Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Oh Warm Weather...How I Miss You

Anyone who knows me very well is probably familiar with my feelings about cold weather. If, however, you have somehow missed my numerous posts, comments, and general complaining, let me just say that I hate it. I can’t think of much that I dislike more than being cold, aside from being wet and cold. 

I think there is an assumption on the part of those that have known me only since I have lived in the New Orleans area that I grew up here or in a similarly warm climate, and that I am not accustomed to the cold. But this is not the case. I spent my childhood in the Texas Panhandle where winters were cold, windy and sometimes very snowy. I remember school being canceled a few times when the wind and snow combined to form drifts as high as rooftops. I learned how to ski when I was a teenager. I even took driver’s ed in the snow. (Coach Sartor, I’m still so very sorry about that 360. It was truly an accident, and I was as terrified as you were.) I lived in the Chicago suburbs for two winters in my early thirties. I’m quite familiar with cold weather. I have all the gear for it. I just simply do not like it. Not even a little. And I avoid it as much as possible. With regard to the photographic evidence showing me apparently enjoying it back in the 70s...I'm thinking those pictures were photoshopped. 

Scott, Kristy and I in the snow in Colorado.
Yes, I'm the one sitting in it, and I bet I'm both wet and cold.
Scott and I in front of our house on Aspen Street. This one was marked 1978. 

One of the benefits of living this far south is that winters are mild and short. I never complain about the heat in the summer. I actually enjoy it, for the most part. But as I sit here lamenting the freezing temperatures with my favorite cozy blanket wrapped tightly around me, a fire burning in the fireplace, and hot chocolate in hand, I can’t help but think that this is not what I signed up for. It was a frigid 18 degrees when I left my toasty house for the gym at 5 a.m. It’s a nippy 21 now, and it’s only supposed to get above the freezing mark for about five hours today. I have not taken off my jacket or scarf since arriving back at home, and if I could type in them, I would be wearing my gloves. (For the record, those “texting gloves” are for suckers, one of whom, apparently, happens to be me.) 

I usually begin complaining about the weather when the temperature dips into the 50s, and I do realize that I’m being a gigantic wuss when I refer to that as cold. But 18 degrees...that's chilly in anyone’s book. Yes, I know it’s a lot colder up north, and I am sympathetic to those dealing with extreme conditions, but this is the difference...those people choose to live in areas where winters are harsh. They are familiar with the annoyances and risks of living in such a region. They expect it. I, however, chose the swamp. It’s not supposed to ice over in the swamp! I thought I traded freezing temps for gators in my yard, and I was ok with that. But 18 degrees? That's just unacceptable. I hope the mosquitos are freezing at least...

*In the time I spent searching for photos, it warmed up to a balmy 25 degrees. Time to break out the flip flops!

The kids with the snowman the built when we had real snow a few years ago,
 and the "snowman" I prefer...made from the sand of a warm beach.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Curing the New Year's Blues

Well, it’s here. That time of year when, as much as I try not to, I find myself in a bit of a post-holiday funk. I know I should feel excited about a new year...blank slate, new adventures, and all of that...but invariably, I find myself a little blue. I have tried to pinpoint what it is that brings on the gloom. Maybe it’s that I know I’m not going to get to see my Texas family for longer than I would like. Or it might be the cold, wet, gray, south Louisiana weather, which my mood occasionally mirrors. It could have something to do with the fact that, every year, I tell myself I'm going to eat healthier, and as a lover of sweets, that’s really no fun. I even get a little sad knowing that football season is almost over. I’m sure a big part of these feelings occurs because I find myself spending more time alone than usual, with it being a busy travel time for Brett and with the kids heading back to school.  All I know for sure is that when I add all these things together, I end up with my annual new year’s funk. 

This year I am doing my best to avoid the January doldrums. I do live a just bridge away from New Orleans, after all. So I’ve made a short list of NOLA-related reasons to stay upbeat. 

~My team is in the playoffs again! With a wildcard win in Philly under their belts, Drew and the rest of the Saints are doing their part to keep the season going. Sure, Seattle is going to be tough, but after the regular season debacle out west, we will be more prepared for a fight. And who cares if Russell Wilson has never lost a home game? He has to at some point, and why shouldn’t it be at the hands of the Saints?
~Mardi Gras is just a few short weeks away. While it is later this year, the parades will gear up in mid-February...and I do seriously love a parade. I don’t think most people from outside the area realize how many parades and events actually lead up to Fat Tuesday, or how family-friendly most of those activities are. It is nothing like I had imagined!

~I can officially start eating king cake now. (So much for that plan to eat healthier.) “King cake season” begins with the Epiphany and ends on Fat Tuesday. I am not ashamed to say that I eat king cake almost daily during the season, and I have been known to consume one of these delectable, sugary rings all on my own. King cake really deserves its own blog entry, so I will save the details for another day. 

~Spring weather comes early in New Orleans, and I know it won't be long until I'm trading my sweaters and boots for flip flops and shorts . 
~The number of fabulous restaurants I have not had the pleasure of enjoying, even after sixteen years here, far exceeds the number that I have. I am currently making a list of places that I want to try this year, and I plan to visit those and many of my old favorites, as well. (Yeah, that eating healthy thing...I’ll just work out a little harder.)
~While it’s still several months away, Jazzfest is always on my radar, and this year’s lineup will be released in two or three weeks. Once I know who is coming, I can begin making plans and twisting the arms of friends in an effort to get them to come down and enjoy my favorite event with me. 

When I put it on “paper,” what’s not to love about a new year in New Orleans? Whenever I start to feel the blues creeping up on me, I’ll just grab my spouse or my kids or a friend (or even just my camera) and make that short trip across Lake Pontchartrain. I have no doubt there will be something there to make me smile.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Thirty Minutes Under the Oaks

My feet and the most amazing oak tree.

I've been feeling somewhat uninspired in the writing department lately, so I decided to see if a change of scenery would work a little magic...or if not full-blown magic, at least clear my head and spark some new ideas. I jumped in my Jeep and headed to the lakefront and, you know, it's pretty hard not to feel inspired when this is your view. 

The Mandeville Lakefront...all calm waters, century-old oak trees, delicate Spanish moss...beautiful and unique to this area. I was here two days ago taking some sunset pictures, and that was when I realized that I don't spend enough time here. I can get from my house to the most picturesque place in town in eight minutes. I can stretch out beneath the mother of all oak trees (and I am while I'm writing this), and it doesn't cost me a penny. On perfect days like today, I can kick off my shoes and walk barefoot in the cool, perpetually-green, south Louisiana grass. I can watch spirited (and very noisy) squirrels chase each other around these enormous tree trunks. I can catch pieces of lively conversations as walkers pass by. I might even catch a glimpse of a sailboat or two. It's a little slice of paradise two miles from my door. I ask myself why I don't spend more time here, and I realize there is no good answer. Sure, I'm busy. We all are. But if I'm too busy to soak in a little nature, reflect on the things that matter to me, and maybe even write a few words, then I'm just too darn busy. 

So, I created my own little challenge for myself...to write for a minimum of thirty minutes every day, regardless of how much I have on my plate. (Don't worry...I won't post it all!) In a perfect world, I would always do my writing here, in these beautiful surroundings, but I know that that isn't likely to happen. Life (or weather) will get in my way, and I will find myself stuck in my house, which really isn't such a bad place to be. I do plan to come back here, or somewhere equally beautiful, at least twice a week because I think it will keep me motivated. And the distractions here are a lot more fun than laundry and bill paying. I can throw something on the Foreman grill if I get caught up in my writing and forget to make dinner. (Oh, who am I kidding...the Foreman grill is major cooking for me.) If my thirty minutes happen to come at a time that my family is home, I know they can survive without me. Odds are they will find me a lot more pleasant once I've had a chance to recharge. 

I'm excited about this undertaking, and I challenge you to join me. Carve out thirty minutes each day to do something just for you in a place that makes you smile...or breathe a little more deeply...or sigh in a good way. Let's see where it takes us. :)

Lake Pontchartrain at sunset. 

*I should add that I am having oral surgery tomorrow and will be heavily drugged. While I think this is a valid excuse for missing a writing day, if I should accidentally put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), and if I should, in my haze, think that I have written something post-worthy (which will, no doubt, be complete nonsense) please do not hold it against me. 

Monday, September 30, 2013

It's Great to Be a Who Dat!

If I were to sit down and make a list of the things I love about New Orleans, my Saints would sit very near the top. The magic of game day (or night) in the Dome is something that everyone, even the non-Saints fan, should experience at some point.

In our end zone seats in 2001. Griff would sleep through the most of the games. 

We were season ticket holders way back when the kids were little and wins were scarce. Back in those days, you needed tickets if you wanted to see the games because sellouts were rare and the home games were often blacked out. It was a different time, for sure. We loved those games, but as our weekends became busier with kids' activities, we reluctantly gave up our tickets. These days, we don't make it to that many games, but we (ok, maybe I) cheer in the "man room" as loudly as if we were standing amidst the 70,000 in the Dome. I love being part of the Who Dat Nation, and here are ten of my favorite things about being a Saints fan.

10. Every game looks like Halloween with Whistle Head Guy, Black and Gold Elvis, Fleur-de-licious, and a host of other crazy characters.

9. Hot dogs, nachos, pizza...sure, we've got those, but we've got jambalaya too!

8. Our owner carries a fancy umbrella indoors...and it is completely unrelated to the weather.

7. We burn "I Believe"prayer candles to give our team a little edge. Don't make us mad, though, or you may find a voodoo doll with your face on it.

6. We support our coach, in good times and in bad. Free Payton!

During Sean Payton's year-long suspension, you could bring your "coach on a stick" to the games.
5. We proudly sport all of our Saints gear on game day, even if we're only watching from our living rooms. (I wore my Jimmy Graham shirt to the grocery store today...ran into Drew Brees, Darren Sproles, and Marcus Colston.)

4. We're very accustomed to tourists and we respect the visiting fans. We'll even tell them the best places to eat and where to hang out in the city.

3. When we adopt a song as our anthem, we adopt a song as our anthem! That Black and Gold song just never gets old. :)

2. Two words...Drew Brees. What a great addition to New Orleans...the team and the city!

Drew in the Lombardi Gras Parade. He threw beads directly to Kyndall. 


1. Lombardi Gras...the parade that eclipsed even the best Mardi Gras parades. I only hope I get to be a part of the next one. And I hope you'll throw me something, Drew!

Jeremy Shockey giving out some throws. 

Sign on St. Charles after the Superbowl win.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Writer for a Day

I'm fairly certain I first knew I wanted to be a writer sometime during my sophomore year of high school. I had always enjoyed writing for fun, but it was a commendation report from my English teacher Ms. Zinck that made me think I might be sort of good at it. To have a teacher send a positive letter to my parents, not because she had to, but because she just wanted to, gave me the self confidence to consider writing as a career. At sixteen, I decided that after college, I would move to Paris and be a writer/photographer. (By the way, if any of you out there knows of any job openings for that type of position, please contact me immediately.) It sounded like a good, if not all that plausible, plan at the time. I even took French in college almost racking up enough hours for a minor. I received my degree in Journalism with a minor in English, then I got married. Although Paris wasn't meant to be, life looked promising. But I had a dark secret. While I had documentation in the form of a diploma from Texas A&M that claimed I was a writer, I was scared to write. Scared that no one would read my words. Or worse yet, scared that they would, in fact, read them, but would think that I wasn't any good...that they would figure out that I was a fraud. My solution to this problem was to immediately return to school and get my teaching certificate, which allowed me to avoid doing the thing I both loved and feared. 

Now before I offend anyone, let me quickly say, I am not one of those "those who can't, teach" people. I believe that teachers are the most under-appreciated and underpaid professionals out there, with the most difficult and important job on the planet. My children have had wonderful teachers in St. Tammany Parish, and I am very grateful for all that they do. It's just clear to me that I was never meant to be a teacher. I loved my students. I enjoyed the yearbook and newspaper especially, but I knew that teaching was not my calling. 

I left the teaching world when I had my children, and my writing remained on hold while I played mom.  Sure, I would occasionally bang something out on my Macintosh Classic, but the words would stay locked in that little machine where only I could read them. The old Mac was destroyed when we moved from Chicago back to New Orleans, and whatever I wrote during those years went with it to electronics heaven. I will always regret not printing out a copy of the story I wrote about our move from Mandeville to Chicago...a riveting tale of out-of-control pets, a raging blizzard, fireworks, and excessive vomit, among other treacherous and disgusting things. Not funny at the time, but hilarious in retrospect. 

As my children entered school and established little lives of their own, I still had the desire to write, but my fear got the best of me. I ignored the call and threw myself into my part-time jobs...teaching fitness classes and summarizing records for an attorney. Yes, the summarizing job was technically a writing job, but there was no creativity involved. It didn't scratch the writing itch, but it wasn't scary either, as I was simply making someone else's words sound a little more polished. No risk involved, whatsoever. Throughout the years, my husband and a few others would suggest that I try my hand at writing (pun intended), but I would dismiss them with a promise that I would give it a shot someday, even though I doubted that "someday" would ever come. It was a phone conversation with my dad a couple of years ago that finally got my attention. He told me that he knew I would write something someday, even if it wasn't in his lifetime. I looked at my situation from a parent's perspective, and I realized that it would break my heart a little if my children had dreams that died because they were too afraid to pursue them. For the first time, I actually began to give writing some serious thought. I still wasn't ready to put myself out there, but the wheels were turning.

With my dad

About six months ago, someone that didn't know me well but knew my story, fears included, told me, not that I should write, but that I needed to write. There was something about a virtual stranger, someone in no way connected to me or my issues, suggesting this that finally got through to me. She suggested that I start a blog. She got me to understand that it didn't really matter if two people or two thousand people read it...my writing would simply be an outlet for me. With her prodding and lots of  encouragement from my husband, I wrote my first article in April of this year. It was both exhilarating and terrifying when I clicked the "publish" icon. There was no turning back. Well, there was "delete," but I'm going for drama here. Much to my surprise, people aside from my immediate family actually read my story. I didn't have an enormous audience, but along with my family members, some friends and even a few strangers checked out that first entry. It was exciting, and it made me want to do it again. A few more articles followed, and after taking most of the summer off, I discovered that I missed it, and I was ready to make it a more regular part of my week. I had never reached quite as many readers as I had with my first article, but I continued to have a small but steady stream of people who checked out what I had to say, and that was good enough. I made a deal with myself that I would continue to write, even if the only readers I had were named Clements or Simons.

My most recent entry was a little story about meeting Rick Springfield at the Joy Theater in New Orleans, a 30-years-in-the-making, dream-comes-true story. It was an extremely easy story to write because I was so passionate about the topic. At the suggestion of a friend, I sent the article to Rick Springfield's fan page on Facebook. Assuming that nothing would come of it, I sat down on my couch and looked at my blog stats, noting that roughly fifty people had viewed my story. No surprise there. The couch was pretty comfy, and an "accidental nap" ensued. (I'm not sure why I continue to call those little naps accidental because I'm very aware of what is going to happen when I sit still for any length of time...my daily 4:30 a.m. alarm is brutal.) When I woke up an hour later with my computer still next to me, I glanced at the stats. More than 1600 views? Something had to be wrong. There appeared to be comments, too, which was equally surprising. In all of my previous entries combined, I had a total of six comments, and half of those were responses from me! I read one comment from a lady who said she had been directed to my page through Rick Springfield's fan page. I had to look for myself, and there it was...the link to my blog. I went back to my stats...100 more views in just a matter of minutes. The story seemed to have struck a chord with fellow forty-somethings who shared my love for Rick. Throughout the evening the number of views continued to climb. By the time I went to bed, over 5000 Rick fanatics had checked out my blog.

While I realize 5000 views is small potatoes, for someone whose largest audience prior to this had been 183 readers (and let's face it, all but two or three of those were friends and family), it felt like the world. I had found a little audience that had connected with my story, several telling me it felt like they could have written it themselves. I had some haters, too. One reader told me I was full of myself and another called me mean. Real writers sometimes offend people...right? I read and answered every comment, and I am sure I will reread them many times. It meant a lot that someone took the time to write something in response. I even apologized to the woman who called me mean. (Not to the other one, though. I found her really uptight...and she made a crack about my shoes!) Overall, I was thrilled and completely overwhelmed by what had happened with my little blog.

The numbers continued to increase the following day, though at a much slower pace. When the article reached somewhere near 7000 readers, it appeared to have run its course. I knew my two minutes of fame (it wasn't even close to a being a big enough deal to call it fifteen) were up, and that was ok. It was enough that for 24 hours, people that didn't know me and who didn't feel obligated to read my work actually read it. For 24 hours I was a real writer. My daughter told me I might be a one-hit wonder, referencing a line from the Rick Springfield article. If that's what I am, I'll take it. I don't mind being Men Without Hats or The Knack, or even Dexy's Midnight Runners. (I really hope I'm slightly better than the Baha Men or Vanilla Ice, though.) And I'll continue to write for myself and for anyone else who chooses to stop by and read. I plan to get back to writing about New Orleans, the city I love more than any other. It's not Paris, but I think it's no coincidence that I'm just a bridge away from the French Quarter.

Cat on a French Quarter balcony

Royal Street

Monday, September 16, 2013

A Little Human Touch at the Joy Theater

For thirty years I had been telling my sad story...Rick Springfield, my obsession for most of the 1980s, almost touched my hand at his 1983 concert at the Civic Center in Amarillo, Texas. The song was "Human Touch." He was bringing it to life, and there I was, (and I know y'all will find this shocking) right by the stage. He reached down. I reached up. Our fingertips almost touched. Almost. So close, but then close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, right? It would forever be a disappointing, missed opportunity. At least it appeared that way.

Fast forward 30 years, almost to the day. I arrived home from the gym on a Friday morning to learn that Brett had not only purchased tickets for the two of us to see Rick Springfield at the beautifully renovated Joy Theater thejoytheater.com (and there's my NOLA tie in), but he had gone a step beyond, getting the VIP tickets, complete with the after-the-show meet and greet with Rick. And the show was a mere 12 hours away! I could not stop smiling...or talking...or, quite literally, jumping up and down. Brett's not a fan, but he was happy to see me so excited about our night.

I knew I would want an autograph, so I made a beeline for the attic, where I knew I had some Rick memorabilia. I'm not sure how your high school bedroom was decorated, but mine was done strictly in the decorative style of Springfield. Posters, pictures from magazines, ticket stubs, song lyrics I had written on pretty paper...all of this covered the cork wall in my hot pink, floral bedroom and spilled over onto at least one more wall. I had every one of his cassette tapes. I knew every word to every song...even the less than stellar ones. I even saw his movie "Hard to Hold," and yes, it got two thumbs down, and no, it wasn't much of a stretch for him to play a rockstar, but I liked it. Wonder if you can find it on Netflix... 

Check out the price of that first ticket!

Anyway I digress. And frankly I could digress all day. I loved him, in the "wow, looking back, I was really kind of a stalker" type of way. In the attic I found the "collector's program" I had bought when I saw Rick the second time in 1984, and I came across a photograph I had taken on my old disc camera. (Google it if you're not familiar with this little antique.) I determined that these were the two items I would have him autograph. Memorabilia mission accomplished! Now, I still have all of Rick's cassette tapes, but with no cassette player and only a few of his songs on my computer where I can actually listen to them, I immediately began downloading songs, both old and from his brand new album, which I thought was really good. Sure, my 12-year-old came in to the kitchen and told me the music I was listening to was "quite cheesy" but I disagreed. As a matter of fact, I'm listening to it as I write this...with no shame whatsoever. 

After getting everyone off to school, I carefully picked out my outfit for the concert...this was a big deal because it would be the outfit that I would forever remember as the one I wore when I met Rick Springfield. (I really picked out two so I would have choices come concert time...a woman's got to have options, you know.) While I had toyed with the idea of an 80s look (and some at the show went with this attire), I remembered just how ridiculous I actually looked in the 80s and rejected the hairspray and lace gloves. I finished packing my bag for our night in New Orleans, and we were off. After a late lunch and some time celebrating Steve Gleason at the Superdome, we headed to our hotel room to get ready for the show. 

I chose outfit number one, grabbed my old photograph, my collector's program, and a brand new Sharpie, and we were off to the theater just a few blocks away. I was so giddy, I might have skipped there had I not been wearing 5-inch heels. I was a little surprised when we took our seats in the theater. While scanning the crowd, I felt, well, young, compared to most of the other concert-goers. A large group of ladies were there celebrating a 50th birthday. There were a couple of OLD looking rocker chicks, and two intoxicated grandmotherly types. There were more than a few of us mid-40s folks there, but we seemed to be in the minority.

The 8:00 show began with a comedian. A not-at-all-funny comedian, I should add. She spent about twenty minutes telling "jokes" and maybe she was actually funnier than I'm giving her credit for being, but I was impatient, and I just wanted her to be done. She was just another obstacle between Rick and me. She finished her act, and I began mentally preparing for the main act. I assumed he would be out shortly, but there was still some equipment set-up to be done. And a marriage proposal to be extended! So, ok, you first met your girlfriend at the Joy Theater and wanted to propose to her here. That's sweet. And you've been together for 20 years. Ok, that's a really long time, but better late than never, right? And you have two kids together? Alrighty...absolutely no judgment here. But really, you chose this moment to propose?  Ok...whatever. We're happy for you. Go have a wonderful life. But go now! Some of us have dreams to live out! :)

Rick finally made his way on to the stage at 9:00. And did he ever look great?! Yeah, he's 64, but he doesn't look it. Not even close. We were seated on the second row, but as soon as he appeared, everyone stood and moved toward the front. Not wasting any time, I grabbed a spot next to the stage and spent the next two hours singing loudly and smiling so much my face hurt. He opened with a new song...not what I was there for but good, nonetheless. This led into "I've Done Everything for You" and "I Get Excited," two of my old favs. He sang almost all of his old hits. (And to those of you who think he was a one hit wonder with Jesse's Girl, he had many songs that received lots of airplay!) He sang several more songs from his new album, which the lady next to me knew by heart...guess I'm not his biggest fan. He even threw in a few covers, including the Beatles "When I'm 64." It was cute. I was amazed at his energy. I was completely impressed with his guitar skills. I loved that he seemed to be enjoying himself, and I thought about how fortunate he was to be able to continue to earn a living and make people happy with his music, decades after he became a star. 

Somewhere late in the set, he sang "Human Touch." I reached up and he grabbed my hand...held it for probably five seconds. Sad, missed opportunity memory erased! If the night had ended there, I would have considered it a gigantic win. If it had been over after he came out for the encore and did the Beatles "All My Loving" and his hit "Kristina," I would gone back to the hotel thinking that it had been an absolutely perfect night. But it wasn't over. The meet and greet awaited!

We waited for him to come out, about ten deep in a well-behaved little single file line, for probably 30 minutes. One good thing about being with an old crowd is that everyone is pretty mannerly...maybe not the drunk old ladies, but they staggered out after the show. With my photo and 30-year-old program in hand, I waited, terrified that I would become so nervous that my mind would go utterly blank and I wouldn't be able to speak when my turn came. Then suddenly, they called me, and as I walked up next to the man I had idolized for all of my teen years, my anxiousness ended. I stood next to him and told him of the near hand touching incident in 1983. He commented on the pristine condition of my program. We laughed at the terrible quality of the old photograph and how bad technology was back then. He was extremely nice. After he signed my treasures, he put his arm around me, a photographer took our photo, and then it was some other lucky middle-aged lady's turn. Just as quickly as it had begun, it was over. I was a little sad that it had to end, but the entire night had completely lived up to the self-created hype. 

Still pretty doggone cute.
My program is much more valuable now. :)
And that's my photo at the bottom.
I had been standing for two and a half hours in those five-inch heels, but as we made our way back to the hotel, I felt like I was walking on a cloud. My husband had made a 30-year dream of mine come true in that little theater on Canal Street. And "What Kind of Fool Am I?" if I don't tell him how much it meant to me every day for the next three decades? :) 

Me and my date. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Be Like Steve...and his friends

Steve Gleason is a hero. No doubt about it. No true Saints fan will ever forget his blocked punt in 2006, when the Saints returned to the Dome for the first time post-Katrina. A year after the storm, we were still more than a little broken, but in those few seconds it took #37 to get his hands on the ball, New Orleans was rejuvenated. I will never forget watching that game unfold, alone in my kitchen in my Joe Horn jersey. Brett was out of town, and the kids were too young to understand the significance of the game or care about football, so I jumped up and down, whooped it up, and just basically made a fool out of myself...all by myself. And I didn't care. The game was magical, and Steve Gleason forever secured a spot in Saints fans' hearts. (If you haven't seen the sculpture depicting the blocked punt outside the Dome, check it out.)  And I know football isn't life, but for that one night, for a battle scarred WhoDat Nation, it was. And I continue to get chills and a pretty significant lump in my throat when I watch the video.


We were a city, really an entire region, that needed a hero, and Steve Gleason had a big red "S" on his chest. He still wears that "S" seven years later...it's just a size or two smaller.

Since his ALS diagnosis in early 2011, Steve has been the poster boy for living life to the fullest. With his "No White Flags" approach to life, he continues to travel the world and make appearances for his charitable organization Team Gleason teamgleason.org, even though he is wheelchair-bound and uses eye-tracking software to communicate. As inspirational as he was in black and gold, he is even more so today. He has brought awareness to a devastating disease that had not previously received the attention it deserved. He is ALS's pink ribbon.

My initial reaction when I began seeing Steve's physical changes when he would appear on tv, or on rare occasions when I would see him out in the community, was to pity him. How cruel it seemed to have been so strong and athletic and to have had had such fame and success, only to have it all taken away. But watching him live life, really live it, has completely changed my perception. He is obviously not interested in being pitied, as one can see by watching him squeeze every last drop out of life. I saw him at Jazzfest watching the Foo Fighters in 2012. He was smiling, maybe even more than I was. He was recently in Seattle interviewing Pearl Jam. The man seriously lives. But I think the adventure that moved me the most was his recent hiking trip through the Inca Trail, eventually making his way to the top of Machu Picchu. Photos show him surrounded by his wife Michele and a group of friends who, quite literally, did all the heavy lifting. It was an amazing show of determination, but it was an even more amazing show of friendship.

I have watched Steve conquer mountains, jump out of airplanes, ride in Mardi Gras parades, and do lots of other exciting things since his diagnosis two and a half years ago, and I have thought to myself on many occasions that he's got it all figured out. That he lives his life the way I want to live mine, making the most of each numbered day because the truth is, all of ours are numbered. Who knows...he may have more time left on this planet than I do. But I realized something else as I reflected on all of this. Maybe it's not Steve's lifestyle that I need to be emulating. Maybe it's the friends of Steve Gleason that I should aspire to be more like. The Scott Fujita's, who struggle and sweat for a friend whose body won't cooperate, but whose mind still wants to fulfill a few more dreams. Who take time out of their lives to help a friend achieve a smile and a lasting memory. And while the red "S" on their chests may not be as obvious, it's there. I think maybe we don't see it because it's stitched on their hearts.

Brett and I saw Steve pass by at Gleason Gras gleasongras.org last weekend. He looked much thinner than the last time I had seen him, but he was there, raising money for those traveling the same road that he travels and raising awareness for a disease that deserves our complete attention. He was there in the Dome last Sunday, helping Sean Payton lead the WhoDat chant. And while I wasn't there, I understand there weren't many dry eyes in the place. I hope he realizes (and I'm sure he does) the impact he has made on the people of New Orleans and all over the world. I hope to be more like him...and his friends. I hope you will too. :)
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Gleason Gras crowd picked up after the rain cleared out.

Brett with the "Datadors" 

With Saints punter Thomas Morstead