A tattoo Tuesday! I had coffee at Envie, and heard a New Orleans neologism: “You want that in a here cup or a go cup?” I think I should start spreading that one around, although every native New Orleanian I have run it by has been shocked and appalled.
I decided to eat before the tattoo session, apparently a good plan, and stopped in Em Trai on St. Claude. It is a Vietnamese sandwich and pho shop that was well reviewed, with the brisket, roast beef, and tendon being called out. It started as a food truck, then a booth in the St. Roch Market food court, and now a counter service stand-alone at the edge of my orb. The menu was pho, bahn mi, and po-boys. The special was a hot sausage po-boy for $8, but I decided to go for the bang bang shrimp bahn mi. It was perfectly fried spicy shrimp on Vietnamese bakery bread dressed well. Perhaps it is as good as a Bamboula’s fried oyster po-boy, my standard for a fried fish po-boy. I will have to come back for the pho and a deeper dive into the sandwich menu. The menu looks dangerously good, with a lingering question to be answered only by experience of how different roast beef, brisket, and tendon can be.
It was a good long tattoo session, finishing the left chest panel with detail and some bright colors and pumping some color into the right shoulder tentacles. Walt the tattooer was not very busy, and was telling stories, the most memorable about a tattoo artist who belonged to an outlaw bike gang, the Galloping Geese, and was their enforcer. A good guy to have on your side, even if he had to scoot out the back door when police came in to be tattooed. He also talked about having to fabricate their own needles from sewing needles, and sharpening them once a week—the apprentice’s job. The needles were sharpened on Saturdays, and the shop was closed Sundays and Mondays, so those in the know got tattooed on Tuesdays before the needles got dull and dirty, resulting in pain, blurred lines, and infections or worse. He was joking about every OG tattooer he knew from the 70s ending up with solid black arms as the ink in their sleeves bled together. I’m hoping, and confident that the modern inks and techniques hold up a little better.
I walked by Melvin’s, the dive bar on St. Claude next to the tire shop. It is one of the few bars I have ever been in that had a buzzer to get in. You walked into the entryway to see a second door, and the bartender buzzed you in if you appeared to be proper Melvin’s clientele. I’m not sure what exactly that is, because it was a $3 shot and a beer place with some rickety pool tables, a mixed race clientele, and clearly no dress code. How you look at someone through dirty glass and determine that they indeed have $3 in their pocket I don’t know. I had no real desire to become a regular.
Last year, one of the local TV shows had filmed a fire scene there, and it was hard to tell the difference between the actors playing at firefighters and police, and the firefighters and police working the detail to make sure the joint didn’t burn down. Last night, Melvin’s had a real fire and the rear half of the building burned completely. The bar area was smoke and water damaged, and the owner was hemming and hawing about perhaps not having insurance on the news. The neighborhood changes all the time, but as it is on the same block as Gene’s Po-boy, which ain’t there no more, it makes you wonder. Some developers have big plans and no scruples.
I had a shot and a beer with the Hank was Here corner crowd, and then wandered onto Frenchmen Street. It was early, but as dead as I have seen it, which matched my energy level. I had excellent $2 happy hour tacos at 13, stopped in the bookstore and bought a collection of stories by a local author, and ended up at dba for Dinosaurchestra. Miles was back on the trombone, and in good form. There were only half a dozen folks in the bar, and it was a one set and done evening. I’ll try to remember nights like these come New Years and Mardi Gras.