With each passing year I become more reflective and grateful for the life I have. I have a life full of love and comfort. I am also fortunate that my list of ‘needs’ is fairly empty. I am truly blessed.

I think I realized just how blessed I was when the girls and I headed to New Orleans for the Essence Music Festival last July 4th weekend. We were the usual motley crew: M (it goes without saying that she would be there), myself and The Twin (have I introduced her yet? The Twin and I are not twins. We oddly share many of the same likes and dislikes to the point that it’s like we have ‘twin-syndrome’).

Months before our journey to Nawlins (that is how some of the local say it – at least that is how it sounds to my ears) I made my one wish for the trip clear: I had to meet my all-time favourite journalist Soledad O’Brien. You see, I’d once been a journalism major. Ms. O’Brien was who I wanted to model myself after. My journalism career never took off, but I have remained a huge fan of hers ever since.

Well, we got to Nawlins alright and everyone was more than clear about my goal.

Before going any further, it is important that I explain a few crucial facts about Nawlins first:

Fact 1: The month of July is beyond HOT. The air on your skin is hot. As you inhale all you feel is the heat entering your lungs. I’ve never been and don’t plan to go there, but I’m sure the Nawlins’ heat is hot as … (you know where!)

Fact 2: As a compliment to the heat is extreme humidity. You can leave an air conditioned room wearing dry clothes but the moment you get outside your hair will frizz and your clothes will dampen and cling to your body. All this will happen as torrents of sweat trail down your body (pssst! Come close … I highly recommend only wearing cotton knickers and underthings for your own comfort and well-being).

Fact 3. The sidewalks in the French Quarter are a safety hazard: uneven and cracked doesn’t fully describe it.

Please keep these facts in mind as I tell you the rest of my story.

We had arrived in Nawlins on a Thursday and dined on good food. Friday was sight-seeing more food and shenanigans as only our motley crew can do. I was enjoying myself, but throughout I had a constant thought: where was Soledad?

Well, that question was answered by The Twin on Saturday morning when I returned to our shared hotel room after grabbing some coffee. It was a simple sentence: “Soledad O’Brien and the CNN crew are here in the French Quarter filming live at the Ruby Slipper Cafe.”

I immediately went into high gear and was taking no prisoners. I was going to meet Soledad O’Brien and M and The Twin were going to join me.

So, I did what any crazed woman would do: I lost my damned mind!

First I demanded The Twin hurry and get dressed. It looked like she had not long stepped out of the shower from a session at the gym. I wasn’t concerned however. We needed to hit the road before Soledad and the crew left the café. My next hurdle was to get M out of the shower and dressed, so I did what I had to do: I thumped on the closed bathroom door like the mad woman I was at that very moment:

“M!” I shouted, “hurry and get out of the bathroom! Don’t worry about drying the important bits – they can air dry!”
My dear friend M replied with silence as she slowly walked out the bathroom wrapped in a towel.

Neither M nor The Twin gave me the beating any normal friends would give someone behaving as I did. Instead they indulged me the way one might a neurotic, harmless relative. They never said a word other than that they already had the directions to the café.

Roughly ten minutes later, I was frog marching us along the streets of the French Quarter towards the café. Not once did I overhear my friends plotting how best to give me the beat-down my recent behaviour truly earned. In fact, when I was nearly sent flying into the air after tripping on crack on the side walk, The Twin and M caught me and made sure I looked like lady before reaching the café (despite the fact that my behaviour had been anything but!).

We did get to the Ruby Slipper on time (if you ever visit New Orleans the Ruby Slipper is the place for a great breakfast). M was kind enough to take a picture of me with Soledad. Actually, The Twin is in the picture as well – it isn’t like I could have asked her to get out of the shot in light of my morning performance!

After the picture was taken and few words shared with Soledad, the ladies and I sat down to a good breakfast. Looking back on that morning I realize that the best part of that day was not meeting Soledad O’Brien, but realizing I was blessed with two truly great friends who were willing to indulge my lunacy to make my dream a reality. We still laugh about that day – but I also smile knowing just how blessed I am.

Laters & G’Night,

Mantha Baby

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