and the devastation may never be repaired. But New Orleans is like the women of the '70s, as touted by those cigarette commercials.

She's come a long way, baby.

My family and I are here, of course, for Tuesday night's Sugar Bowl game.

The first college bowl game I ever saw that didn't have Peach in the name was the Cotton Bowl game following the 1975 season. That was the "shoestring" game where Coach Dooley's rare excursion down the road less traveled backfired and we lost a 10-0 lead, and the game, to Arkansas, who at that time was a power-to-be-reckoned-with in the old Southwest Conference.

I have been very fortunate since New Year's Day in 1976 to visit a number of bowl games in a number of climates. Thankfully, Boise, Idaho, has never been one of those destinations.

And for the record: the New Year's Eve forecast for New Orleans? A balmy 68 and sunny.

Boise? The mercury will dip to 18 degrees, with snow showers.

We crossed the Mississippi River at noon Sunday and went straight to Felix's Oyster Bar for a dozen raw. The first 12 went down so smoothly that I ordered a dozen more, followed by a Po-Boy sandwich and an order of rings, and followed that up with a double order of biegnets at Café Du Monde. A guy can't think about football on an empty stomach, but once I was fortified, I began to seek the pulse of the town.

There was a lot of green and white in the French Quarter on Sunday afternoon, almost all of it being warn by Pacific Islanders who spent a boat load of money and more time than FEMA to get here. They didn't seem to have Southeastern Conference football figured out, though. They kept waving at every red shirt on Bourbon Street and saying "Aloha, Georgia!" and "Have a nice game Tuesday!"

By evening time, however, the mood had changed. The younger fans were out in force and the previously wide-eyed and friendly Hawaii fans were showing a bit of fear. And as the beer flowed freely and the Flaming Hurricanes began to take effect, some of the Warrior faithful began to get as surly as Auburn fans after a half-dozen Brandon Cox interceptions. There was taunting and shouting and even a few ugly hand gestures that I don't think meant "Hang Loose."

In other words, it's Game On.

And I, for one, can't wait.

New Year's Eve? Just like every New Year's Eve in this town. Vast numbers of people eating vast amounts of gumbo and even more oysters and more biegnets. We spent a few wild hours being crushed against other fans of all persuasions, and even a few revelers who are just here to see the New Year in. We watched a number of young women, most of whom should have been old enough to know better, earn beads the hard way and counted down the last 10 seconds of 2007 with a hundred thousand of our closest friends in Jackson Square.

And today - New Year's Day - will be spent counting down the hours 'til the game, and make no mistake about it, I, for one, am here for the game.

The Hawaii fans and players are confident and even a bit cocky. Personally, I am sick to death of hearing about Colt Brennan and the Warriors' unstoppable offense and vastly improved defense. All I know is they barely beat the other Coach Dooley's team, they barely beat Fresno State and Washington and San Jose State and they barely beat the team that just lost to Eastern Carolina.

I think the Big Dawg is going to eat tonight. Jumbo sized portions.

But only time will tell. In the meantime - no matter who you cheer for, or if you don't know a first-down from a shanked punt - I hope 2008 brings you peace and prosperity and all the blessings of life.

Happy New Year, y'all.

Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.