I’m getting spoiled by the weather this week, with every day in the mid 70s and mostly sunny. I try not to look too close at the weather in Craig, but I’m guessing we have it beat. It is a good thing to sit out in the courtyard in shorts for lunch or in the coffee shop with all the windows and doors open. Most people seem a lot happier than they do at 40 degrees.
It was Dr. John’s birthday, and I had heard about a second line in celebration starting at Congo Square. I went up to Armstrong Park to find a small crowd milling around the closed and locked main gate. It is one of those off historical notes that keeps resonating. Armstrong Park was created by destroying about 6 blocks of the Treme and Basin Street neighborhoods in a round of urban renewal projects that included the I-10 corridor through the other side of the neighborhood. The wealthier, whiter French Quarter fought and won the battle to preserve itself, and the poorer, blacker neighborhood lost. The park was created and then gated. There is no access from the back of the park, in the Treme itself, and the park is cleared and gates locked at sunset. Although named after a famous black resident, containing a bona fide historical site important to the history of Black culture in Congo Square, and being built on the homes of generations of black people, it is closed off to the public even for something as benign as a memorial second line. I can understand the resentment.
The musicians showed up promptly at 6, and began playing. The lead band was the James Andrews band, and there were several middle school and high school horn players who joined in. The police escorted the motley group of about a hundred down Rampart Street and then up Basin Street into the neighborhood. I wasn’t sure where the party was going to end, and did not want to end up under the overpass after dark, so I peeled off. It was a positive experience to see a non-costumed, non-commercial second line, more of a link to the culture of the city that the common purchased second lines that run down Bourbon or Royal.
I took a walk through the Quarter, stopping for a good old fashioned at Tujague’s. A group of businessmen were at the bar drinking sazeracs and engaging in salesman banter. It was an interesting change of pace from the vampire tour crowd that I often run into at the standup bar. I am glad to have escaped that life long ago, although their matching fancy shoes were nice.
It was a mellow Thursday. I went through some computer stuff, repopulated my calendar I had misplaced and had a lunch in the courtyard, followed by a late afternoon walk through the Quarter to Rouses with the excuse of buying a few groceries. I had a beer on the way home at Harry’s, but otherwise respected the low energy day.
Friday was a good 80 degree day in the Quarter. I took a walk to enjoy the warm weather and to get a serious book for the Thanksgiving trip. I went to Faulkner Books in Pirate’s Alley, a small room with a good selection of New Orleans history and fiction. I settled on John Barry’s history of the 1927 flood and its social ramifications for the city and the South. I walked it back through Jackson Square and ran into Katie Leese selling art. We chatted for a bit about Thanksgiving plans, and she told me about Opening Day at the racetrack on the weekend. Everyone, or at least all the cool kids, come in costume, with the main themes being the roaring 20s garden party, but a lot of random thrown in. Katie is doing a big hat with a two foot tall hand made flamingo over a gold sheath dress. Never get in a costume contest with a New Orleans artist.
I stopped at Mollies for a Guinness and read the prologue and the descriptions of the photos in my new book-it was hard to put away, and a good place to sit in the afternoon, like a library with beer.
I have been shopping for furniture to replace the first round in our condo, specifically looking for a comfortable chair or perhaps a living room set that would give us a positive upgrade. As always, the furniture store had a limited time only sale, with an advertised 40 percent off for Black Friday. It got me in the door. I was salespersoned for about an hour and discovered once again that my taste out ranges my budget. I did come to some conclusions, like I’m probably not ready for a full set of couch and chairs, but the right price (not found yet) could do put me over the edge. I am leaning against a recliner, but a small hidden mechanical one might work, but they don’t seem to exist. I did find a modern recliner in light colored leather with an ottoman that I liked and was comfortable, but it was not a bargain and within ten or twenty dollars of a similar one I liked at West Elm. I’m coming to the conclusion that this is just what good furniture costs, and perhaps I like the money in the bank more than the leather in the room.
I wanted to check out the junk/used furniture store in the Bywater, and walked in the heat of the afternoon through the Marigny, stopping at Mimi’s to cool off for a bit on the way. It is an excellent neighborhood bar, with a much higher ratio of apparent locals to Airbnbers, and a complete absence of bridal parties or cruise shippers. The outer edge of the inner orb has been discovered. I walked into the Bywater, reacquainting myself with the relative locations of some of the better restaurants and cafes in town, and the new, bigger Fifi Mahoney’s salon. An important landmark right there. The Bargain Center was closed, although full of inventory, and there was no signage but there was a homeless person sleeping in the doorway. I’m guessing it ain’t there no more.
I walked back towards Frenchmen Street, stopping once again at Mimi’s to say hi to the neighborhood dogs and refresh the bartender’s memory. I walked past the Silk Road and Suhko Thai and developed an appetite. I walked past Shawn Williams playing at Negril in favor of a fried catfish po-boy at Bamboula’s and a set of good jazz from the young combo I had seen last week. They play a good set, and I talked with a couple of them after their time. They were bemoaning the overgrown college boys at the front tables who not only talked over the music but distracted the musicians and, of course, did not tip. It is like the live band playing three feet away from you is wallpaper. Just part of playing the bills, I guess.
I went home to take a break, planning to come out again for a late set. I heard what sounded like someone was tearing the house apart, and went outside to see fireworks over the river. They were celebrating the start of the holiday season with a tree lighting ceremony and the fireworks. I went up on the upstairs neighbor’s porch to watch the show, and was joined by the British couple staying at Jennifer’s. It was a good distance from the show-we were able to see clearly, including the vast clouds of smoke in the humid air, and it was not offensively loud. Most times a fireworks show seems like an auditory assault, and the porch view mellowed that right out. All in all, it was a good day in the neighborhood.