King Cake and other Mysteries

I sat next to some tourists Tuesday morning at Envie, which is not unusual in itself, but one of the women was loud, as only New Jersey or Long islanders can be loud, and had clearly read the guidebook. She laid out the day’s activities to her friends, explaining why the sites to see were important using some very arguable facts(like Bourbon Street was named after the whiskey sold there), and as she walked out she exclaimed: “What the hell is this king cake they all talk about? I haven’t seen one anywhere.” It is always good to run into an expert.

It was another warm day, and I walked to the framing shop in the Quarter, enjoying the heat of the day. Town is definitely taking a pause before the weekend that includes the Krewe of Cork, the first mechanized parades Uptown, and Barkus, the pet parade through the Quarter. I spent an hour in Mollie’s, and was asked by Boog to review a piece of comedy routine he was writing. I was a little out of my depth, but it was fun to see the writing process. I can barely remember jokes and hadn’t really considered the effort that goes into a comedy routine.

After a simple dinner in the courtyard, I headed out towards Frenchmen Street and ran into the Roots of Music kids marching on Pauger at Burgundy. They were headed into the Treme, and I peeled off. As I approached the R bar it started to sprinkle,and I ducked under the awning in time for it to pour. It was raining so hard that it bounced head high off the pavement. I felt bad for the marching band far from shelter. I’ll bet those kids got soaked. It rained hard for an hour or so, and I stayed at the R bar until the storm was well past. A woman named Heidi pulled up with a taco truck and cooked some excellent street tacos. I split an order of shredded beef tacos with Michael Wilder. They were excellent, letting the meat flavor carry without overspicing, and the tortillas were fresh and handmade. The chicken ones looked and smelled good as well. These were better than the much more expensive ones I had at Three Muses earlier in the week. I missed the music on Frenchmen, but it was not a bad place to wait out the rain.

I walked across to the Rouse’s after coffee the next morning, buying some greens and a baguette. I walked back down Royal Street, and a man in his 20s with a heavy French accent ran after me and grabbed my arm, asking where he could get bread. My directions were going over his head, so I walked back a block with him to show him the little bread cubbie in the grocery store. That was one happy man. I should have asked for a tip.

After a good lunch of salad and smoked fish in the courtyard in the sun, I walked into the Quarter again to pick up a package at the mail drop and had a Happy Hour Floridita daiquiri at Manolito as I dodged rain showers. Heather was throwing a 17th birthday party for her dog Radar, and had cooked clam chowder and biscuits for the R bar crowd. I had some of her chowder and called it an early night.

I contacted the Krewe du Fool, and was invited to walk in a big Uptown parade, Freret, with Trombone Shorty as the honored guest, down St. Charles from Napoleon to the CBD. The guy seemed cool on the phone, and their main event is a walking parade through the Marigny on April Fools Day, right before I leave New Orleans. The Krewe is low key and low cost, and based in my neighborhood. It is a little uncomfortable just joining a group of strangers for a day of acting foolish in public, but pushing boundaries may just be why I am here.

https://krewedufool.com

I walked into Envie to find a woman dressed in full fortune teller garb, dirty from head to toe, reading a “psychic journey through science” book, and droning. They were clearly words, perhaps imaginary or perhaps in a language I don’t recognize, and she stared at me as she droned. She had bones and crystals on the table in front of her which she was rearranging, and occasionally jammed a geode fragment into her neck. I’m absolutely sure she is the real deal, either completely crazy or in touch with some other plane of existence. Either way, she would have been burned at the stake a couple of hundred years ago. I’m not particularly superstitious, but did sneak as I took her photograph. I don’t need a curse.

Walking Carnival Parades

The National Geographic article I was interviewed for in August was published on line this weekend. They used one of the photographs of me as their lead photo, and quoted me as much as anyone else in the article. They made me look good in both the photo and the quotes, as when you are on the record for six or eight hours you are bound to say something stupid. I’m not sure if it is just an online thing or if the article will be in the print magazine. I think of Sam Gray being featured in his youth in National Geographic for his epic raft trip, and reflect that it is fun to be one of the interesting people. And I didn’t even have to show them my tribal markings.

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/02/new-way-to-profit-from-ancient-alaskan-forests-leave-them-standing/

It was the first multi-parade weekend of the season, with walking parades through the Marigny and lower Quarter kicking it off. Friday it was Krewe Boheme rolling down Royal from the Bywater into the Quarter. Krewe Boheme is a new Krewe, in its second year, and is themed around absinthe and the 1920s decadence. Tank of Tank and the Bangas was in the lead float. I stopped by the R bar early, dressed in green with a green fedora in honor of the absinthe theme, and received a couple of generous pours which set the rather out of control tone for the evening. Michael Imperioli, a TV actor, was on the street at the R bar attracting fans. Jill was hosting an open house, so I busted over to the Touro Street side. There were fabulous dancers and gymnasts on some of the floats, and good music.

Krewe du Vieux and Krewe de Illusion were on Saturday night with the Touro Street irregulars holding parties at four houses on the street. I brought my camera out for this one, and got some interesting shots in the challenging light. I dressed in tie dye from POW and a jester hat with bells, fulfilling the New Orleans doctrine to be part of the show, and encouraged others the dress up. There were some good looks from the spectators as well as the participants. I love these walking parades because the lines are blurred-everyone is having a good time, many people are in some degree of costume, and it is all about the experience for the evening. Cecile was a featured part of Krewe du Vieux, and was in serious costume as one of the handmaidens to the Queen. I missed her float in the craziness, but saw her later at the after party at her house.

Sunday was one of my favorite parades, ‘tit Rex, which features shoebox size floats towed and escorted by people in formal wear and rolls through the narrow streets of the Marigny, this year with four excellent marching bands. The headline band was Panorama who were playing brass band music with clarinet solos(?) and making it work. There was a mostly female band featuring an accordion as well. The parade moves slowly, and is notable for attracting families with small kids. They are fascinated by the toy-size floats and the music, and unusually for this era of paranoia are encouraged to interact with strangers also fascinated by the floats and music. It also kicks off in the late afternoon, making photography more fun.

I followed the parade to Mimi’s and then took my camera home to download pictures. I went to Three Muses to hear a little music from Raphael et Pascale, just a couple of songs at the end of their set, and the Clementines, playing virtuoso music of the 1920s. I tried perhaps my new favorite drink, the Goth Girlfriend, which is on the menu as dark Basil Hayden rye, stone fruit, and aromatics, served neat with an orange peel. Pretty vague, but I may have to go back when the bartender is not to busy and get a class. Sunday was the Rock and Roll Marathon, so the crowd on Frenchmen was a little different than the usual cruise ship crowd, a little younger and the mean BMI on the street dropped 5 points overnight.

Monday the temperatures were up in the high 70s and it was humid. After a walk to the Rouse’s in the Quarter for ingredients, I stopped at Mollie’s for a Guinness and a chat with Boog, and then home to cook some pasta and red gravy with sausage, squash, and peppers. As I was working on this rather elaborate meal for one guy with the door open because the kitchen was getting warm, I heard brass band music from the street. I went out to the front of the building to see the Roots of Music brass band on the street. They are elementary and middle school kids from the 7th and 9th wards who practice year round after school with professional musicians and teachers and who parade in a couple of the Mardi Gras parades. This was their dress rehearsal, and fun to see and hear.

It stayed hot without a rainstorm overnight, and I walked to the pool past Buffa’s which was being converted into a movie or TV set. Both my neighborhood bars, Buffa’s and the R bar, are used as sets for at least NCIS New Orleans, and probably other feature films. I just like living here.

Lots more photos at https://bobclaus.myportfolio.com/work

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.

Carnival is on!

Friday was another slow day in the Quarter, and after a stop at Harry’s and a good conversation with Tom Roby I went over to Molly’s. It was a little more crowded, but it was one large group of cruise shippers from New Jersey. I escaped to the Tayho Tavern, a place that had been on my list for a while. It is a divey looking spot on Decatur and Governor Nicholls, and has prominent signage that promotes dog rescue. I think I had avoided it in the past because I thought it was a pet store, or I had it conflated with the dog accessory store just down the block. As I walked in to the almost empty restaurant, I was greeted by Lauren, Cecile’s friend, who works there as a waitress. I recognized most of the people who work there from the R bar which made for a comfortable experience. They were doing a Happy Hour $5 shot and a beer, good for the Quarter. The menu is interesting for New Orleans, with Wagyu beef burgers highlighted, along with some interesting gumbos. The house burger has a fried egg on top, and is served with fries cooked in duck fat. They also had a couple of versions of mofongo, including a vegan one, and several dishes with slow cooked pork. I had a burger with an egg, and it was a good as suggested. The best burger in town? Maybe. It was certainly the best I’ve had in a while. A place to put on the “go back to” list.

Saturday was a whole different story. You could have gone bowling on Bourbon Street on Thursday, and today the streets were packed with people and cars. It was like someone turned on the Carnival faucet. The traffic patterns were disrupted for the evening parade and cars were directed into the Quarter, causing a minor gridlock. It seemed like there were a bunch of people pre-gaming Chewbacchus, but not yet in costume, and perhaps one or two more cruise ships than usual. The streets, out into the Marigny, were full of people. I saw Beverly riding her bike in full Mardi Gras costume on her way to work, and didn’t recognize her until she called me out. I took a walk to enjoy the change of pace, and stopped at the Crescent City Brewpub on Decatur for a lunch of oysters. The place is kind of a Disneyfied version of a brewpub/oyster bar with a jazz quintet playing and no one there had come for the music. It is decorated with Simon signs, and is big, clean and efficient, but missing the grunge that screams New Orleans authenticity. I hope that when Tujague’s moves across the the Quarter soon it does not go this far. That all said, a freshly shucked half dozen oysters and a tall Pilsner while listening to decent music and watching the hordes negotiate the narrow sidewalk makes for a good lunch. Bright and clean may not be a bad thing entirely when eating raw oysters.

I got dressed to go out to Chewbacchus, deciding on a Sith Lord costume. Darth Bob? Head to toe black, with a tuxedo cummerbund and a flowing floor length cape with a hood. No makeup this time, letting the bald head and mustache do the work. I headed out, stopping at the R bar. The bartender Jackie, a beautiful woman who often wears cropped t-shirts and shorts to show off her tattoos at work, was in costume, a body suit that consisted of one inch wide straps, a thong, and black electrical tape over her nipples so nobody would get arrested. Carnival is on!

The parade route was from Dauphine in the Marigny down Frenchmen and up Decatur and points further uptown. Frenchmen was like a funnel, with barricades on both sides, and people packed on the sidewalks. I walked up behind a family with a 12 year old boy, who saw me in full Darth Bob mode, and said “holy fucking shit”, which earned him a quick slap from his mom. It’s good to know when a costume works. I mingled with the crowd, taking lots of photographs, mostly of the spectators, as I worked my way down Frenchmen to Checkpoint Charlie’s and then on to Lower Decatur in front of Mollie’s. I didn’t get close enough to get any throws, but throws are not the focus of the walking parades. It was a good start to the season, and next weekend has three parades through the neighborhood, including Krewe d’vieux. It’s a marathon…

The Sunday crowd was a little lighter and more subdued as people got ready for the Super Bowl. It was a beautiful sunny day, pushing 80 degrees, and a good day for a walk through the Quarter. I was mentally fatigued, almost hung over, from the big crowds, late night,and sensory overload. I made some salmon dip and jerked a piece of coho for the grill and took it over to Ellen’s porch. We watched the game and grilled steak and fish. No one was following the game closely, and I was able to have a good conversation with Jill about Mardi Gras. She is a member of Cork, which has optional monthly meetings with excellent meals at some of the best restaurants in town with lots of wine, several costuming and throw meetings, and an all day party the day of the parade through the Quarter, ending at their ball. I like it because it is a daylight parade which makes photography a little easier. She also has specific spots, friends who host parties at their houses along the routes, to view the most fun uptown parades. I’m hoping she remembers she invited me along.

Chewbacchus Week

Monday was a good day, with a stop at Mollies on the way home from the Walgreens, and a successful cooking experiment. I used the communal grill in the courtyard for the first time to cook a hunk of salmon and discovered it does not get very hot. The thermometer only got to 250 or so, and I had to finish it in the oven. It was good to cook a little bit.

I spent some time cleaning up the pith helmet in preparation for Mardi Gras. It is considerably whiter, and now I need an appropriate plume to top it off. I’m thinking a military style jacket or something underneath, but that will require some shopping. In the meantime, the parades start this weekend with Chewbacchus, the Star Wars/science fiction themed parade, and I am deciding whether to dress for it or just photograph. The general rule of not being able to overdress in New Orleans may apply. I can probably rustle up a decent Senator/Emperor Palpatine from the costume closet, but a Sith Lord or Jedi would require a few more parts.

I went to dba to see Gal Holiday, who is a well reviewed country rocker who covers Hank Williams, John Prine, and Johnny Cash along with originals in the same style. She rarely plays Frenchmen Street, but many of the regulars, including John Boutte who has the Monday night early slot at dba, are touring leading up to Mardi Gras. It was a fun show, with a different feel than the usual jazz or brass band music I seek out.

The next day was bright and sunny, and I took a walk with my camera through the Quarter, seeing the Mardi Gras decorations starting to come out and some street musicians along Bourbon. I walked the length of Bourbon to Canal, with light tourist traffic. I stopped at the Chart Room, and met a photographer there who had kind things to say about my photo site, and suggested a commercial outlet. He does landscape photography in Colorado, and sells to hotel chains and such to outfit rooms with affordable art. I’m not sure that is the way to go, but it was a nice compliment anyway. I continued on, stopping at Molly’s and walking Frenchmen

Street in the late afternoon light. It was a good photo walk.

After dinner I went out to dba for a short set from Dinosaurchestra, and met Seker at the R bar for a little bit. He was chatting up a couple from Canada as they played pool. They were fun, but I know better than to try to drink with Canadians unless you are ready for it, and called it an early night.

I did some photo editing at Envie and decide to split my grocery list between the Rouses on Royal and the Robert’s to work in a walk through the Quarter and the Marigny. Carrying a grocery bag provides a certain immunity from the street hustle but allows for reasonable people watching, even on a slow day for the party crowd.

The walk through the Marigny was more fun, with a stop at the Costume Center for inspiration. I bought a white ostrich plume to top off the pith helmet, which now works well. I just have to figure out the rest of the outfit. I have seen some high school band uniforms in the second hand stores, but will keep looking. Costuming is kicking into high gear all around town.

I stopped at Mimi’s on the way to the grocery store, and met Mimi, a mid 50s hipster who owns the place. Mimi’s did not disappoint, as the beautiful tattooed and facially pierced bartender was joined by her boyfriend, a guy covered in hand-poked tattoos, wearing John Lennon round wire glasses, an “Anal Cunts” band t-shirt, and bright green short dreads. Definitely street wear, but he could hop right up on the Star Wars bar float at the parade and have the best look there. Mimi’s boyfriend, a 60-something guy with shoulder length wavy and professionally maintained hair, shorts, birkenstocks, and a corduroy sport coat with exaggeratedly thick ridges, gave the alien a California greeting-the hug and “oh my god, its so good to meet you” with dead eyes. The cruise shippers definitely don’t get out this far into the neighborhood.

As I walked St. Claude towards home, I appreciated the embarrassment of riches, passing by half a dozen good or at least interesting restaurants that have been well reviewed or recommended by friends, including a pasta place, a charcuterie, two Vietnamese modern restaurants, the St. Roch Market with its food stalls, and the ones I have tried, like Em Trai and the NY Slice place. I also walked by the Hi-Ho, the Carnaval Lounge, Kajun’s Pub, and the Allways Lounge, all live music or performance venues. What a good neighborhood.

I ran around town costuming, settling on a pair of motorcycle boots and a toy pistol to complement the pirate costume. I looked at sashes in the costume stores and decided to go with an old bedsheet. It won’t be Pirates of the Caribbean movie set ready, but plenty good enough for a walk up Bourbon Street in the dark. I can add pieces and parts as time goes on.

I walked by Washington Square Park and met a painter there, Wayne, who paints his impressions of old jazz clubs, like Big Percy’s and the Ebony Lounge, in large format oils. He claimed to have played in the Negro Leagues, and had a painting of a man in a baseball uniform from that era. I’m intrigued, but we didn’t talk price.

I went to Manolito for a daiquiri, and a conversation with the staff. It was a super slow night, and the bartender had been assaulted by a couple of guys in a Mustang as she rode her bike along St. Claude. The car edged her off the road into the curb, and one of them pointed a gun at her demanding her purse. She is tall, and was able to straddle her bike and get it up on the sidewalks and get away, but was still shaky and scared. The same guys made the paper in the morning, similarly going after several bicyclists that afternoon. Big city stuff, I guess.

I had a catfish po-boy at Bamboula’s, a really good piece of fried fish, and listened to a set of 1920s-30s style jazz in an almost empty room at the dinner hour. Many days I cannot find a place to sit on Frenchmen Street at that time of night, so this was a bonus. Seker texted that he was playing pool at the R bar, so I headed that way. I noticed a trio of acoustic guitar players, an unusual group, at the Marigny Brasserie and an empty seat at the bar. I sat for a few songs, and the group, a white hipsterish guy, a young black woman in a t-shirt, and a younger white woman in more typical alt-country costume, was very good, between them covering the full vocal range and providing good harmonies for their original songs. Serendipity strikes again for finding good music.

I had been there for a few songs when an obviously drunk guy dressed in business clothes, a vest and shirt and tie, came up to the bar and ordered food to go, declining to see a menu but giving specific directions to the bartender. He said he was drinking across the street, but ordered a martini and insisted on buying me a drink. He pitched in on singing harmony with the band, showing off a gospel voice and energizing the group, who were performing well for the ten people in the room. I got the full-on “You’re a very attractive man…” spiel, at a least three times as he did not remember running the same lines over and over. A compliment, I guess, but also a quick escape with a go-cup. And the weekend hasn’t started yet.

A Solid Weekend

It was a rainy morning, and after a short walk through the rain to run some errands and get some coffee, I waited out the rain at home. After the rain quit, I decided to get my steps in by walking to the other side of the Quarter. I walked down Burgundy to Three Legged Dog, the source of my first New Orleans crawfish and rumored to be one of the best boils in town. They are only doing it on weekends, but the whole place smelled of old boiled crawfish. It is a dive type bar, and the people hanging out there included a young black woman who had the body of a dancer who complained of a hangover so bad she couldn’t even drink, a friendly 50-something couple from Wisconsin who ordered every item on the menu and struggled to understand why they bought so much food, and a very drunk local who was very upset by the lack of body recovery at the Hard Rock Hotel. An odd crowd, but perhaps I will return for crawfish.

I walked over to the Erin Rose, inundated by a group of 10 or 12 bachelor party guys drinking a lot of frozen Irish coffee. It was a little much for my mood, so I headed over to the known quantity of the Chart Room, which, although on the far side of the Quarter, is a comfortable place to hang. I talked with a guy named Patrick from Dallas who has a small condo in the CBD and comes to New Orleans a couple of weeks at a time. He is in a different tax bracket, but a nice enough fella to talk fishing with. He insisted that sturgeon were a big commercial and sport fish in Alaska right up until I showed him a picture of a halibut which he identified as a sturgeon.

I walked back through Frenchmen Street, having some boudin at Thirteen, and ran into Chris and Cecile at the Marigny Brasserie just as the bands took a break to switch performers. I ended the night with the Hank was Here crowd at the R bar. There was a French woman with hair an improbable shade of red, cut short, and wearing no makeup who joined the group, and was an interesting change of pace, adding a directness of conversation and manner which is refreshing or rude, depending on your perspective. I kind of like it, but it is off-putting to someone with American manners. I’m not sure if her comments about my shoes and her extensive footwear collection were flirty or about shoes, but she was not shy about offering suggestions about shoe care.

Friday was another good mellow day, with kind of a cloud of melancholy hanging over it from Mike McKimen’s death. I walked the camera around the Quarter, and did the slow walk back, stopping for a burger at Turtle Bay and ending the evening at the R bar as Roberto cooked quesadillas loaded with cilantro. I was glad to have eaten earlier.

Heather of the Hank was Here crowd pointed out an estate sale in the neighborhood, and I went out in the morning to the Lanaux mansion on Esplanade and Chartres. It is a beautiful house with gorgeous art and furnishings, most of which were for sale at perhaps 10% of what I have seen similar items priced at antique shops. I made a rookie mistake, seeing a painting that I liked and not grabbing it immediately. I went back after reflection, and it was gone. It was like a garage sale without the junk predominating the goods. The house felt like a museum, and I was glad to see the old photographs although none caught my eye at the price point. I feel good about going to my first estate sale, and now I will have to keep my eye out.

Seker was bored and suggested a walk through the Quarter, and we took the Harry’s/Chart Room/Manolito route with a stop at the cigar shop in Exchange Alley. I successfully avoided buying a cigar, but they are smelling better and better. We ran into Ken and Cyndi at Harry’s, and Ken invited us to a music show at Carnaval by a couple of his friends. Perhaps I can fend off one bad habit. I had a good daiquiri and a Cuban sandwich at Manolito and then relaxed at home for a bit.

I headed out to Carnaval, running into Tayja and Vince in the courtyard on the way, and found the band playing to the bartender and Eric, the chef from Buffa’s. I have seen him around a lot, and he probably cooks three meals a week or so for me, so I sat down with him and introduced myself. The band, a duo with a great name, The Dirty Rain Revelers, played mellow country rock with the lead guitar leaning hard into virtuoso rock and roll guitar. I am still a little freaked out by being directly addressed from the stage through the PA, but the small venues are fun that way, with friends playing for friends. It was a good performance, and fun when Ken and Cyndi showed up for the last half dozen songs. We sat for a bit after the show with the band, and then went across the street to the new New York style pizza/gelato joint on St. Claude next to the Robert’s. We had slices and an affagatto, and the food lived up to the positive reviews-cheap, good, and straight forward, with the owner serving the pizza. A good place to support.

There was an impromptu art market on the street, and one of the vendors ran up to me and greeted me with a hug. She was grossly offended that I didn’t immediately recognize her out of context, but I think she was a bartender at Mimi’s who I had a pleasant conversation with last spring. It is good to be recognized, but I felt bad to have hurt her feelings, even though I know it was more about her than anything I did.

We wandered from there back into our neighborhood and down Frenchmen Street, running into Lynne, Ellen and her nieces, and a couple of other of the Touro crew outside Snug Harbor. A couple of 20-something travelers got into a semi serious fight involving two guys rolling around on the concrete in our group of friends standing on the sidewalk. I spoke sternly to them using my best “These aren’t the droids you are looking for” voice and gave them the stare, and they brushed themselves off and walked away. They might have thought it was their idea. I’m glad I don’t do that regularly or professionally anymore. I usually avoid bar or street fights, but this one literally rolled up on my feet and threatened to knock bystanders over.

I listened to a couple of songs from the rockers at Checkpoint Charlies and called it a night. A solid weekend.

Late January Lull

It was a chilly but sunny day, started off with a second line at the Jazz Museum. There was a breeze coming off the river, and even the Hot 8 brass band was getting blown away, not usually a problem for these enthusiastic players. 11 in the morning definitely looked early for the guys as they often play the midnight gigs around town. It was a good way to start the day.

I walked the Quarter in the spirit of Sunday Funday, following Miss Ellen’s advice that in the suburbs it is laundry day, but in the French Quarter it is the afternoon when the locals come out and stroll. I took a camera and shot some musicians and other street scenes, with the Queen Cakes and Doreen Ketchens topping the list. The Chart Room was standing room only, so I punted in favor of Johnnie White’s and Harry’s Corner, watching bits and pieces of football as I went. Frenchmen Street was crowded enough that I kept on going to the Rbar, photographing some of the dogs and people there, and calling it an early night. It was a much more reasonable version of the crawl.

I spent the holiday Monday playing with a new web page devoted to photos. It seems like a good way to share and syncs up nicely with Lightroom. The goal is to have an easy place to direct people interested in what I am shooting.

https://bobclaus.myportfolio.com/work

I went to Buffa’s for red beans and rice to comply with the tradition and to sit someplace warm for a little bit, and sorted through the costume closet in search of inspiration for Mardi Gras. So far the pith helmet will be incorporated into something, but that is as far as I got. I’m looking forward to the mask market the weekend before Mardi Gras, but I’d like to have a plan before that.

The week continued cold and then rainy, and town was slow. Even the entertainment columns in the newspaper were talking about a lull before the parades begin next weekend. I guess I will roll with it in anticipation of craziness to come, but I am reminded of why I scheduled sailing trips this time of the winter. I am back in the pool, but swimming is more fun in the ocean.

Sequins Everywhere

I woke up and walked down to Envie to be greeted by a line out the door, with the baristas work at their max. I waited the line out and found a good spot at the bar, watching the people inside and out of the bar. There is a jazz festival going on across the street, which was kicked off by a brass band leading a second line through the Quarter, marching past my perch twice.

I walked through the Quarter, moving through some big crowds up around Jackson Square to the Rouse’s and ran into two other small second lines and Doreen Ketchens playing in front of the store. I bought a loaf of bread and walked it back through in the warm afternoon, dodging cruise ship tourists and panhandlers while admiring the artists and musicians playing in the street, trying not to crush the po-boy loaf. Not everyone takes their lunch for a walk.

I stopped at Harry’s Corner, and watched the end of the first half and beginning of the second of a good Premier League match. A group of golfers from Texas, quite a combination, came in and complained that they were playing a non-American sport on TV and the bartender switched to a golf tournament. It wasn’t my crowd anyway. Mollie’s is a soccer bar, so I headed that way to watch the rest of the game.

Mollie’s was a little fuller than usual at this time of day, and there was a woman in a sequined flapper dress standing at the table closest to the door, but there was a seat at the bar and the game was on the TV at the back of the bar with a dj playing music. I ordered a Guinness and the bar started to fill up with people dressed entirely in sequins and glitter. I felt a little underdressed, in black head to toe in the afternoon, matched only by the dj, proving the New Orleans aphorism that you can’t overdress in the city.

There is a burlesque competition in town, and I thought the dancers had come out to play as part of the festivities. A group got their swag bags full of sample size glitter makeup and hair accessories, and stood next to me applying their makeup. One was a beautiful man dressed in sequin hot pants and suspenders and nothing else except for glitter and a sequined hat, and another was one of the Pelicans basketball dancers, who put her makeup bag on my po-boy loaf and stood touching me as she glittered up but not otherwise acknowledging my existence. The back room opened up, and this small group moved on to the back.

I asked the woman at the front table about the event, and she said it was the pre-party for the Sequin Second Line, to kick off around two, or whenever the band made its way through the traffic. Somehow I never got the invitation. Two drag queens showed up, and the bar began to fill up with all sorts of people dressed in sequins, wigs, and glitter. A woman, clearly a cruise ship tourist, stood next to me and said she had been told at the French Market that this was a quiet place to get a drink, and asked with wide eyes if New Orleans was like this every day. I was kind, and told her “only during Carnival.” She seemed relieved, and I didn’t tell her that Carnival lasted most of the winter.

As the bar filled up, the crowd changed from professional dancers and entertainers to the Uptown crowd (derided by the Touro Street Irregulars who escaped from there) who were dressed like the professionals, with short skirts, skimpy outfits, sequined go-go boots, and extravagantly styled hair or wigs. This is what sorority life prepares you for, I suppose. One of the drag queens, who I have seen around town a couple of times, put on a longish set of four dances, which is probably enough for one day. A little drag goes a long way. I waited around, hoping to see the second line take off, but had my fill of Guinness and didn’t want to compete for the one-holer with the drag queens dressing, so wandered before the party hit the streets.

I saw later in the paper that half a dozen of the Mardi Gras balls were that evening, but I had not walked towards the big hotels where most of them were held. These balls are invitation only, and people in the krewes dress formally to a theme, meaning a particular color or accessories, but not in costume. It is still a fun people watching opportunity. There will be more and more as the season goes on, with the first big, and fun, parades like Chewbacchus and Krewe d’Vieue the first weekend of February.

A front came through, and the temperatures dropped from the 70s to the 40s in an hour. Still nothing to complain about, but the couple of weeks of perfect weather were enjoyable.

More Whisky!

Perhaps three pub crawls in a week is not a good idea. Following the big game day, I ran into Tron at Envie, and walked with him back to the condo. Our neighbor’s realtor was hosting an open house, and Tron is looking for real estate. The place is not what he is looking for, but it is always good to check out the less obvious options. We started with Happy Hour at Buffa’s, through the R-Bar, over to the Spotted Cat to hear Meschiya Lake sing(wow) as the swing dancers worked, walked down Bourbon to visit the Erin Rose and the Dungeon, and back up Lower Decatur. Tron is a fun guy to be with, as he presents a distinctive appearance with long red-blond hair, a Viking beard, and an eye patch, and many people recognize him as we walk the streets. I ended up getting a tarot reading from a woman in Harry’s Corner, probably in no condition to be throwing the correct psychic vibes. In any case, this evening leaned too heavily towards whisky, and the next morning was a little slow.

I had barely recovered the next day when Seker texted to ask where the music was, and my desire to maintain friendships and see music overrode common sense. The Quarter was pleasantly quiet, and we had a drink at Manolito, celebrating a humid 75 degree evening in January with an excellent daiquiri. This was a little mellower, but Chris has less of an attention span for the music than I do, so we ended up in more clubs on Frenchmen than I had intended. I was at little distracted, with Deanna’s Mini quitting on her on her way home from work on a cold day, and texting back and forth about how to deal with it when the mechanics that talk to me about cars won’t talk to her about cars. The Apple Barrel was fun, with more old time music from Beardsley and his five piece band, and some of the same swing dancers from the Spotted Cat the night before, who i complimented and got a nice hug of recognition from a woman, an excellent dancer with a fashionably shaved head. We stopped for a partial set from Jamie Lynn Vessels, who just got her first set at Jazzfest. It is good in the New Orleans music world to be in the same festival as the big boys, a recognition that you have something good going on.

Friday was a more mellow day, starting with a good long swim followed by a walk along the river with a camera into the Bywater. It is fun to watch the boat traffic, with a couple of big tankers escorted by tugs maneuvering the tight turn right in front of town, and the birds carrying on as if the city didn’t exist. The diving ducks are amazing, because the water is opaque with a steady 2-3 knot current moving downstream and visible eddies at the surface moving at least twice that, compounded by wakes from the ships, and the large ducks are diving for 45 seconds or so and popping back up to do it again. I’ve seen birds in clear water, swimming as if flying and apparently navigating and hunting visually. I have no idea how these ducks were doing it.

I walked a zigzag through the Bywater, ending up at Mimi’s for a break. The chef was there, and several people at the bar were ordering tapas. He was doing great stuff-steamed mussels and well done meat pies with an etouffee. Definitely a place to put on the list for a happy hour time snack. I resisted the food temptation there in favor of a set of music and a fried oyster po-boy at Bamboula’s. I had heard the band before, younger University trained guys playing solid pre-modern jazz, and becoming one of my favorite groups on the street. I wandered home for a nap, and then out to the Rbar for the Friday evening dog convention. I’m a little amazed that people travel from around the city to hang out with their dogs at the Rbar, but it is fun to have dogs to visit, and not just the regulars. I cant really imagine a better place to socialize a dog, with lots of people, some other dogs, everyone tolerant and paying attention to them. And the guys cooking jambalaya outdoors don’t hurt a bit, with the dogs politely asking for scraps. I’m getting excited for crawfish season, just around the corner. It was a good day.

Envie was crazy in the morning, with lines out the door on a pleasant Saturday, and a second line promoting the Danny Barker music festival at the Mint came by. A brass band at 10 am can’t be wrong.

Big Game Weekend

I was surfing Craigslist for used furniture sites and came across a round marble and brass coffee table. I walked over to Royal Street in the Marigny to look at it. The woman selling it had an immaculately restored shotgun down the block from the Orange Couch cafe. The interior had been opened up, with an open kitchen screened by an original brick fireplace in the center of the room at the rear and a living/dining space in the front of the main room. It was designer-curated, and full of interesting and expensive art. She described the table as being purchased from an art dealer on Magazine Street, and that is was purported to be from approximately 1960 and imported from France. I agreed to buy it, and found it weighed about 75 pounds, a little too heavy to walk across the Marigny. She graciously offered to deliver it in her Mini Cooper convertible, and we took a ride across the neighborhood.

Apparently her brother is a fisherman who works on a seiner in Craig for a captain named Lars. She told a story about her brother noticing a Haida raven tattoo on Meschiya Lake, a local jazz vocalist, and asking her about it. Apparently she is Haida! I’ll have to talk to her next time I see her perform.

The table is a definite upgrade, and will look great once the couch is gone and the chairs get moved around. The ikea coffee table went to the curb, and I walked to the postal drop to pick up a package. I stopped at Manolito for an excellent daiquiri on the way home, and talked whales and scuba diving with the crew who were in a lull before the football weekend begins.

Later in the evening, I left the house to find a 60 something creepy looking guy with a dog on a leash up on the porch on the front of the house, examining the electric meters, and exclaiming that there were six units. I’m not sure if he was a real estate tire kicker or our friendly neighborhood rule kitten concerned about zoning. I’m not really clear on the regs, but there is a reason that our big building is broken into two street addresses of three units each. Hopefully this does not create unnecessary imperial entanglements.

I walked over to the R Bar and talked with the “Hank was here” crowd and Michael Wilder, who is putting on a show next week at Sidney’s. It will be a new venue for me, always a good thing, and it seems they do music a couple of days a week. I went to Frenchmen Street and listened to an eight piece reggae band called “One Love” at the Cafe Negril for a set. One of the percussionists was Amari Neville, a late 20s looking member of the clan. I’ve seen him headlining other shows as a rapper. I couldn’t get a seat at the bar for Aurora Nealand and Tom McDermott at Buffa’s, but there will probably be a next time.

Next time came quick, as I followed up a day of walking around the Quarter doing errands while sore from the increase in exercise at the pool and on the floor with a set of music from Aurora Nealand with her old time music band, the Royal Roses. There were a couple of swing dancers in dba, so it was a full show. I like it when the good dancers get dressed up and come out to play. A man’s got to know his limitations, but it is fun to watch.

I ended up at Buffa’s for a beer and met Eugenie there, the woman with the sweet big Doberman. She had adopted a male dobie who had been starved, and was doing well with it for a few weeks when it got food anxious and bit her has she was trying to feed it. It got her hand and forearm with three solid bites, but not the crushing bites that they are capable of, thankfully, and a cut to the face when she fell and her glasses broke. She will probably have some scarring on her arms, but her face is okay. She was able to place the dog with a rescue facility as she did not want to put it down, but it is a scary story. I know some folks say that breed doesn’t matter, but I am pretty confident I’m not going to be adopting a Doberman or a pit bull anytime soon. The rumor at the bar was that there was a mugging outside the Rbar relatively early in the evening, so a little extra vigilance is probably warranted.

A big storm passed through on Friday Night and Saturday morning, but none of the predicted big winds, at least in the immediate neighborhood. The front passed through andSeker texted that he was out for a pub crawl with “the girls”. I had been taking advantage of the stormy morning to clean house and do my floor exercises. The group was Cecile and Chris, Ken and Cyndi, and Cecile’s guest Powell and her friend Blaine. We walked into the Quarter, stopping at the Golden Lantern, Lafitte’s Blacksmith shop, Johnnie White’s Hole in the Wall, the Cat’s Meow for those interested to do karaoke, the Olde Absinthe House, the Erin Rose, Pat O’Brien’s for a hurricane, and the Dungeon. It was definitely a Carnival event. I lost my sunglasses, inhibitions, and some dignity, but it was fun in the over the edge kind of way.

Powell is a graduating grad student from Las Vegas, who intends to move to New Orleans in May. I showed her the place Sunday morning, and we made a handshake deal for her to rent it for the summer as she looks for work and a permanent place to stay. I missed the battle of the college bands on Bourbon Street, and the crowning of the beer drinking champion, opting to relax and recover from pub crawling.

Monday was the actual game day, and I walked across the Quarter to the bank. People were starting to come out dressed for the game, so I went back home and came out with a camera to try to capture some of the shenanigans. There were a lot of college age kids out, and I headed back for the security of the inner orb when the frat boys started pushing and wrestling on the street. Nothing good was going to come of that. I stopped at the Dungeon, looking for my lost glasses without success, and had a Guinness at Mollies.

I watched the final interesting football game of the year on the porch, having a good conversation with Ellen and Tron as LSU steamrolled Clemson amid much hooting and hollering.