I celebrated my birthday (as you know) at the Guest House at Graceland. However, for months I had known about a second opportunity to mark the occasion: seeing Dolly Parton in concert in New Orleans. I was hesitant to commit until the very week of because I had just opened the shop about a month prior, but my friend who also celebrates his birthday at the end of November had already bought the tickets. On the floor. How could I say no? After 2 of my favorite musical icons perished in 2016 (RIP David Bowie and Prince), I couldn’t risk the chance of Dolly slipping away before I could see her live. So I threw a sign up on the shop door, alerted my social media channels, and headed south on I-55 with a suitcase packed for the night and my dog in the backseat.
Visiting NOLA is more than just fun for me. I lived there almost 6 years, and I love the city like it is a person. I have lots of friends to see, and places I feel like I need to go when I am there. In my less than 24-hour visit, here is some of what I did.
I stopped first at Brandon and Wak’s house in the Irish Channel for a take out lunch from Turkey and the Wolf. It opened after I left and I had seen much about it on Facebook. It is in a building where 10th Ward Bucc (former City Council candidate and local rapper) once had a chicken wing place, and I see the double-edged sword of gentrification at work, but damn those T&W hipsters can make a delicious sandwich. Our dogs played while we headed uptown to get a coffee and a wig for me to complete my Dora Lee Rhodes* outfit that night.
A few blocks away from my old house was a dog park in a little square lined with residences, a bar, the VFW, and a dilapidated firehouse. Since I left, that former fire station on the corner has become an incredible coffee shop. People didn’t look up from whatever they were doing when we walked in, and I wouldn’t have even noticed the famous musician in front of me if I hadn’t been paying attention to my surroundings for this blog. I’m sure he goes there for anonymity, and because of it, I won’t say who he is. It’s up to you to seek out this place for coffee - and you should because it is really good - and you may get a peek at this guy. Brandon was with me and when we left I nudged him and asked about said musician, to which he responded “Oh that’s why he looked familiar! I was about to ask him if he worked at Stein’s.” (Stein’s is an awesome deli in the Lower Garden District) I’m VERY glad he didn’t ask, although this guy would’ve probably loved it.
From there I headed down Magazine for a quick tour of my friends’ architecture office. You may have seen Corbett’s dog Ouisy on her Cattail dog bed lounging from the open balcony door on Instagram a few months back. We took a short walk down the street to Saint Claude Social Club – a shop some other friends of mine had opened recently. Before you even go in you can tell it is full of cool stuff, and once you get inside you realize these ladies have a true calling to not just fashion, but style. I adored it; and it is a true reflection of them. Go see it if you are in town. To give you perspective, you could throw a rock from the front door and it would almost land in a margarita at one of the tables outside Juan’s Flying Burrito.
Then, it was time to get dressed in polyester office wear and cowboy boots with my blonde wig. My toy pistol, later confiscated by Superdome security, really completed the getup. Corbett came home from work and looked at me, surprised. “Oh, you dressed up.” I figured he was just trying to make me feel dumb. Then I get to the pre-party. Where are the other people in costume? OH. I was the only one. Surely more people there will be dressed up? (Fast forward to the show: not as many as I’d hoped for. A woman in the ladies’ room actually said aloud “I’m sick all these people in Dolly wigs” to which I wanted to respond with “And what are you dressed as?” but realized I would quickly be taken out by her and her friend in a Canadian tuxedo.) After a few celebratory drinks for my friend Will, whose actual birthday was that night, we called an uber and made our way to the Dome.
I was excited before, but getting there and making our way to the seats, it really hit me. I guess it was hard to process because only 12 hours earlier I was leaving Memphis, but I remember the first time I listened to her sing with Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris in Trio in the 1980s. That record (yes, record) came with paperdolls of all of them! Naturally, I wanted to play with the Dolly one. I watched her many times over in two of my favorite movies, 9 to 5 and Steel Magnolias, and I’d gone to Dollywood (three times actually). My nephew received free books from her as part of the Imagination Library in Tennessee. She can make you laugh and make you cry, and she is a great businesswoman and humanitarian. Why did I ever consider not going to this show?
I wanted to take it all in, so I (believe it or not) only had 3 drinks during the show. I didn’t want to miss anything by standing in drink lines or bathroom lines, because I knew she was going to deliver. And she did. At first I wondered if she was really singing, but it became clear that she was. She took breaks between songs (like "Rocky Top" which as a Tennessee girl I LOVED, "9 to 5", "I will Always Love You", "Little Sparrow" and pretty much anything you wanted to hear) to tell stories about her life. She shared one about how she learned after her father had died that he would take his truck and a brush down to the courthouse where there was a statue of her and wash it up at night. Or the time her mom caught her suckling a pig in the yard. She is a TREASURE.
I hope this isn’t her last tour, and she certainly has a lot of life in her years.
Yes, it was a fast turn around. Shelby spent the entire ride back whining for me to let her out of the car. I felt the same, but knew the only thing to do was press on. We made it, and opened up the shop the next day. It was worth it.
*If you don’t know who that is, please go watch 9 to 5 right now. Twice.