Friday the 13th Hits Hard

I checked out of the Chateau and, after some computer time at Envie, walked the Quarter, half heartedly shopping on an 80 degree day. I cooled off at the Chart Room and Johnny Whites before pulling the trigger on replacing the sunglasses I lost on New Year’s. It is nice to have good glasses again. At Mollie’s I talked to a couple from Metairie who kind of get it. They rent a hotel room in the Quarter once a month or so, and hang out for the weekend not having to drive or worry about home stuff for a few days while enjoying the bars and restaurants.

I let myself back into the condo, and spent an hour or so cleaning up the sidewalk and courtyard after the termite folks. It wasn’t too bad, but they did knock the front gate out of alignment which may cause a problem later as guests or drunken tenants don’t pay attention to closing it properly.

I had a good burger at Buffa’s, talking to a couple from Downers Grove who were all decked out in Cubs gear. They never escaped, and were perplexed by my story of getting to Alaska. I’m a little surprised that they seemed to like New Orleans, but they were freaked by the geckos and roaches. I had a beer with the Hank was Here crowd and commiserated about the effect of the coronavirus on events and especially the service industry folks, and then picked up my stuff at Jill’s. She is still negotiating with Jena about St. Patrick’s Day parties, so we will see how it rolls out. She has to travel for a week for business in three different cities next week, which is a little scary, but the judge is unwilling to change a court date.

Chores in the morning, repacking the cabinets and going grocery shopping. I’m not sure whether to shop like I am camping for a couple of weeks before I decamp for the summer or for the coronavirus apocalypse where we fight off the escaped zoo animals.

The Downtown Irish gathered at the R Bar in the evening, buying everyone drinks and distributing Jell-O shots. They don’t get better by virtue of being green. The groups was smaller than years past, but probably 50 marchers showed up. I ended the evening on the Touro porches.

Saturday the official St. Patrick’s Day celebration, and I decided to avoid the unpoliced block party at Tracey’s and Parasol’s. It turned into a minor riot in the evening, with police horses riding through the crowd to disperse the illegal gathering. I’m glad I was not part of that show. It was a hot day, and I took my camera along the river and through the Bywater. It does feel good to be out in the sun and sweat a little. I had lunch at Mimi’s, a lamb chop tapa perfectly prepared. The chef told me that he butchers his own animals for the lamb dish on the menu, one every few days, and can make only one of the lamb chop specials per animal. Pretty good for bar food. I took a break after the walk to download some photos, and then headed back out.

It was a beautiful afternoon, and one of the really quiet days in the lower Quarter. The cruise shippers were out on Lower Decatur, and Mollie’s was crowded, but downright pleasant for a Saturday. It was a good walk. I saw and chatted with Puge outside Checkpoint Charlie’s, continuing on past the overcrowded Mollie’s to Manolito where I sat with my bartender friend Melissa from Tujagues and Shannon who had just got off duty but stayed to talk for a bit. We were sitting outside, and I was greeted by name by half a dozen people including Katie Leese, the artist. I took the loop through Jackson Square and Bourbon Street, not stopping but marveling that people were still out playing, and being greeted by the evening occupant of my favorite barstool at Johnny White’s. I stopped at Harry’s Corner to say hi to Beverly, and met Tom, the chef from Tujagues, who said he was laying off a third of his staff, going to summer staffing now instead of June. He claimed that the big Marriott on Canal was shutting down completely, effective immediately, in response to the virus and business slowdown. With that cheery news, I went to the Rbar and sat with the Hank was Here crowd, commiserating with the church musicians who no longer have a choir to direct or a congregation to play for, the HR people who have gone from hiring to firing overnight, and the service people who are wondering how they will make it through the next few months with a reserve for the always slow summer.

From there, I sat with Jill and her very drunk friend Renee who had not skipped the block party. Jill took us out to sushi, and it was time for me to go when Renee launched into a good five minute angry rant about co-workers that rivaled the “fuck you you fucking fucks” speech from Treme. I thought sailors could swear, but try a drunk Cajun lawyer. On the way home I was flagged down by Irena (Auryana?), the Ukrainian woman with the neon orange hair, and Jim the mule driver tour guide. Jim says their business is off by half, and they are probably going to cut staff in their normally busiest season. Irena asked me to walk her home because she was having a problem with one of the guys in the bar, and it was a good way to end the evening.

The whole day was great, in that I saw a lot of friends and had good conversations, and reminded myself that this is a good place to be, with great food and with lots of pleasant acquaintances and some good friends, but a little melancholic because the corona virus has let the air out of the balloon. The planned parties, festivals and gatherings are all cancelled, and there is talk of closing bars and restaurants. People are scared and it shows. I will miss all these folks, but most of them will be here in October, and they did move French Quarter Fest and Jazz Fest to October, which may make me move up the travel dates. All we have to worry about is the hurricane season.

With all of the uncertainty, and a potential for increased travel restrictions and diminished social opportunities, I am pulling the cord and heading north a couple of weeks early. Travel on St. Patrick’s Day into a couple of weeks of self quarantine as a potential disease vector.

Termite Tenting and Corona Virus

The house was termite tented and bombed, and I had to vacate for an evening. So far it is going well with no more than the usual New Orleans friction—the contractor showing up a couple of hours late, not being clear on what to do with keys, and the 24 hour security guy determining that the best use of his time was napping in his truck.

Events all over town, including the St. Patrick’s Day parades and block parties, were cancelled, and service industry friends are stressing about making it through the summer without this bump of cash. Big conventions and festivals are being cancelled for the Spring and even summer. It’s two weeks since Mardi Gras, when a million people, maybe two million, flooded the city and people who participated actively shared food, drinks, drugs, and hugs(among other physical activity for the adventurous) with many people they met while costumed scantily and playing recklessly. I’m not a big hugger, and estimate I hugged 200 friends, acquaintances, or strangers. A real hugger might have hit the 500 mark during the weekend, and it is hard to imagine a better disease incubator. In a normal year, many locals pick up the “Quarter crud” right after Mardi Gras due to the increased contact with people and the lowering of immune systems, and hopefully the corona virus was not super common in this year’s crowd or they will have to wall off the city.

Deanna and the girls have cancelled their travel plans based on the uncertainty of the safety of travel and government response, and at least in Deanna’s case, medical advice. It is a disappointment, but also the right thing to do.

I breakfasted with the last of the night people at Buffa’s, and then an hour at Envie. I walked the Quarter, and watched a couple of sparrows bathing in a puddle, fluttering away when a group walked past and fluttering back just as soon as they passed. I sat for a bit with Puge at Mollies and was the recipient of one too many free drinks as liquor distributors made their rounds with samples for the bartenders. Chris Seker met me there, apparently fully recovered from his stroke, and we went over to Tayho for lunch. I had their shrimp po-boy, a good but kind of standard version. I think the key is the bread and the remoulade, and if we can reproduce the crusty bread we could do this at home.

I checked into the Chateau on Chartres, an old fashioned hotel definitely on the run down side, but clean and quiet for the Quarter. I walked by the house for photos, and saw the security guard sound asleep in his truck. That was an encouraging sign. Crime is a problem in the neighborhood, but we have had no direct crimes in our building. It does just take one guy with a plan to change all that, but I am not really very concerned.

I met Caroline, one of the organizers of the Tales of the Cocktail conference, at the Rbar, and showed her the Happy Hour webpage. She was impressed by the idea and the content. She invited me to the conference, but I’ll wait to see if she comps it. Unlikely. Seker and Tebo came by and we chatted for a bit. I walked a subdued Bourbon Street, and had a sandwich at Manolito’s with a crowd of all locals before heading back to the hotel. I hope the tenting and aftermath go smoothly and I can start rebuilding the house this afternoon, although there is less urgency now that travel has been cancelled.

Algiers Point Pirates

I slept in Saturday, and went out a little later than usual in the day, and after some good Envie time, I walked up Decatur Street, swimming upstream against the tourists. I stopped for a Guinness at Mollie’s, and then across to the Tayho Tavern. I walked in and it was as busy as I have seen it. Lauren was one of the two cooks, and the bartender and waitress were just overwhelmed. I ordered a Wagyu beef burger, and after what seemed like a long time, I got an order of fried green tomato caprese by mistake. It was good, with the fried food as good as it gets, and the mozzarella balanced it well. The burger was excellent, but it seems odd to me that two out of the three times I have been there the ordering process has been difficult. I hope they are able to smooth it out, because I would like to go back for the food.

I walked through Jackson Square and along Bourbon for a few minutes, trying to catch the crowd before it turned from the afternoon eccentrics to the evening crazies, and sat at Johnnie White’s. I was in my usual perch, and a guy about my age with long flowing white hair said, semi jokingly, that I was in his seat. He leads one of the cover bands on the street, and was fun to talk to about the changes on the street over the last couple of decades. I’m not sure he had great insights or perspectives, but he did have some good stories. He was visibly relieved when I vacated his chair to go meet the Touro Street Irregulars at the Orleans Grapevine around the corner. The ladies were through their first flight of wine, and after a glass of wine with them they solved my cash problem by giving me cash and letting me put the bill on a card. Better than an ATM. We walked back via Turtle Bay for snacks, and I called it an early evening, skipping the Krewe du Fool party.

Jill invited me to the Algiers Point Friendship Day block party, and we met in the afternoon for a walk across the Quarter to the Algiers Ferry dock. The streets were crowded, almost unwalkable, because of the cruise shippers and Spring Breakers. It was less pleasant than usual because the we were trying to catch a ferry that only runs once an hour. We made it to the dock and met Jena. It was good to be on a boat if just for 5 minutes, and it was good to see the city from the river. The boat is a temporary ferry, passengers only, with a small inside space and a large open deck. There were about 60 people on the boat, pretty close to full capacity.

We made it across to Algiers, and met with Jill’s friend Stephanie and her family, and Rene and her husband. Algiers is surprisingly cool, with the same old houses as the more interesting parts of Bywater in a more relaxed way. There was a St. Patrick’s Day-themed party going on, and there were a few hundred people outside the Old Point Bar listening to a country band and drinking green Dixie Light. A beer critic would not approve, and it was pretty bad. They had set up a slide on the inside of the levee, using old political signs as a track and cardboard boxes as sleds. The kids were having a blast. Rene had a beautiful Moss-sized border collie, black and white, who was enjoying the crowd.

We solidified our St. Patrick’s Day plans, which include me bringing some smoked salmon to Jena’s apartment which directly overlooks Parasol’s and is the place to be for the block party. I’ll have to find refrigerator space for it on the termite tenting day, but there is probably no better use for it. Jill and I walked back across with a stop at Kingfish for Happy Hour appetizers. They were as good as I remember, and I have to keep it on my mental radar. I hadn’t been in since December, and should go back before I go.

I ended the very good day at the R-Bar, talking with Nicole about fish, and negotiating the cooking arrangements for Monday. Hopefully we can pull it off.

It was a good Monday, with a walk through the Quarter to Rouse’s for odds and ends with a stop at the Faulkner House for a little more reading, still working on Andre Codescru, this time a collection of his essays on New Orleans. He is a funny and observant writer. I talked with Puge and one of the guys that lives above the bar for a bit at Mollie’s. I’m never quite sure if the guys who live at the bars, literally, and also work in nearby bars are the bar backs or the owners or trust fund babies slumming. I’ve met them all and recognize that in New Orleans it is best not to rely on appearances or public personas.

I prepped fish, fighting a little freezer burn on a big piece of coho with lime juice. I Uber Ed over to Nicole’s place in St. Roch, a pleasantly quiet neighborhood. It is a recently “better” neighborhood with few entertainment businesses and a worse reputation than the reality. her house is new construction in the exterior style of a shotgun, but the interior is modern. The lack of security bars and doors says something good about the neighborhood. I cooked a piece of white king, a beautiful piece of coho, and a couple of pieces of coho that did not survive the travel well. I jerked the two worse pieces, Italian spiced the king lightly, and did just parsley and salt and pepper on the final piece. Nicole made asparagus and potatoes. Unfortunately only one of the expected guests made it across town, and I think the ideas of entertaining at home is pretty foreign to a place with so many good entertainment venues. It was fun to cook and share the fish.

The guest that did make it, Richard, was a interesting fellow, a man in his 70s who had a career in Wisconsin Democratic politics and a veteran of the Hillary campaigns. He currently splits time between Ballard, Washington and a house on Burgundy near Music Street, near Marie’s. He has sailed as a hobby on Lake Michigan, and was familiar and fascinated with Haida Gwaii and northwest culture. Nicole is a 40ish woman of liberals politics, and it was good conversation to have about the future of the Democratic party and progressivism with three people of similar politics but different generations.

After a good morning and a stop at Mollie’s, I went home and prepped the house for the termite tenting. I put some stuff out in the shed and only had a little bit of food to throw out. I packed up a lock box from the safe and the last bit of smoked salmon. I took those over to Jill’s for storage. I went to Buffa’s to test my new ATM card and it started to rain. I sat with neighbor Dave for an hour as we let the downpour stop. Huggie described the bachelor party he is arranging that features a Dungeons and Dragons game with a topless moderator and a catered late night meal from Arnaud’s.

I had taken all the food out of the house, so I went to 13 for the taco Tuesday special. I met a couple from Chicago who had taken advantage of the corona virus travel bargains to take a long weekend. I steered them to Checkpoint Charlies for Shawn Williams early and dba for the Treme Brass Band late. I went to Checkpoint Charlies and sat for a set. She called me out as iwalked in from the stage, which is always kind of fun. No anonymous crowds in this part of the Quarter.

The mayor cancelled the St. Patrick’s Day parades and block parties, withdrawing police support. I’m guessing a lot of people will still be out partying unofficially, but the pandemic puts a pall over the ordinarily festive weekend. I like these parades, both the downtown and Uptown versions, and will miss them. Now we are waiting to see how things play out as Spring Break travel approaches. There seem to be lots of good reasons not to travel, but the trips have been planned and anticipated.

Algiers Point Pirates

I slept in Saturday, and went out a little later than usual in the day, and after some good Envie time, I walked up Decatur Street, swimming upstream against the tourists. I stopped for a Guinness at Mollie’s, and then across to the Tayho Tavern. I walked in and it was as busy as I have seen it. Lauren was one of the two cooks, and the bartender and waitress were just overwhelmed. I ordered a Wagyu beef burger, and after what seemed like a long time, I got an order of fried green tomato caprese by mistake. It was good, with the fried food as good as it gets, and the mozzarella balanced it well. The burger was excellent, but it seems odd to me that two out of the three times I have been there the ordering process has been difficult. I hope they are able to smooth it out, because I would like to go back for the food.

I walked through Jackson Square and along Bourbon for a few minutes, trying to catch the crowd before it turned from the afternoon eccentrics to the evening crazies, and sat at Johnnie White’s. I was in my usual perch, and a guy about my age with long flowing white hair said, semi jokingly, that I was in his seat. He leads one of the cover bands on the street, and was fun to talk to about the changes on the street over the last couple of decades. I’m not sure he had great insights or perspectives, but he did have some good stories. He was visibly relieved when I vacated his chair to go meet the Touro Street Irregulars at the Orleans Grapevine around the corner. The ladies were through their first flight of wine, and after a glass of wine with them they solved my cash problem by giving me cash and letting me put the bill on a card. Better than an ATM. We walked back via Turtle Bay for snacks, and I called it an early evening, skipping the Krewe du Fool party.

Jill invited me to the Algiers Point Friendship Day block party, and we met in the afternoon for a walk across the Quarter to the Algiers Ferry dock. The streets were crowded, almost unwalkable, because of the cruise shippers and Spring Breakers. It was less pleasant than usual because the we were trying to catch a ferry that only runs once an hour. We made it to the dock and met Jena. It was good to be on a boat if just for 5 minutes, and it was good to see the city from the river. The boat is a temporary ferry, passengers only, with a small inside space and a large open deck. There were about 60 people on the boat, pretty close to full capacity.

We made it across to Algiers, and met with Jill’s friend Stephanie and her family, and Rene and her husband. Algiers is surprisingly cool, with the same old houses as the more interesting parts of Bywater in a more relaxed way. There was a St. Patrick’s Day-themed party going on, and there were a few hundred people outside the Old Point Bar listening to a country band and drinking green Dixie Light. A beer critic would not approve, and it was pretty bad. They had set up a slide on the inside of the levee, using old political signs as a track and cardboard boxes as sleds. The kids were having a blast. Rene had a beautiful Moss-sized border collie, black and white, who was enjoying the crowd.

We solidified our St. Patrick’s Day plans, which include me bringing some smoked salmon to Jena’s apartment which directly overlooks Parasol’s and is the place to be for the block party. I’ll have to find refrigerator space for it on the termite tenting day, but there is probably no better use for it. Jill and I walked back across with a stop at Kingfish for Happy Hour appetizers. They were as good as I remember, and I have to keep it on my mental radar. I hadn’t been in since December, and should go back before I go.

I ended the very good day at the R-Bar, talking with Nicole about fish, and negotiating the cooking arrangements for Monday. Hopefully we can pull it off.

It was a good Monday, with a walk through the Quarter to Rouse’s for odds and ends with a stop at the Faulkner House for a little more reading, still working on Andre Codescru, this time a collection of his essays on New Orleans. He is a funny and observant writer. I talked with Puge and one of the guys that lives above the bar for a bit at Mollie’s. I’m never quite sure if the guys who live at the bars, literally, and also work in nearby bars are the bar backs or the owners or trust fund babies slumming. I’ve met them all and recognize that in New Orleans it is best not to rely on appearances or public personas.

I prepped fish, fighting a little freezer burn on a big piece of coho with lime juice. I Uber Ed over to Nicole’s place in St. Roch, a pleasantly quiet neighborhood. It is a recently “better” neighborhood with few entertainment businesses and a worse reputation than the reality. her house is new construction in the exterior style of a shotgun, but the interior is modern. The lack of security bars and doors says something good about the neighborhood. I cooked a piece of white king, a beautiful piece of coho, and a couple of pieces of coho that did not survive the travel well. I jerked the two worse pieces, Italian spiced the king lightly, and did just parsley and salt and pepper on the final piece. Nicole made asparagus and potatoes. Unfortunately only one of the expected guests made it across town, and I think the ideas of entertaining at home is pretty foreign to a place with so many good entertainment venues. It was fun to cook and share the fish.

The guest that did make it, Richard, was a interesting fellow, a man in his 70s who had a career in Wisconsin Democratic politics and a veteran of the Hillary campaigns. He currently splits time between Ballard, Washington and a house on Burgundy near Music Street, near Marie’s. He has sailed as a hobby on Lake Michigan, and was familiar and fascinated with Haida Gwaii and northwest culture. Nicole is a 40ish woman of liberals politics, and it was good conversation to have about the future of the Democratic party and progressivism with three people of similar politics but different generations.

After a good morning and a stop at Mollie’s, I went home and prepped the house for the termite tenting. I put some stuff out in the shed and only had a little bit of food to throw out. I packed up a lock box from the safe and the last bit of smoked salmon. I took those over to Jill’s for storage. I went to Buffa’s to test my new ATM card and it started to rain. I sat with neighbor Dave for an hour as we let the downpour stop. Huggie described the bachelor party he is arranging that features a Dungeons and Dragons game with a topless moderator and a catered late night meal from Arnaud’s.

I had taken all the food out of the house, so I went to 13 for the taco Tuesday special. I met a couple from Chicago who had taken advantage of the corona virus travel bargains to take a long weekend. I steered them to Checkpoint Charlies for Shawn Williams early and dba for the Treme Brass Band late. I went to Checkpoint Charlies and sat for a set. She called me out as iwalked in from the stage, which is always kind of fun. No anonymous crowds in this part of the Quarter.

The mayor cancelled the St. Patrick’s Day parades and block parties, withdrawing police support. I’m guessing a lot of people will still be out partying unofficially, but the pandemic puts a pall over the ordinarily festive weekend. I like these parades, both the downtown and Uptown versions, and will miss them. Now we are waiting to see how things play out as Spring Break travel approaches. There seem to be lots of good reasons not to travel, but the trips have been planned and anticipated.

Late for an old guy

It was a warm day threatening rain, and I was still fighting the Quarter crud. After the bad family news from the Ferguson side and Cliff and Carol cancelling their trip, I was in a bit off a funk and walked through the Quarter. I made a reservation for the tenting day at the Chateau Hotel on Chartres, and walked up to Faulkner House books where I bought a biography of Huey Long.

I stopped in at Mollies, a little short on cash from an online banking snafu, and Puge stood me for a couple of Guinness. There were a couple of young women, Amber and Samantha, at the bar near me, fashionably dressed and made up. Amber was a beautiful slim black woman, very talkative with a breathy lisp, wearing a black shorts jumper. Samatha was a larger white woman, athletically built, wearing a designer sleeveless outfit that showed off her good ink. They were theater people, production folks for the visiting musical “Jersey Boys”. They were having an open, if perhaps exaggerated(I hope) conversation about men and sex. I didn’t have a lot to offer.

One of the performers in the show, an unnaturally good looking man with flamboyant mannerisms, came into the bar, and they left together after Amber bought the drinks, lending some credence to the idea that she was a producer or assistant in the production, but I’m not sure how to take the rest of the conversation from theater people. I had forgotten.

I cooked some pasta to go with the red sauce and peppers I had made a couple of weeks ago for a late lunch, and then went out to the Rbar, trying to get ahead of the predicted rain and thunderstorms. After a little bit outside with Heather and the doggie regulars, it started to rain hard, and I went inside to watch the pool league players. Seker was there, not playing, and I talked with a guy named Josh from New York. He was a thirty year old artist and musician working on a project and looking for music recommendations. I steered him to Frenchmen and the Spotted cat, and we had a good conversation about how hard the economy and making progress is for his generation. It is good to hear from people who are struggling despite obvious skills who aren’t in your immediate family.

Jennifer is back for a few days, and is not getting married in the courtyard, opting for a riverboat wedding, so I took advantage and weeded and raked. I promptly broke the big rake, snapping the handle. The southern climate seems to be hard on wood. It was good to be out in the sun doing something relatively productive.

My friend Chris had a stroke at work, and was treated quickly, one of the advantages of living in a city. He was put in ICU for constant monitoring for a day or two. It is scary stuff, but I appreciated being notified by friends—Jill texted me, and later called. Cecile was driving by the Rbar in the early evening, and stopped her car to come and sit with me for a bit. She seemed upbeat, still riding on the adrenaline rush of risk and the good news that immediately followed.

I took a short walk through the Quarter, noticing that the crowd has changed to a mix of cruise shippers and spring breakers, some clearly high school age and some families with children. it is a little change from the Mardi Gras mix. After an hour at the Rbar, I went over to Buffa’s where Boone was wearing an orange Illinois shirt and waned watching Illini basketball. I forgot how orange that is. I had a redfish po-boy, and then found a seat at the bar in the back room for two sets of music from Aurora Nealand and Tom McDermott. They were in a mellow mood playing to a subdued crowd, but it was good to get in to hear Aurora in good voice.

On the way home there was an electric heater or fireplace in the street that was modeled on a wood stove, funky handle and everything. I dragged it home, and plugged it in-the fireplace light show works, but the heater does not. I will play with it a little as a potential substitute for one of the heaters in our place, but won’t put a lot of effort into it. It may be something to look at as an upgrade sometime in the future. I apparently don’t spend enough time in big box home improvement stores to see these kind of cool things.

After determining that the heater was indeed junk, I walked to Mary’s to replace the rake. I am still tickled to walk through the French Quarter to run errands, in the same sense that I am tickled to walk through the Alaska woods or along the beach to exercise the dog. The Irish-American Walking Club had their annual St. Patrick’s Day Practice parade through the quarter from Irish pub to Irish pub. The story, as I understand it, is that all parades were banned from the Quarter proper sometime in the 1980s which bumped the walking Irish from their traditional Quarter route. They moved the official huge parade and party to the Irish Channel, centered on Tracey’s and Parasol’s, but scheduled an unapproved “practice” parade and pub crawl the week before on the original route. The city, rolling with the punches, now issues a permit for the practice parade through the Quarter, and the walking Irish have parades on consecutive weekends. Only in New Orleans.

After a break in the courtyard, I took a walk with my camera along the river and through the Quarter. I listened to Shawn Williams at Cafe Negril for part of a set and fought a large group of spring breakers to get a beer and the LED stage lights to try to get a photo. I’ve got some learning to do with artificial light, but patience serves with crowds of 21 year olds. It was a clear afternoon and evening, with a big bright moon over the rooftops, which was spectacular to look at if hard to photograph. I stopped in a couple of the usual spots, watching the afternoon crowds on Bourbon and Royal Streets, and ending up at the Rbar. I was joined by Team Touro for a little bit.

Seker got released in the early evening and showed up at the bar, apparently none the worse for wear, going directly from the ICU to the bar room. I hope his medical condition holds. I went home to cook some rice and chicken, and went out to see the Rebirth Brass Band late at dba. It was definitely not a local crowd, but not overly obnoxious. I did get to see some things you I don’t see at the early shows, like a man passing out on his feet at the bar and pitching face first into the floor. No knee crumple, just a face plant. The security guy was embarrassed for not seeing him sooner. In any case, it is a treat to see Rebirth in a small venue, and they were quite good, playing a mix of their familiar hits and more improvised stuff. 2AM is late for an old guy.

Hangover Week

I made it home on Mardi Gras Day before 9, and was coherent enough to eat a snack and drink some water, but still it was good to sleep in Wednesday. I was not feeling particularly hung over, but out of energy from dealing with all the people and a little sick from the stress on the immune system of multiple long days of partying in the carnival crowds. I dressed to go out, and then just sat in the courtyard most of the day reading about Katrina. The book After the Deluge by Douglas Brinkley is an hour by hour journalistic history of the hurricane and flood, concentrating on the human stories and some of the decision making by local and national leaders. It was heart wrenching to read some of the stories, and engaging to read about the how the emergency planning was put in place, or in most cases, politicized, with a Republican federal system and Democratic state and city system using the bureaucracy to gain political advantage rather than help people. It is interesting to have a trained historian doing a kind of first cut on the historical record, with a clear and angry point of view, and provides a lens to view the current political response to hurricane and pandemic emergencies.

On Thursday I made it out of the courtyard but was still feeling under the weather. I took a nice walk through the Quarter stopping at the Rouses and Walgreens, marveling at the quiet streets. The season ramps up gradually over a month or so, and by the time the true craziness of Mardi Gras Day hits you are used to people in costume acting outrageously in large crowds. The abrupt return to “normal” New Orleans weirdness is jarring.

On Friday I ate a bang bang shrimp bahn mi at Em Trai in preparation for the final tattoo appointment of the year. It is quite a sandwich, with the pan seared and well spiced shrimp a break from the usual fried shrimp that go into po-boys. The two year tattooing project is finally done, with about two hours of highlighting and touch up to the red tentacles of the creature. Jamie Ruth also gave me a little fleur d’lis in Saints colors as lagniappe. It has been a good experience, and now we see how well it heals and how the color cures. I had a mellow Friday evening, with a short Rbar stop and a burger at Buffa’s. I ran into Eugenie and her mellow Doberman at the bar, and it was good to see her.

Saturday I walked the river, counterflow to the cruise shippers. There were two boats at the cruise ship docks and it is apparently Spring Break season. The people on the street were cruise ship folks and college kids in gangs. I went into Beckham’s, the used bookstore on Decatur, and browsed for a while, ending up with an urban planning commentary by Andre Codescru with a big section on pre-Katrina New Orleans. I sat for a bit in the Chart Room, and then walked back home for lunch and a nap, still fighting the low energy Lenten blues.

I walked out and had a daiquiri at Manolito’s, figuring lime juice would be good, and swapped Mardi Gras stories with the staff and regulars. I walked back to the Rbar, and sat outside. A skinny older guy with a loud low gravelly voice was there rolling a joint and singing. He introduced himself as Wolfman Will from the 9th Ward, and said he had grown up with Charmaine Neville and the Neville Brothers. He was working on a song, and singing the guitar parts loudly and repetitively as he went. He would increase the volume whenever a pretty woman walked by, and told me that was his secret. Secret to what, I am not quite sure, but he seemed happy with himself. A New Orleans character.

The barista at Envie said they did 20 times the business of a normal shift on Mardi Gras day. No wonder it seemed busy!

I walked over to the Walgreens on a beautiful Sunday morning through Jackson Square. I was waiting to check out, and a street guy, clearly not a tourist, walked in carrying a milk crate. the clerk yelled “no” at him and immediately called the police. He was walking fast towards the back of the store, and then walked out fast carrying a box of cold medicine. He disappeared into the crowd outside the store before the woman could complete the phone call. It was disconcerting to see such a brazen act, but I guess it explains the internal security, with some items being locked in glass cases. I prefer this store because it has more items just on shelves rather than locked up, but I guess that could change.

I packed away the Mardi Gras costume closet, always a depressing reminder of the change of season, and started to come to the realization that I now have weeks rather than months left in the city. I am still fighting a cold and recovering from tattooing, but took a short walk down a quiet Frenchmen Street, and talked with folks at the Rbar for a bit. I ended up at Royal Sushi for udon, pulling out all the stops in an effort to get some energy back.

Another low key day as I tried to keep the crud under control, but did get out of the house to eat some pasta at Buffa’s. At least I am in good company, with a number of my friends reporting the same symptoms of a pretty good cold, and hopefully with rest I’ll be back up for the weekend. Rebirth is at dba Friday, and it will be a show to try to catch, the Krewe du Fool is meeting on Saturday, and Sunday I will be cooking the salmon out of my freezer for the Hank was Here crowd. Then comes termite tenting and a quicky road trip along the Gulf Coast.

Check out more photos at https://bobclaus.myportfolio.com/work

Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras certainly lived up to my expectations this year, with big crowds, mostly fun people, and a whole lot of creativity. It is fascinating that a whole city and hundreds of thousands of visitors let go of inhibitions and push things to the line every year. There was lots of good music, food, and all kinds of entertainment from huge organized concerts and parades to neighborhood groups marching for fun.

On Saturday I visited Cecile and Chris on my way out with a camera. Cecile rents a room in her house out on Airbnb, as is generally fully booked for the year but always is busy during Mardi Gras. She was expecting a group to check in, and a young woman from Detroit came to check in. They were part way through the process when they figured out that the woman had rented the place through a Craigslist posting that was fraudulent. Apparently the scammer takes details, including photos, from real estate sites and legit short term rental sites, and posts them on Craigslist collecting deposits or rents, and providing BS instructions for getting into the places. The woman had paid her money to the scammer, and was now in New Orleans on Mardi Gras weekend with no place to stay. Cecile was patient with her, giving her access to a computer to chase down the problem and allowed her to stay in the living room most of the day while she solved the problem. It seems like a pretty simple scam to pull off, and I am glad I haven’t been burned by it in the past.

The Quarter was busy, but not impassable, and I walked around Bourbon and Jackson Square taking some photos. The Christian assholes set up a loud and obnoxious PA system right in front of the cathedral, pointing their speakers directly at a brass band that was set up in their usual spot on a busy tourist day, robbing them of an opportunity to make tips. These guys irrationally rub me the wrong way, with their hateful “repent or go to hell” message screamed at top volume and armed security itching for a stand your ground moment. It is part of the fabric of the weekend, but makes me crazy.

The antidote was music, and after a stop at the Rbar to chat with friends, I went to Checkpoint Charlie’s to see Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Revue. She covers Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, John Prine, and others from the outlaw country genre along with some originals. She is a treat to see in the dive bar venue. Ken Armstrong came out, and we listened to a couple of sets and then moved on to see the Soul Rebels at the Blue Nile. It was late, loud, and funky with the newer style of brass band hitting the right buttons.

I slept in Sunday, and then walked across the Quarter with a camera to catch part of the Uptown parade at Canal via Royal Street and the Chart Room. As a counterpoint to the Christian screamers, I saw a man wearing high top stockings and a loin cloth with high heels playing a saxophone in Exchange Alley for tips, and I had to run over to Chart Room to get change. Perhaps it was not an only in New Orleans moment, but it came close. When I got to Canal Street, the parade had paused to do the celebratory formal toasts between the royal float and the krewe bigwigs at one of the hotel balconies. I took some photos of people in the crowd, and saw a high school band march by. I took a walk down the length of Bourbon, seeing some locals starting to get costumed up and the tourists doing their best(bless their hearts) from the souvenir shops.

The walk in the costumed crowds inspired me, and I came out for the evening in a fool outfit, the decorated dashiki from last Mardi Gras and a jester cap. I went to the Rbar and visited the folks on Touro, watching Chris cook gumbo and red beans before heading out to dba late to hear John Papa Gros and Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, singing Mardi Gras Indian chant and funk. I stood next to a very enthusiastic francophone gentlemen from Quebec, who was bubbling over with excitement at seeing the Big Chief. It was a classic performance, with the full JPG band and an extra percussionist for the chanting. Apparently this was the 15th year of this gig, and I will seek it out next year as well. It was fun to see the crowd, with some locals who clearly knew the songs and the parts to sing mixed in with people who had not heard the music before but were having fun. I stopped by the Rbar on the way home to let my ears stop ringing, and everyone was in costume or dramatic street clothes. The bar changes character by day of the week and time, and apparently Mardi Gras weekend after midnight it is time for costumes.

Lundi Gras, the Monday of Mardi Gras is a big formal parade day, with the Zulu and Rex pre-parade ceremonies along the river in the evening. More importantly, it is the day for the Red Beans marching parade through our neighborhood. The have a sister krewe, the Dead Beans, who have a skeleton theme and march from midtown to the Treme where the krewes meet. Both groups make elaborate costumes of different colored beans, usually trying for a joke or pun.

I dressed as a porch pirate, with black pirate gear and a stack of Amazon box parts hooked to my belt like a set of keys, and joined the large crowd at the Rbar for the parade, migrating over to Touro Street to actually eat some red beans when the crowd got too big. This year I left the camera at home, playing with the crowd rather than documenting, but there were some great costumes out there.

The parade was over in the early evening, and after some party planning with the Touro Street Irregulars, headed to a burlesque show art Checkpoint Charlie’s. The dive bar seems the right venue for circus tricks performed by women in lingerie, with the highlight being the old bed of nails, cantaloupe, and machete trick. The costumed crowd and deliberately odd performances early in the evening perplexed some of the people who stuck their heads in the door. Isn’t Frenchmen Street where you go to hear jazz? Burlesque is funny in New Orleans, because the dancers of all orientations are beautiful and usually good performers, but the rules are such that they are often wearing more clothing than the people on the street or the bartenders.

I continued on to have a drink at Manolito’s and met the dive program director at the Audubon Aquarium. He pitched me on being a volunteer diver in the tank, feeding the fish, playing with the creatures and interacting with the kids on the other side of the glass. Bar talk is what it is, but perhaps next winter that could be fun. I walked into Harry’s, and saw Kristen and Nicolette, and literally knew everyone at the bar and behind it. It was a big parade and party night, so the locals self selected to be at Harry’s, but there are days where I don’t know everyone at the Craig Inn.

Mardi Gras came early, but I decided not get out at dawn to try to find the Indians or Skull and Bones. I will try to catch the Indians St. Joseph’s Day, but it was just too early. Seker gave me a wake up text, and I walked over in my Captain Show Me Your Tats costume, with white pith helmet, white band jacket, white blinged up shorts, and white chucks. I got a lot of positive comments on the costume, simple as it was. The St. Anne’s parade is a marching parade that goes from the Bywater through the Marigny and into the Quarter. The costumes and small floats are handmade and creative. One of the neighbors on Touro runs the Krewe of Confetti, and they set up on the corner and use air guns to shoot confetti over the crowd and parade every few minutes. I fit in with that krewe with the military themed outfit, although my drink kept getting filled up with confetti. The crowd was thick, about twice as many people as the day before, and everyone was costumed. My favorite reaction was a small child, probably a two or three year old girl, being carried by her mother, and looking absolutely perplexed but fascinated by the goings-on, as we all were. The look on her face said that there were many rules being violated, like the one that says adults shouldn’t ride hobby-horse giraffes down the street.

I circulated through the crowd a couple of times to the Rbar and back to the relative calm of the porches on Touro, and then back out to swim in the crowds near the confetti cannons. It was a good and mellow afternoon, with the exception of a little confrontation that Ken, wearing all black with a purple shock wig got into with a man wearing a jockstrap, no shirt, and a anatomically correct vagina balaclava pissing on his lawn, and me yelling at a woman for driving the wrong way down the street through the parade crowd. She was lost, but drunk and partying people in large groups and moving vehicles just don’t go together.

I took the drunk Mardi Gras walk down Bourbon, noticing that the costuming got less creative and the partying got harder the further I walked uptown. I stopped at Johnnie White’s, watching folks out the open doors, and got lots of positive reactions to the costume, including a woman who decided she wanted to rub her nipple glitter off on my chest tattoos. It’s Mardi Gras, baby, do what you wanna. Her boyfriend didn’t appear as enthusiastic about the plan, but there were no fistfights, and it was time to go home.

I missed a couple of the big events and parades, mostly by choice, and missed the Indians and the Blue Parade when the mounted police walk Bourbon at midnight, declaring Mardi Gras over, but all in all it was a great Carnival.