Casablanca Lily in Landscaping

The Daphne and Casablanca Lily
By Pat Browning

My friend Marlene called while I was reading Wendy Bartlett’s Comment on last week’s blog. Marlene and I laughed ourselves silly remembering our 1984 trip to New Orleans. She reminded me that we always meant to put that week into a mystery novel. Maybe it’s not too late. In fact, I have an idea …

Besides the 1984 World’s Fair, New Orleans was hosting a medical convention. French Quarter hotels were booked solid so we got a room at the Airport Hilton. It was a perfect choice for two fancy-free women who meant to go to Marrakech and wound up in New Orleans, thanks to a scheduling disaster at the Denver airport.

First crack out of the box, we checked into the Hilton and headed for the bar. The sign over the door read CASABLANCA. We fell up against the wall laughing. Finally composed, we went through the swinging door, and five minutes after we slid into a booth some guy named Rudy tried to buy us a drink. Oldest pickup line in the world: “Don’t I know you?” We spent the rest of the week dodging him.

Our first day out we were adopted by a freelance cab driver who wore brass knuckles wrapped around his fist. It’s true. I couldn’t make that up. For the whole week he was at our beck and call, hauling us back and forth to the French Quarter and the Fair. I never felt so safe in my life, and we tipped him handsomely. Why not? It was only money, and a lot cheaper than plane fare to Morocco.

The French Quarter was a small place. Everywhere we went, there was Rudy, hanging out the window of a limousine yelling, “Marlene!” He wanted her to call him. He wanted her to take a cruise on his yacht. Yeah, right. But Rudy is a story of his own, as is everyone we ran into.

My phone conversation with Marlene about the bar named Casablanca reminded me of a story I wrote for The Hanford Sentinel in 1978. I went to Morocco twice that year, first, with a group of travel agents, and again with Marlene and some other friends.

It’s a long story, so here are excerpts:

***
In the case of “Casa, ” as everyone calls it, if you liked the movie, the city may be something of a disappointment. It’s like meeting a lovely lady with a shady past – your imagination keeps trying to bridge the gap between appearance and reputation.

There is, alas, no “Rick’s Place” in Casablanca. Nobody named Sam plays piano and the plane to Lisbon is a Boeing jet. … On boulevards lined with palm trees, businessmen in dark suits mingle with local folk wearing djellabas, burnooses and caftans. A veil here, a fez there, slippers and sunglasses everywhere …

The city center is reminiscent of San Francisco’s Union Square in the fifties. … On the map, Morocco lies due east of the Carolinas. In climate, topography and architecture it could be California. …

And what of the old image? Well, if you knock on the door of a disco at midnight, you may see a pair of dark eyes peering through a slot, while you stand there wondering if “American” is a proper password. (It is.) You may hear an occasional guarded reference to the “white market, ” which apparently still exists, like a skeleton that keeps falling out of the closet. Guides warn against “long fingers, ” as they call pickpockets.


Lily's is good (lovely garden seating)

2004-11-05 10:09:35 by sanguine

Joe's is a skip away and much better IMHO. Still, I really like Lily's. You said unique-these would both fit the bill. To add to the list: Mercedes Grille, Cafe del Rey, 26 Beach Cafe, and Casablanca. Latter is very decent, inexpensive mexican. Amazing combos for 6-7 dollars. Best part are the fresh tortillas (made on a grill in the restaurant) served w/ a salsa verde full of cheese and avocado. Complimentary. After two of these I usually have to take my lunch to go!


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