Laissez les Bon Temps Roulez
By Monica Bay
THERE'S nothing I like better than a 12-hour, five-airport United Airlines adventure that ends well, and getting to N'Orleans fit the bill. Under normal circumstances, a non-stop from New York would take, what, three hours? But I will only fly United, and I had weaseled another one of those Saturday-night-over-if-the-moon-is-full fares. To get my $315 ticket I had to leave out of one New York area airport (JFK) and return to another (LGA).
My colleague David Horrigan and I were on the same itinerary, so we left his car at LGA (airport #1), got to JFK (#2), and then sat until the fog cleared in Washington so we could get airborne and try to make our IAD (#3) connection to United's last flight to New Orleans. Thank-fully we had a very long connection.
We finally got to Dulles and raced to the New Orleans gate just in time to see an absolute mob of people, and agents literally begging for volunteers to be bumped.
Statue in Jackson Square
"We are absolutely desperate!" they pleaded to the deaf ears of a decidedly uncooperative mass of would-be Saturday night Bourbon Street revelers.
The bounty: $400 each in travel certificates. It took us less than two seconds to decide: "Sign us up!" (The agents nearly kissed us.)
So two airports and approximately three cosmopolitans later (via ATL [#4] on Delta) we finally landed at MSY (#5) at the base o' the Mississippi, with a total of $800 in travel vouchers between us. Not a bad way to start a trip, if you ain't in a hurry.
Delta's first class was quite nice (better closets -- heads up, UAL), and they even reciprocated my Red Carpet Club membership and let us kill time at their Atlanta Crown Room (free drinks -- heads up, UAL).
The only annoying part: They made us go through a second security search at the gate. ("You were searched by United, we're Delta," they sniffed.) But they held the plane's departure for us, so we ain't complaining.
(And yes, Mileage Plus junkies, if you get bumped to another carrier, you still get your UAL Premier-status-generating miles for the original trip, it just takes a bit of paperwork.)
Rock & Bowl
The best part about a Saturday-night-over fare is that it allowed for a rare treat: two play days. And what better place to goof off than New Orleans? David is a Tulane University alum, and so he used the free time to visit a local chum, Robin Hero.
She's a headhunter, but she also does some work for Henry Butler, an incredibly versatile jazz pianist. Our timing was perfect, because we got to New Orleans in time to attend a special Sunday benefit performance for the University of New Orleans TRAC Jazz Camp (for teens with visual impairments) at the deliciously funky Rock & Bowl Cafe. Butler was the headliner, and it was a complete blast.
Of course, I couldn't resist pulling out the camera. The organizers saw me shooting and asked if they could have some copies. That gave me immediate carte blanche to wander all over the "backstage." It was a hoot, and brought back memories of my rock-and-roll days. And what great music. Thanks, Robin!
Eating Our Way...
I'm not going to tell you anything you don't already know about New Orleans food: It's all but impossible to get a bad meal.
But it was especially kewl to hang out with locals. Otherwise, we might not have found Port of Call, an absolute dive (my favorite kind o' place) on the edge of the Quarter. It's famous for its burgers, which are served with -- get this -- a baked potato. I don't think I've ever had that combination before, but man oh man was it good.
Of course, to Robin's and David's groans, I insisted that we go to my favorite Nawlins tourist trap, Cafe du Monde, for morning beignets and cafe au lait. They indulged me with only mild annoyance.
I also dragged David and Cathy Kenton (law.com) to Pat O'Brien's courtyard, to nurse one of those sickeningly-sweet but mandatory-for-tourists Hurricanes. (One will do you before you feel an acute need to revert to real booze.)
Over the course of two days, we also hit the Gumbo Shop, and the Crescent City Brew-house, and had drinks at The Column, a Tulane hang-out in an huge, gorgeous mansion. A lovely respite from work!
Then it was time to earn my keep. But it was tough duty: When the rest of the AmLaw team arrived, we launched Legal Tech New Orleans with a great feast at Arnaud's Country Cottage, organized by LegalTech's chieftain, Henry Dicker. Among the gang coming in early for the dinner were Jane Kimpan of LexisNexis; Richard Paresky and Andy Gromada of Chesapeake Interlink (Needles Software); Larry Crapo, his wife, Amy Kosey and David and Lois Kalmick, of CompuLaw; Brook Boehmler of ProLaw Software; L. Elizabeth Bowles and Jennifer Peper from Aristotle; Dan Berlin and Brad Johnson of Software Technology Inc.; and Monica Pickel from CMS Data.
The next night, Ernst & Young graciously hosted a dinner at Mr. B's Bistro, yet another fantastic New Orleans venue. I had the pleasure of sitting with Mark Vitale, and John Carden, E&Y's former C.F.O. Tablemates included Chevron's Steve McKay and E&Y folks Warren Nicholson, of Houston; Beth Nemcek and Kris Sharrar from Cleveland, and local Doug Tymkiw.
Mark Vitale, Courtney Brandt, and Joseph Swimmer
Oh yeah, Seminars!
LegalTech New Orleans wasn't just explorations of the French quarter, of course. We did have to work to earn the fabulous cuisine!
Launching the show, Houston-based Sam Guiberson delivered an enthusiastic keynote address, about how technology can help lawyers achieve balance in their lives. Among his hints: everybody should run right out and buy the new Apple iPod MP3 player. Even though it's designed as a handheld "jukebox" for music, it's ideal for transporting office files, he says. It's the size of a deck of cards, but packs a 5 GB drive-- enough to hold all your office files, says Guiberson.
Details: page 1. (For more on Sam, see Snap Shot.)
I moderated a panel on Intranets, and we "baptized" Courtney Brandt, of J. Ray McDermott into her first LegalTech speaking post. She did a great job describing how Intranets are in use at her company, which is involved with the manufacture of oil platforms.
Joseph Swimmer, of LexisNexis, was also superb, as was the aforementioned Mark Vitale, who subbed in at the last minute.
Also on the work agenda, an interview with Connie Nichols-Hughes, of Docusource Litigation Support Solutions, for our Technology on Trial column. (Page 20.)
Connie Nichols-Hughes at the Convent courthouse
David Horrigan and I had no idea what we were in for when we arrived at her offices on St. Charles Ave. To say she's vivacious is an absolute understatement. She had us in hysterics as she recounted all the adventures involved with litigating the Kaiser case.
After the interview, David and I had planned to rent a car and go take some photos of the courthouse, in rural Convent. On the spur of the moment, we invited Connie to join us. Not only did said yes, she offered to drive. We had envisioned that the St. James Parish courthouse was probably going to be a quaint, highly photographic venue. Nope. A concrete box.
It's located absolutely in the middle of nowhere. But right next door is a huge immacuately manicured former plantation house, now operating as Manresa House, a Jesuit retreat center. (Think Napa Valley's Silverado Resort, only surrounded by mobile homes and modest bungalows.)
The biggest challenge of the long trial, says Connie, was lunch. There's nothing at all within a half hour drive, so the court vending machine was often the restaurant of choice. That is, until they found Nobile's Restaurant & Bar, on West Main in nearby Lutcher.
The court 'restaurant'
"Let's go," says Connie, noting that it was almost noon. How could we say no?
It was great! The restaurant is housed in a beautifully restored 1895 Victorian building, complete with antiques and a gift shop. The walls of the restaurant are full of art by locals. It's always fun to pick up a piece of art when you are traveling because you not only enjoy the art itself, but it triggers memories of the day and the good company. So I could not resist purchasing (for a whopping $20) a cross-stitched "sampler."
The mahogany bar at Nobile's
Alas, soon it was time to go home. But rest assured, I'm plotting to return soon to the Big Easy. I only scratched the surface!