In his mind, SMQ is at least part New Orleanian, despite having grown up in an adjacent state and set the record as the city's all-time briefest resident due to Hurricane Katrina. Nostalgia reigns still via the Saints, WWL radio and semi-regular visits.
Southern Miss trips to the city, for Tulane games or New Orleans Bowls, are recalled less fondly, but to commemorate the former this Saturday, SMQ sat down for his weekly report with a blogger, reporter or other insider of USM's upcoming opponent with Big Easy humorist Diana Grove, general cut-up and founder of the very "gooey" American Sideshow. We chatted over chair de crabes St. Pierre, ecrevisses a la mariniere de saison and crustaces sautés aux champignons about gris gris, where ya got ya shoes and illocutionary discourse via intentional causal agents of emergent structurata, codetermining a concretely singularized conjunctural outcome.
SMQ: After the omnipresent, unmitigated, unrelenting hell descended over the entire region for every agonizing second of the past year, how great is it to finally have a team occasionally capable of playing LSU within six touchdowns back in New Orleans? How much has Tulane's celebrated return meant to the city's sense of normalcy?
DG: The return of football to New Orleans is a tremendous relief, even to those who aren't diehard fans. There's nothing like the sight and smells of a Tulane crowd to remind us how life used to be pre-Katrina. (That and the re-emergence of tourist boobie on Bourbon Street.)
["Tourist boobie," of course = you, dear reader - ed. Yes, get some close-toed shoes for that stroll, dude.]
Ah, finally, normality.
SMQ: OK, seriously: Last time I went to a Southern Miss-Tulane game, I could literally hear the popcorn at the concession stand popping from my seat in the middle of the second quarter. While the Green Wave, um, "band" was playing. And it was borderline Arctic because the air conditioning in the Superdome accounts for the body heat of 65,000 and, well, there were only like, 11 bodies, max. The atmosphere was comparable to a junior high game played in a giant, abandoned spaceship during a hazy nightmare. Since the entire city of New Orleans forges ahead as a deserted shantytown, can Saturday's attendance crack the dozen person mark?
DG: You have to admit, as far as deserted shanty towns go, New Orleans is by far the most lively. If attendance is down, blame it on the 24-hour party down on Frenchman Street.
SMQ: Is the Dome safe for spectators?
DG: No, the Superdome is not safe, nor is any dome for that matter. Particularly if you dress like Bucky Badger and scream "Death to the Banana Slugs!" like I do.
SMQ: Two years ago, Lester Ricard was this huge (6-5, 225), pretty athletic young guy with a big arm destined to become the third straight Tulane quarterback to go high in the NFL Draft. This year, he's thrown 17 touchdowns (with a combined 5-1 ratio against Auburn, LSU and Mississippi State), is on pace to crack 3,200 yards, and has topped 340 yards three times, but he's rarely mentioned among even C-USA's best passers. What happened?
DG: Oh that's simple. Lester Ricard has a very lucrative career playing bass for the great bluesman Willie "Fallen Arches" Williamson, but I hear he still runs offense in between sets.
SMQ: For the last month, Southern Miss has attacked a string of spread offenses by converting from its base 4-3 defense to a 3-3-5 set that has managed to stop the run with six in the box while still keeping two safeties over the top. What can the Tulane ground game do to open things up downfield by making the Eagles commit an extra defender to the run?
DG: This season it's all about distraction. My guess - they'll drop a Lucky Dog stand out in the flat.
Lucky Dog Stand: Not a speedster, but forces defenses to respect it in the open field
SMQ: USM fans are no strangers to the Crescent City, but some may be concerned about their safety en route to and from the game. Where these days can dedicated Eagles get their pullover-accented schwerve on in appropriately civil fashion, free from marauding looters and bodily harm?
DG: Well, the entire French Quarter still has quite a high swervability factor and is certainly no more dangerous than, say, downtown Philly after an Eagles win. But for those whose swervosity runs down and dirty, I recommed Dixie Divas at the corner of Iberville and Charter. That is, if you don't mind your lap dance having a black eye and an ass rash.
[Is that all? How much? - ed. Sounds like good stock for off-Bourbon fare.]
SMQ: Do you know if that place Lucky's re-opened, on St. Charles? It was my favorite 24-hour dive bar/Laundromat in Uptown.
DG: Lucky's was one of the first uptown bars to re-open after the hurricane. It's also one of the last places the great Hunter S. Thompson visited before he blew his brains out all over the kitchen range. So make sure to stop by and pay homage with a Wild Turkey and a salute to The Duke. He loved it here, and once you visit, you will too.
Thompson: Like SMQ, requested bar TV be turned to 'Coach' reruns at 3 a.m.
Diana Grove is the founder of American Sideshow. Tulane and Southern Miss kick off Saturday at 1 p.m. Central in the Louisiana Superdome.