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librarian visits NOLA and lives to tell the tale…

July 1, 2006

anticipated fears prior to arrival in NOLA -another hurricane, crime and safety, heat and humidity… in that order

actual fears prior to departure from NOLA-how much of the loot I had purchased could I actually pack and how much would have to be shipped

first realizations -the stench as I departed the plane and went to baggage claim but how quickly it faded

biggest surprises -palm trees with guidewires…how old the french quarter looked – hell it is old, what did I expect…?? the look of bewilderment on the faces of the volunteers at the NOPL booth as we jostled in line pleading for more merchandise to buy in support of their library

most worrisome moment -helicopters scouring the evening skies

most sorrowful moments -being overcome by the sense of spirits departed in the convention center… twice I escaped the crowd to rest in a quiet secluded empty corner… still focusing totally on the conference activities until I was immediately jolted with the absolute understanding that someone at another moment had surely suffered exactly upon the spot where I now sat

most glad moment -I was not afraid to be there once I arrived and saw you and your city with my own eyes

most treasured souvenir -a Thomas Mann fleur de lis pin overlayed with a shining golden book created as a fundraiser for the Friends of NOPL

secrets exposed -money may talk but those librarians would never tell how happily they overtipped for service

truth untold -the food is a better experience than even you could ever brag about… never could I have imagined and I watch Food Network and read Bon Appetit…!!

item most missed -pepto bismol I forgot to pack

items not missed -newspaper and tv… choosing to experience NOLA as I saw it during my visit instead of subscribing to what others thought I should know

memory to share -two young vietnamese women who shared my seat row on the departing flight… they proudly shared their story of being among the first to be allowed to return home to the west bank in algiers and were so full of hope as one carried her 8 month old son to visit his grandmother… not one whisp of despair between them… that child would have been born last October

memories to hold dear -the gratitude of every resident that I had the chance to converse with… the grinning lady costa rican cab driver who brought us in from the airport… the security guard at one of the back doors of the convention center who had lost her husband, evacuated to East Baton Rouge and returned to live with her sister… the hotel maid who had an entire floor to clean on her own and still hadn’t gotten to my room when I returned late one afternoon – when I told her all I needed was some fresh towels I thought she might hug me… still not sure we understood each others actual language but we got the drift

most thrilling celebrity -Chris Rose – met him, bought his autographed book, gushed and gawed as I told him my favorite columns of his, specially the one about the pianos… somebody ought to do something really special for that man

most humbled celebrity -Anderson Cooper – I stood in line early for a seat on the third row to hear him speak… I clutched my heart as he fought back his own tears as he retold his Katrina stories… he told us he didnt cry on television

celebrity intentionally ignored -Laura Bush – no one I asked had been to see her but several had heard how late she was

awe inspiring -ferns growing between bricks on the building walls… tiny art galleries where I could only window shop after they were closed… sunrise over the crazy curls of the mississippi from my 38th floor hotel room window

proudest moment -observing 90 librarians in yellow shirts gathering to volunteer in the rebuilding effort on Tuesday morning

queries solved -wondering how come there were water puddles to have to walk through or step over on the sidewalks in the French Quarter until I got dripped on from the flower planters overwatered from the balcony overhead… I just love it when I figure something out…!!

amazing response -the ALA was on top of every little thing and all big things too… if something wasn’t right they were fixing it pronto… ditto for Hospitality and everyone else I know was involved

only snafu -lack of drivers for the Airport Express reserved transportation to our hotels from the airport

final success -large tour buses replacing the driverless vans for the return to the airport trips

glad we missed-another hurricane, learning whether “When a thug shoots a librarian, does he use a silencer?” (15760.1.1.1. by kmsoap, 6/21/06 – DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH WE LAUGHED AT THAT…??), 50% of the normal humidity on Tuesday and Wednesday…!!

promises made -to return again… and again

thanks yall… it really was a grand and glorious experience… I wish I had known you before Katrina but am sure glad I do now…!!

originally posted as 40262 on Orleans forum at nola.com

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