After a mellow day and reheated red beans, I went to Buffa’s to try to see Tom McDermott and Aurora Nealand, figuring that with the post-Mardi Gras malaise and the utter lack of activity in town that it would be a good time. There was a dead rat on the sidewalk outside the bar, but the back room was SRO. I didn’t really want to fight the crowd, so just had a couple of beers at the empty front bar with Boone.
I reserved an Airbnb for Mom’s visit, right down St. Anthony’s from our house, but a direction I usually don’t go, right on the edge of the Marigny. It will be good to have a bedroom and bathroom for her separate from our place, but close enough to easily hang out. It should be a busy week, and I will start looking at entertainment options. It looks like the Congo Festival at Armstrong Park is the last weekend of the month, with Rebirth and Hot 8 headlining.
It is already the weekend, and I am not sure I am ready, but the Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Day Society is having a practice parade through the French Quarter today in preparation for the real parade through the Irish Channel on St. Patrick’s Day. I may be practiced enough to skip this one.
I took an early walk through the Quarter, with a quick stop at Harry’s and a couple of cocktails at Manolito. I had their house mojito, excellent as always with a healthy splash of bitters to top it off and add color. I also had the daiquiri mente, the frozen version, for comparison, and a cheese arepa to slow the absorption. Note to self: Happy hour pricing is great. I walked over to dba, trying to catch Aurora Nealand in a bigger venue, but she had canceled the early show. I’m a lousy stalker.
I went over to the R Bar and met Chris, who introduced me to Greg Toussaint, a cousin of Allen Toussaint, the famous music producer. We talked local music politics for a bit, and I impressed myself in being able to keep up. The essential, and probably age-old, problem is that as certain musical neighborhoods, like Frenchmen Street, or venues, like the Spotted Cat, become more popular, they become inaccessible to locals and local musicians who made them popular in the first place. As the venues and business owners try to take advantage of the crowds, the music becomes homogenized, and you get Bourbon Street or Vegas, appealing mostly to the Walmart sensibilities—nothing challenging or original, and entertaining in the way that middle America likes to be entertained, with the music of their youth. The local musicians then get squeezed out to the more marginal neighborhood clubs, where they can play more freely, but perhaps not attract the money they need to keep playing original music. It is hard, even as a serious music fan, to push out to some of these midnight shows in transitioning neighborhoods. I’m not sure I really want to be lakeside of I-10 in the Treme at 3AM, even if the Hot 8 is playing new music to the neighborhood folks.
Cecile and Chris had invited me to join them on a road trip to their new place in Bay St. Louis, on the Gulf Coast beach. I got to Cecile’s to find the house in crisis, a relatively common occurrence, but this was a little more serious that most. Cecile’s son had blown out of his rehab center after 5 months of treatment, and and was at loose ends, a bad place for an addict. Simultaneously, an officer that she had been working with as a patient and co-worker for 15 years was having a psychotic episode that included making direct and graphic threats against her by posting violent slasher movie clips on Facebook and explaining in the comments the he was going get her for ruining his life. The police were involved, and probably going to arrest the guy, but he was out and about this morning. It is nice to be trusted enough to overhear this family and personal saga, but a lot of reality.
In any case, we collectively decided to continue on with our plans and drove the hour or so to the beach. Cecile was on the phone almost the whole trip dealing with the dueling emergencies, but it was fun driving the back road-Highway 90-through New Orleans East, the Vietnamese neighborhood, into the lake and bay country. I had recently read a history of Jean Lafitte, so it was fun to see the Rigolets, Fort Bienville, and other familiar geography. There is a de facto wildlife refuge around the NASA test center just past the Pearl River, which is the site of the Cajun Experience tour outfit. The bird life is stunningly different than Alaska, with lots of egrets, herons and cranes along the shore and a number of varieties of hawks and vultures overhead.
Bay St. Louis is a small town with a beach strip of bars and restaurants along a nice small boat harbor and yacht club. Across the street from the beach is a small business strip of higher end art and antique stores and casual restaurants, and then a town. We drove past a high school baseball game in progress, and Cecile’s new house is about a mile back into town in a older working class neighborhood which looked a lot like the older sections of St. Charles. Her place is a 1940s era cottage with a huge lot that feels awfully comfortable. The house has survived all the hurricanes since it was built, and in contrast to New Orleans, the poorer neighborhoods were built on the high ground because they were far away from the beach. The big mansions were built closer to the beach, and as a result have been destroyed and rebuilt several times in the last century.
We met some of their friends at the Blind Tiger for lunch. This is a seafood beach bar, and they had crawfish boiling outside. We had some Royal Red shrimp that had been boiled with the crawfish, and they were quite tasty with the Cajun spice. Royal Reds are Alaskan prawn sized shrimp from the deeper water of the gulf, easily 3 or 4 times the size of the usual Louisiana shrimp.
Suzanne, Cecile’s friend is a Canadian snowbird and real estate investor who runs several Airbnbs around New Orleans and apparently other places. Her words of wisdom were not to ever try to live in New Orleans in the summer. She did it for a few years, and it was just miserable, and she returned to making the trek from Ontario every year. She and her friend Tina have the French Canadian accent, which is endearing, but also french manners, which means to me a more direct conversational style which can be off-putting. It could just be that they are beautiful older rich women who are quite used to getting their way, but I am not used to being corrected when I am trying to be politely agreeable. In any case, Suzanne had some perceptive ideas about quick and practical remodels to the cottage to put it into service as a rental or guest house with little effort.
The drive back was also spent with Cecile on the phone dealing with the emergencies of the day, but the late afternoon light was spectacular over the bays and lakes. It was a good day.
Sunday morning brought daylight savings time, which leaves me with the impression that I am running late, for what I don’t know.