Here in San Francisco, New Orleans never seems quite so far away.
This is especially true on Saints game days, and Saturday’s exciting (and yes, disappointing) playoff game was no exception.
When my New Orleanian boyfriend decided to come for a visit over the long holiday weekend, the idea of a Saints-49ers playoff game at Candlestick Park was a glimmer on the horizon. But as the clock counted down and the score went up against the Detroit Lions, our hunt for tickets began. We pulled the trigger — and nearly emptied our bank accounts — later that week.
As I crossed off the days until Saturday, the heckling at my San Francisco-based office got progressively worse, from sarcastic “Who Dat” chants to invitations to tailgates reneged when my loyalties were revealed, though it was all in good fun. Still, we worried our membership in the Who Dat nation and commitment to Breesus would get us in trouble on the hallowed grounds of the 49ers.
What we found when we got off the shuttle at the stadium by the Bay really shouldn’t have surprised us — there were Saints fans everywhere. We noticed a slow trickle of black and gold on BART, which turned into a steady flow on the T Train to the Stick. Realizing our 12-pack of High-Life may have been overzealous, we offered bottles to tried-and-true Saints fans only, striking up conversations about their playoff journey.
Many had gotten into San Francisco that morning, some were New Orleans ex-pats living in the city, most were making a weekend out of it. All came to fulfill a dream of seeing their team in a playoff game – and most of us huddled under the large black and gold flag that signaled a safe haven amidst the sea of red.
I say I shouldn’t have been surprised at the number of Saints fans at the game because I’m usually surrounded by them on Sunday mornings at the Black Magic Voodoo Lounge on the corner of Lombard and Van Ness Streets. It’s the ex-pat New Orleans bar here in San Francisco; you walk in and feel immediately transported back to NOLA. Abita Amber’s on tap, everyone asks what neighborhood you’re from, and there’s dancing on the bar every time a touchdown is scored.
My new Sunday tradition has served as a welcome escape from the reality that I’m 2,500 miles away from New Orleans and the culture we all love. I have a feeling that most patrons of the Voodoo Lounge feel that way – we’ve all made new homes in San Francisco, but we seek a place where we can be ourselves, act a little crazy, and love the Saints, sans heckling.
Now that the Saints’ football season has come to a close, I’ll miss that weekly opportunity to pretend I’m back in New Orleans, but I’m beginning to see some similarities between NOLA and SF.
When I decided to move back to San Francisco – I’m originally from Northern California – many of my friends in New
Orleans commented on the cities’ similar cultures and environment: We love good food, strong drinks, and our unique cultures. Sure, the food, drinks and cultures are different, but with those things comes a shared appreciation for life and the city where you’ve made your home.
My new and old homes converged on the football field Saturday as I rooted for the Saints while overlooking the San Francisco Bay. We all love the Saints for many reasons, but during this season away from New Orleans, I love them for reminding me that New Orleans is not so far away.
Catherine Lyons lives in San Francisco, but left a little piece of her heart in New Orleans. She is the former entrepreneur editor for NolaVie.