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I Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association is returning to New Orleans for its 2008 show, news that I expected to welcome, and do, but that affected me more than I thought it might.

I am glad the industry is honoring its MacArthur-like pledge to return after it had to move the 2006 show to Atlanta following Hurricane Katrina.

But returning to the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, where the images of collecting convention badges and spotting stars had been replaced by scenes of bodies, squalor, and despair, is a tougher trip to make.

But I also think it is an important journey, essentially to redeem those earlier memories, and there are many of them.

There’s that guy making fudge on the skywalk, twirling that big paddle with an even bigger smile; or the kids who tell you where "you got your shoes"; the cable executive ducking into a French Market voodoo shop, or that time when, for some reason, The Weather Channel let us press types have the front row center seats at a James Taylor concert while the unhappy bigwigs were several rows behind.

And then there is Bourbon Street, which combines a hedonism Hollywood can relate to, with a short memory it could only dream of. What stays in Las Vegas hits the Kuala Lumpur papers if the name O.J. is involved. But New Orleans almost gives you permission to let the "wild child" emerge, and certainly doesn’t advertise it or hold it against you.

Most of my time in New Orleans was spent in a press room trying to fill pages of copy and get them to the printer (there is nothing so comforting as hearing the thud outside the hotel room door at 6 a.m. when the mags are dropped). I can still see John Higgins blowing through the press room door with "scoop" plastered all over that big, grinning face.

The great thing about New Orleans for journalists is that when you are finally done pushing the product out the door, which could be as late as 9 or 10 p.m., the town has just come alive and you with it.

NCTA’s return is all about helping the city come alive again, so I say "Let the good times (and the presses) roll once more."