It was neither a dark nor stormy night when the bus departed from the parking lot of a local radio station. It was actually a sunny day but still a mystery was about to ensue. I was escorting a “come along” trip for a local radio station’s easy listening channel and the popular morning guy was to be the “Pied Piper”. A “come along” trip often features a public person with a following of fans who serves as a figurehead leader. Their attendance is to entice others to join them on the journey. This particular adventure would be a cruise on the Mississippi River aboard the historic Delta Queen Steamboat. Originally built in 1926 she had an on board atmosphere that was both nostalgic and elegant and was host to three Presidents during her tenure, most recently President Jimmy Carter. It promised to be a fun trip and when I think of “fun” cities New Orleans usually tops the list. Thirty other travelers shared my perspective and a group was born. N’awlins, as it’s pronounced by the locals, is just one of those places that’s guaranteed to offer a good time or shock the heck out of you. Many believe, myself included, that you have to visit at least once in your life, and I’ve been fortunate to visit twice. Some folks would say that was two times too many while others would say I was just gettin’ started. It’s definitely a matter of opinion and it’s definitely not for the faint of heart. She’s a saucy little town that goes by many names. Her formal name is New Orleans, presumed to be a tribute to Phillip II, the Duke of Orleans a city in France. Perhaps I shouldn’t assume, but I suspect that he must have been a really fun guy. NOLA, The Big Easy and Crescent City are amongst the most common nicknames bestowed upon the seaport and need a bit of explanation. NOLA is an acronym with “NO” representing the initials of New Orleans and “LA” the state abbreviation for Louisiana. As with much common folklore there’s no one answer about how the name “Big Easy” originated. The most widely accepted explanation is that it’s a reflection of the laid back, easy going lifestyle experienced in the birth place of jazz. It’s likely that the Vieux Carre, a.k.a the French Quarter acquired its nickname “the Crescent City”, due to its location in a bend of the Mississippi river. A quick stroll through the French Quarter unveils mystical fortune tellers, and a fascination with voodoo and the occult. Peek down any side street and you will find some of the more unique window shopping you’ll ever experience. An occasional scantily clad woman in a window beckons you and leaves me wondering on which street you find the scantily clad men? New Orleans can easily be summed up with the 3 “B’s” Blues, Babes and Booze. It’s hard to believe that this naughty city is located in the South, the Bible Belt of the country, but this is one book you shouldn’t judge by its cover. New Orleans offers Southern hospitality, great food and charming architecture. It’s the kind of city that leaves you wanting more, some people more than others. On the day of departure I escorted the group to the pier. Even though I would not be sailing with the group I was allowed on board to see for myself the magnificence of the ship. As departure time neared I wished everyone a bon voyage and we said our good-byes with me waving from the dock. I spent one final night in the city before flying back to New York and returning to work. The week passed quickly and the following weekend I boarded the bus that would travel to the airport to transport the returning travelers to Dutchess County. As is common practice when overseeing a group, I conducted an inventory of passengers. Obviously your returning numbers should be equal to your departing numbers, but this time that wasn’t the case. Members of the group were rather nonchalant when they advised me that the radio station deejay had chosen to not return to Poughkeepsie. It would seem that the siren song of this naughty city was almost too much for the host deejay to resist. Many reported seeing him tearing the pages listing information on radio stations from the local phone book. It had all the hallmarks of a job search. I had never lost a passenger before however this was less about a stray traveler and most likely a defection. He had made a deliberate choice to stay behind and I wasn’t sure if it fell within my job description to head back down in a search and retrieve mission. He was an adult exercising his own free will and it wasn’t up to me to decide if he had made a wise choice. I’m certain it was a surprise for the radio station when he didn’t show up to work on Monday morning. I heard through the grapevine that he eventually returned to Poughkeepsie and resumed employment with the radio station, albeit in a different position. I hope that he didn’t view his return to Dutchess County as failure. What others might have seen as a momentary lapse of judgement I now see as a bold quest for a new direction in life. However short that side trip might have been, I hope he felt brave and free and emerged with a new found lust for life. Inspired by the Crescent City he followed his dream and even if that detour led him right back to Poughkeepsie where he began his own personal journey, he still took that chance. I respect that and I wish a little New Orleans for all of us.
The Delta Queen ceased operations in 2015 when she went in to dry dock to be refurbished and it is hoped that she will relaunch in the near future.
For more information on or to follow the progress of the Delta Queen’s anticipated return to service please visit http://www.save-the-delta-queen.org/delta-queen-steamboat-company-is-the-new-owner-of-the-delta-queen/