Watching: Broadcast News. I love this movie, so much. "There were complaining phone calls because you were sweating?" "No! Nice ones, worried that I was having a heart attack."

Reading: Dumb stupid bar exam outlines. Although I did learn that a girl in Kansas can get married when she's 12. With her parents' consent, of course. Boys, however, must wait until they are 14, poor things.

Overheard: In the gate at the New Orleans airport:

"So what happens when some guy on a plane pulls C-4 out of his ass? Will we have random ass checks?"

Random ass checks. That slayed me.

Trying: To keep a few New Year's Resolutions. #1 is to take better care of my skin. I read somewhere that every time you go to bed without washing your face your skin ages three days. I should look a hundred years old by now because I almost never wash my face before I go to bed. I only do it when I've worn foundation, which is almost never. But I've started doing it every night, and using toner and moisturizer and eye cream, because I'm 30 and the wrinkles are just waiting to spring on me like all my blasted gray hair.

See, what normally happens is that I go and take a fabulous trip with the girls and then I get so overwhelmed when I sit down to write about it that I never get anything together at all, and that is just not a good solution.

So here we go.

First of all, I really have no right to complain about travel delays because practically everyone else has a worse story than mine, so we'll just skip that part. All I'll tell you is that it's a bad idea to fly Delta when it snows in Atlanta, it's kind of embarrassing to have a security agent see how bad you are at packing, and I honestly seriously have no idea how anyone got anything done before the age of cellular telephony.

Except I get did an unexpected bonus because Kate's flight was delayed so often that she ended up leaving Atlanta even later than I was supposed to, so she traipsed on over to my gate and got on my flight, which was completely hilarious, and I remembered how much more fun it is when you're flying with someone.

Melissa had asked us to keep an eye out for her friend Erica, who was supposed to be getting in around the same time, and sure enough we discovered her in the lobby (well, I suppose you could call it a lobby) of our very quaint, very cheap hotel as we were checking in. We deposited our bags in our room and cabbed it to the very swanky, very uncheap hotel where Melissa and Greg were staying, and found Melissa and Colleen in the jazz bar. Hugs all around, and then, as Kate and I had not had dinner, we went in search of food.

Food. Food, as you may well know, is an incredibly important part of any girls' weekend, and New Orleans is the place to be if food is important to you.

Well, it's probably better if seafood is important to you. If you eat no seafood whatsoever, then all there really is in New Orleans for you is Cafe du Monde, and let me just tell you, that is enough.

I did eat alligator sausage, though. I was kind of proud of that.

But wait, back to the story. So on Friday morning, Kate, Colleen, Erica and I met up with Melissa and Greg at La Madeleine, a fantastic bakery and breakfast place on Jackson Square.

We meandered from there down to the French Market, and kept in touch with Dora via cell phone. "We're outside the toy store at the corner of Decatur and Dumaine," I said. "I'm here, I'm here, where are you?" I heard her cry through the phone. I scanned the busy corner until I saw a girl with beautiful long hair frantically dodging through the intersection without a care as to traffic lights or right-of-ways, yelling and waving a cell phone.

Finally, finally, I meet Dora. We have been friends for so long, it seems weird that we are only meeting for the first time. She is, of course, every bit as lovely and goofy and funny and fabulous as the person I have gotten to know through desperate clockwatcher-type mid-afternoon e-mails and phone calls.

So, yay. We continue roaming the French Quarter, stopping in all kinds of funky shops that sold things like chain-mail bikini underwear and miniature Weight Watchers guides. We landed at the Acme Oyster House for lunch, and I had one big-ass poupa. (Someone has a picture of it, somewhere, so hopefully you'll get to see it.)

At some point we went to Cafe du Monde where we met up with Corina and Wes, who had just gotten in, and I ate three huge giant beignets covered in pounds of powdered sugar and my god, but they were delectable.

I believe after this we went back to the hotel to freshen up. Then we went to dinner at Remoulade and ate some more things, and then, people, then we hit Bourbon Street.

Okay. I actually remember quite a bit about Friday night, considering that I had, oh, seventeen drinks. A Hurricane here, a Hurricane there, a shot here, a shot there. A shot that nearly sent Corina, Kate, and myself to the moon, powered by our own breath.

See, someone asked the thick-necked bartender what a Cherry Bomb was. The bartender informed us that it was a cherry soaked in grain alcohol. Okay, say Corina, Kate, and myself, we'll have one of those. (No thank you, says Dora. Dora is very, very smart.)

He then proceeds to scoop out a full shot of the grain the cherries are soaking in before adding the cherry itself. On three, say we three, and down goes the shot.

Good lord. The next thing I know, we are standing there coughing, choking, our eyes welling up, curses flying out of our mouths. I never even got to the cherry. Sayeth the bartender: You couldn't pay me to drink that shit. Yeah. Thanks.

All right, so perhaps the memory does fade a bit after that. I do remember ending up at Fat Tuesday's, one of these places with a million different daiquiri flavors lining the wall, where I probably had a Hurricane-flavored one. (Those Hurricanes are good, you know.) We sat and talked and I believe I went to the ladies' room at least every five minutes.

And I would just like to report that I woke up the next morning without even a sliver of a hangover. I'm kind of proud of that.

Saturday started off at Cafe du Monde, where I had yet another three beignets covered in powdered sugar and a giant hot chocolate. Sadly, Dora had to leave us to go deal with scary homeowner issues, and 24 hours with her was just not enough.

We headed over to Mr. A. the psychic in Jackson Square, and before I knew it, Meredith, she formerly of Humidity and Hebephrenia, showed up to join us. Meredith is the absolute epitome of easy-going, or else she's just crazy; who else would traipse through a cemetery in the pouring down rain with a bunch of wacky journalers, and then blow off a previous engagement to continue to hang out with us? Adaptable, certainly, but also a few screws loose, which means she fit in quite well!

We went back to the hotel to warm up and dry out; fortunately, the rain did let up, and then we all met up at Louisiana Pizza Kitchen for dinner, with the exception of Corina and Wes, who went somewhere else, fancy-pants food snobs that they are.

Maybe we were old, maybe we were broke, but we couldn't really handle another evening of Bourbon Street debauchery, so after dinner we recollected Corina and Wes and went to the jazz lounge at Greg & Melissa's hotel, and it was very nice to just sit down and listen to some really fantastic music.

The trip home was, fortunately, uneventful. Kate apparently continued her streak of bad travel luck (Delta hates me, she says, standing in the Philadelphia airport waiting for her luggage at the same time I am standing in the Kansas City airport waiting for mine, despite the fact that she left New Orleans seven hours before me) but at least I didn't have to have my shoes x-rayed.

It was a whirlwind weekend, for sure, but I still feel I had an amazing introduction to the famous/infamous/notorious Crescent City. I smoked and drank but did not bare my chest in exchange for beads, which I think is a nice healthy level of irresponsibility. I bought a t-shirt and a boa and some postcards and a mug, so I didn't go crazy on the souvenir end of things.

And last, but not least, I met two old friends. That alone would have been worth it no matter what.



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