Uptown

After a good morning on a hot(for February) day, I went up to Magazine and Napoleon to look at the costume shops and see a different part of town. I went into Uptown Costume and Dance, shopping there for the first time. It is a little overwhelming, with racks and racks of ready to go costumes and costume pieces. They have a big selection of masks and accessories—if i decide I am in need of a rubber sword to add to the pirate ensemble, this is the place. They carry a full line of the show wear jackets that Roadkill features, at similar pricing. Inspiration failed to strike, but the shop is definitely a good resource.

I went into Peaches, a great record store that has flipped back almost entirely to vinyl. As I don’t have a way to play cds or vinyl anymore, it was mostly a tourist visit to the old Woolworth lunch counter installed in the store. I continued down Magazine, stopping in the costume and thrift stores that are unevenly distributed among the high end boutiques along the way. In one of the smaller ones, I found a white military costume jacket with gold trim that will complement the pith helmet for Pythonesque outfits for one of the upcoming parade party days. Nothing else jumped out as essential in the other junk shops.

I stopped at The Vintage, an upscale coffee/pastry place with a full bar. It has essentially the same menu as Envie, with a little more emphasis on baking(beignets, king cake) and craft cocktails. it probably won’t be my favorite place on the street, but perhaps a place to go if someone is jonesing for a super fancy donut and a place to sit across the street from the Rum House.

I once again walked past Tracey’s to get to Parasol’s. It is a good thing to have two great comfortable bars with excellent food on the same block. Jena’s house was all decorated up with Mardi Gras banners across the street, and they were putting up a roof over the sidewalk at Parasol’s. It will change the whole look of the block, actually making the building look more traditional with a way to get out of the sun. The people at the bar were tourists, pleasant enough, and I had a perfect firecracker shrimp po-boy. Another tough decision—the best roast beef po-boy in the city or the best hot shrimp po-boy? I guess I’ll have to come back.

I walk most mornings through the corner of the Treme to get to the pool, and as I walk down Treme street it seems like a black cat is always on the street in the middle of one of the blocks. I assumed that I was on the same schedule as the cat, and we just ran into each other. This morning, the sun was out warming the fence in the courtyard of the house right there, and there were six black cats, all about the same size sunning themselves, and four more cats of different colors hanging out. Was it the same black cat?

The ebb and flow of the Carnival season continues to amuse. Tuesday was quiet in town, and I spent an hour in Mollie’s talking to Boug and his friend Cassie, another bartender who works the summer season in Maine and the winter in New Orleans. I went to the R bar to find a private crawfish boil going on for an elevator mechanic’s union with a smattering of locals, and was pleasantly surprised to be invited to drink a shot with Jackie the bartender. It is good to have friends in high places, and the bartender at the R bar during Mardi Gras is a position of power.

Wednesday was probably the mellowest day I have spent in New Orleans. I made it to the pool, and just after I got home it turned into a thunderstormy and rainy day. It hailed and did the tropical rain thing, pouring for ten minutes at a time and then slacking off enough to make you think you could go out in it without drowning, and then pouring again like someone put a firehose on the door, while the temperature actually rose to about 75 degrees. I baked some white king salmon and steamed some vegetables rather than going out, and put a dent in my reading pile. I organized the costume closet, discovering that I have a lot of options for the season so long as I mix and match and sacrifice all dignity. I’m probably up to the task.

Thursday was the first day I missed the pool in a while. I was awakened by close thunderstorms around 6, and it was still storming when it was time to walk to the pool. It had cooled down to about 50 degrees, so just being wet on the walk across was not an appealing option, and the lightning was a little spooky. The rain ended around 9, and it is good to be able to get out for coffee. You know you are in the Carnival spirit when two Orthodox priests walk into the Cafe Envie and you think “great costumes”.

I walked across the Quarter to Crescent City Books, the used bookstore, and stopped at Jumani on Chartres near Canal for lunch. It had been recommended by a guy at the Chart Room who looked like he enjoyed his food. Jumani is a bright small space with lots of televisions and a small galley kitchen visible from the bar. It has a good menu of burgers, Chicago style hot dogs, and po-boys, with an emphasis on barbecue pork ribs and sandwiches. I ordered gumbo in honor of the cold day, and it hit the spot. It was cheap for that part of the Quarter, and a good spot to keep in mind for 24 hour food on that side of town. The menu reminded me of Buffa’s, simple and a little quirky, but comfortable when you aren’t interested in fine dining and have bypassed the fast food joints.

The bookstore was interesting as always, and I passed on a 1950s anthropological text about Haida totems I had not seen before. It was a little expensive, $65, but had good photographs and transcribed stories. It I may go back to get it to donate to one of the tribes or carvers despite the jarring perspective of 1950s academia. I found a history of Katrina that I don’t recall reading, but it seems like something I should have read. I’ll probably get about a third through it before I recognize it.

I wandered back through the Quarter, stopping at Johnnie White’s and Mollie’s, and ending up talking with Jim the tour guide at the R bar. Seker invited me over to help him cook as he prepared meatballs for the Krewe d’Vieux party he is throwing. I sautéed a bunch of vegetables and helped him prep. It was a fun way to end an evening.

The weekend will be a full one, with parades and parties every day. I’m thinking about whether to bring a camera or just enjoy the flow of events. It is fun to be in town for the whole season this year.

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