Friday Pub Crawl

It was a nice day, one of the first legit 70 degree sunny days in a while. I had to go back to the medical center to finish off the piss test, so I ubered uptown. I was able to follow the directions this time, so got the sample sent in.

I decided to walk down St. Charles, starting at Louisiana, with a vague goal of lunch at the Blind Pelican and the option of catching the streetcar if I got tired of walking. The whole vibe of the St. Charles corridor is more up-scale and less funky than the Marigny. There are fewer businesses and bars, and more people in business attire and fancy cars. Many of the houses are beautiful, surrounded by beautiful lawns and landscaping, but vaguely sterile. It is definitely more Winnetka than Wrigleyville, still New Orleans but a bit sanitized. I did see some of the condo buildings that have had real estate listings, and recognize that we lucked out in our condo. I think you would definitely need a car to get around if you were in this part of town, and that would really change the whole experience. It is the main parade route, and the party would come to you a few days out of the year, perhaps more than you want.

I stopped a couple of blocks short of the Blind Pelican at the Avenue Pub, another of New Orleans’ renowned dive bars. It was grungy, enough so that I did not order food after a peek in the kitchen, but had something like 50 beers on tap, focusing on local Southern breweries. I had a Southern Drawl from the brewery I had visited with Larry in Shreveport several years back. There were a couple of hammered guys visiting from Chicago who were telling “growing up in Bridgeport” stories. Southsiders are different.

I walked to the Blind Pelican, but the oysters were not being served until later in the afternoon so I kept on walking. I stopped at a high end consignment furniture store, Heirloom Furniture. They have a rotating stock, and discount the prices 10% a week until the itms sell. They had some interesting pieces, but nothing perfect this time. It is a place to keep on the list. They had some interesting larger art pieces, mostly framed prints.

I walked to the Quarter, and stopped at the Chart Room for a half hour or so. Jerry was there, minus the gorilla suit, but still loudly talking to everyone who walked in. The afternoon bartender was distracted and upset, talking with the day bartender at the end of the bar while dealing with the early Friday Happy Hour crowd. About half the patrons of the bar were out on the street, having pulled furniture from the bar on to the sidewalk. Tracy, the day bartender, had told her that the police were going to come and shut the place down if she did not clear the sidewalk. She was tearing her hair out, “what am I supposed to do with all these people? They won’t fit in the bar, and won’t come in if I ask.” She was carrying on like this for about fifteen minutes before Tracy told her it was a joke. It was one of the better practical jokes I have seen, and she rolled with it, but the payback will come. I will listen for that story.

I walked down Bourbon Street which was as crowded as I have seen it in a while for something called Pardi Gras. One of the groups of bars on the street, Tropical Isle, puts on a Jimmy Buffett festival without calling it a Jimmy Buffett festival. The streets were full of boomers in Hawaiian shirts, Jimmy Buffett concert t-shirts and other assorted parrot head gear. The street performers brought their birds out for photos and tips, and the bar bands were playing Buffett covers. I sat and watched the crowd for a bit. After I saw the same groups about three times, it was time to go.

I meandered to Buffa’s for a sandwich, ordering a patty melt at the bar, and then home for a nap before heading out to the Allways Club on St. Claude for a burlesque show. The MC and guitar player was a guy I met last year bartending at the club on lower Frenchmen near the fire station. It was a guitar/bass duo playing blues, a couple of women dancing and not quite taking all their clothes off, and a performing dog. It was a self-consciously hipper and younger crowd than some of the venues I have been to, and the performers were intentionally off-beat. It would be fun to go again for this show, but I’ll skip the “jock strap and lube wrestling” that is tomorrow’s featured entertainment.

And I logged 20,000 steps.

It’s the Piss Test Rodeo!

I went to dba to listen to some music, and got the counterpoint to the sorority girl story. I was seated at the bar, a rarity at dba because they want to keep the dance floor open and have just a dozen or so chairs in the joint. Three women, apparently farm convention people in their 60s, looking very much like they just got off the bus from Des Moines, came in and two found seats next to me at the bar. The third pulled a chair from the other room into the dance hall, and was corrected, none too politely, by the bartender who was not having a good day, working alone and trying to enforce the one drink minimum rule. I gave up my seat, and was told I was the “nicest man in New Orleans.” Not really, but the contrast with the bachelorette who was saving seats to do shots was striking.

I was building karma this week. As I was sitting at Envie one morning, a car pulled up across the street, and a couple of people from the the clothing/costume shop next door were unloading a 300 pound man using a walker from the car. He collapsed on the street, his legs giving way as he tried to stand. The people helping him weren’t able to lift him up, and I ran across to help lift him until he could support himself on his walker. I was told that he has worked on the corner for 40 years, and has sewed Mardi Gras costumes for some of the local politicians for years. I’ll have to stop by and talk with him someday soon.

Last week, I got an email from the guy in Craig that I had been randomly selected for a piss test for my USCG license. All I had to do was give him a call and he would meet me to get the test done. I emailed him back and didn’t hear from him for a few days. Not knowing the rules, I assumed I was just out of it for non-compliance. I haven’t used the license for anything so I figured it was just one of those things that would go away.

After the weekend, he emailed back and set up a test in New Orleans at a medical complex across town. I ubered over, not quite sure where it was so I didn’t want to get on a mystery bus. I found the place and waited for a half hour or so, and went in to the room. They were able to pull the request, and showed me to a bathroom, giving strict instructions on how to give the sample, including not flushing the toilet. I peed in the jar, and immediately reached up and flushed the toilet. Habits die hard. This invalidated the test, so I have to cross town again and do the same thing over again, perhaps this time remembering to not flush. What a pain in the butt, but at least it is expensive.

I consoled myself with a walk down Magazine to Parasol’s, a couple of $2 drafts and a firecracker shrimp poboy. The shrimp were deep fried and smothered in hot sauce, very tasty, and the dressed poboy at Parasol’s is just about perfect. I’m thinking I like the roast beef more, but I will have to return to make sure. The bar is a great neighborhood bar, and I got a seat at the bar between a government attorney on his way home, waiting for his elementary age kids to get out of school, and a bartender on his way to work who was very opinionated about the music on the jukebox, in an entertaining way. I’m fairly confident I didn’t want to argue with his opinion that punk rock ruined the music business, or that Yes was the best band of all time, and perfectly confident that our tastes are very different.

I’m coming to the conclusion that a lot of times the loud voice in the bar is just a straight contrarian who enjoys the Monty Python style of argument. “That’s not an argument, that’s just contradiction.” It helps explain libertarians.

I went out to see Tom McDermott and Aurora Nealand at Buffa’s, not wanting to venture too far afield as the firecracker shrimp proved hard to digest after a week of eating carefully. The room was packed, without a seat at the bar or a table for joiners. So there were three days where every place I was looked like the Rapture had happened and all the music lovers had gone to the Great Beyond, and there wasn’t room for me in my neighborhood club on Thursday. Next time, after the piss test.

Saints Win!

The weekend ramped right up as Carnival continues and the Saints won their first playoff game. There was a music festival at the US Mint near the French Market, and I sat a for a part of a set before being shooed away from the fence for not paying admission. I took a walk through the Quarter Saturday evening, and ran into a walking krewe at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. Their theme seemed to be colored dots, and the costumes were spotty. The Eagles fans mixed in seemed a little perplexed by the costuming and frivolity, but they seemed to get along after a bit. I saw a second line with a band and dancers wearing elaborate lit capes or wings, but apparently just a couple dressed in formal wear as the honorees. I’m guessing it was an anniversary or other private celebration, but it was the smallest second line I have seen. It was still a welcome sight, and it always makes my day better to be stopped in traffic for a marching band.

My favorite marching krewe of the day was the Wino Dinos, who had about a dozen or so people in dinosaur costumes-tyrannosauruses, stegosaurs, and others-escorted by musicians and people in less elaborate costumes throwing dinosaur toys to the children, and of course, drinking wine. Even a low-key weekend during Carnival is a blast. I stopped in for a drink and a visit with Melissa at Tujague’s, and skipped the late night music in favor of an early start for the Saints game.

I went over to Chris and Cecile’s, and we met up with the Touro Street Irregulars at 10 for the 4 o’clock game. Jill, Ellen, and Brian all had tickets to the game, and the rest of us were just along for the ride. We walked up to the streetcar line, dressed in Saints gear, and ran into a guy named Roberto who invited all of us to a private party at dba where he would be bringing tamales and ceviche for his birthday. We rode the streetcar to the tailgate spot just outside the SuperDome, and cavorted about with other Saints fans for a bit. I am not quite sure who was hosting the party, but it was awfully good food and drink. I am not a tailgate expert, but I’m guessing not all tailgates feature jambalaya, crawfish mac and cheese, and beignets.

We went from there into Champion’s Square, the plaza adjacent to the SuperDome, and worked our way right up to the front row of the crowd listening to Big Sam’s Funky Nation playing a fun set of music. A woman next to us was a 40-something former Saints cheerleader/dancer, and got into a dance off with a couple of teenagers who may have won when they started breakdancing. It’s almost cheating. We left well before game time, and before the plaza filled up completely, headed for the birthday party at dba.

It wasn’t quite open, so we sat in for a few songs at the Spotted Cat, which was oddly empty-probably everyone was footballing-but it was the first time since I have been back that it was not crowded. The people that were there were Japanese and British tourists, once again a different crowd on Frenchmen Street. We walked across to dba for the first part of the game, awaiting tamales, but the host/guest of honor didn’t show up. We watched the first quarter there, and then walked back to Cecile’s for the rest of the game. And the Saints won!

I ran into a film crew on my way to the pool, setting up lights and other elaborate gear on a residential street in the Treme, apparently shooting an exterior of a house I walk by most days and greet the folks sitting on the porch when they are out for their morning coffee and cigarettes. This is another fun aspect of the city-that the neighborhoods and houses I take for granted are film set worthy.

Trump is in town, addressing a farm convention, which is a good enough reason to avoid the upper Quarter and CBD today. I did see some protestors headed that way with large paper mache props, but figgered it would be better not to be arrested today, and I am not sure civil discourse would be on the agenda. I’m not quite ready to go all black bloc, or even to be around if things go sideways.

Red Beans

I’m generally pleased with the house projects, but still chasing a small leak in the lavatory drain. I should have replaced the gasket instead of using the old one, and I am not quite sure how to disassemble without breaking stuff. I’ll continue to check and tighten, hoping that the gasket seals.

I decided to give Alexis and the Samurai another chance at dba. I had listened to them last spring, and wasn’t enthused, but some days you are just not in the mood or the performance is below par. Dba was quiet, but there were 20-somethings dancing enthusiastically, and I was greeted warmly by the doorman and staff. Alexis and the Samurai is a duo, a woman vocalist who plays violin and percussion and a man on the keys. I don’t know enough to say what he plays but he has at least three keyboards in front of him, none of which is a piano or Hammond organ. Alexis has an excellent voice, and sings originals in that semi-operatic show tunes style favored by Andrew Lloyd Webber fans. I, unfortunately, am not one of them. She is accompanied by what sounds like experimental rhythms and electronic music from the keyboardist. I listened to most of a set before confirming that it was really not for me.

I found a ham hock, and cooked a real meal for the first time in the condo. It was fun to spend a couple of hours in the kitchen cooking up red beans, but it does seem a little silly to cook 50 servings of red beans for one guy. Okay, maybe 25, but it is still not the kind of dish one serves to friends here-everyone serves it as a kind of throw-away dish although it seems exotic to us denizens of the Far North. It is nice to have four Louisiana basics-red beans, gumbo, jambalaya, and etouffee-in the skill set, even if every corner store has a perfectly acceptable version of each around here. I might be able to get away with serving halibut etouffee to folks, with the fish being unusual enough to catch people’s attention. I won’t be making the next jump to fried food-I’ll leave that to the experts.

I puttered around the house cooking most of the evening and decided to go to the late Kermit Ruffins show at the Blue Nile. The Blue Nile is kind of a weird joint. It is a late night spot, with the usual show starting at 11, and they have a dance club upstairs open until 5. Kermit plays Louis Armstrong style trumpet, with clear New Orleans flourishes and adaptations, with very talented backup players. He is an evil pied piper, a do watcha wanna evangelist, who tells corny jokes, plays the old music with a great sense of fun, and drinks and smokes weed on stage.

The show was scheduled to start at 11, which in musician time means 11:40 or so, and I arrived about 10:30. The club was pumping the DJ music from upstairs into the downstairs music room, playing modern pop dance music, about as far in genre from the scheduled performer as you can get. It was a very different crowd than many of the places I have been going to, younger and non-local. My new-found southern manners were stretched to the limit, but I did keep myself in check, when, as I was seated on a stool in the back corner nursing a whiskey, waiting for the band to arrive and listening to awful pop music, I was approached by a pair of apparent sorority girls who informed me that I would have to leave as they were saving that corner for a bachelorette party. I watched as they took a chair away from an obviously disabled woman in her 60s, saying they needed it for the 21 year old bride to be, apparently so she could be seated as she did shots. It was a bit flabbergasting, but I probably didn’t want to be close to that nonsense anyway. Some people’s children. I did not see their reaction when the dance music turned off and Kermit played “Wonderful World” and “I’ve got the world on a string”. I imagine it was not what they were expecting.

The band arrived, and played wonderfully, but the musical experience was diminished by the loud bass from the dance club upstairs audible in the main room. I had to move around the room to find a spot where I could hear the very good bass player I had come to hear. This was the first club I have been to in a long time where the few obvious locals were visibly uncomfortable just being there. The crowd could not sing along to Iko-Iko, probably a New Orleans first. Next time I want to see Kermit I will go to the Mother-in-Law Lounge in the Treme. Kermit did kill it by asking if there were Eagles fans in the house(about half the crowd), welcoming them to New Orleans, and telling them they would be crushed by the Saints, all as an intro to “St. James Infirmary”-so cold, so pale, so fair.

Back to it and a bathroom

Deanna stretched her Christmas break through Monday, so we had a nice brunch at Horn’s when the tourist crowd wasn’t stretching the line out the door. Horn’s hits the locally owned(often the owner is working the floor), good craik with most of the servers being a little edgy one way or the other, a solid local clientele mixed with the airbnbers who pay the light bill, and an excellent menu of mostly savory food-lots of slowed cooked meat and veggies in various combinations. The cochon au lait over a corn waffle was especially good. I feel almost spoiled having such a great selection of neighborhood restaurants within a block or two, and the whole lower French Quarter within five or six blocks.

So it was back to the pool Tuesday-no drowning- and trying to eat less than a week’s worth of calories every day. The floor calisthenics as always are fun and easy the first day, and get progressively harder over the course of the week as you fight soreness and a lack of motivation. A good thing about the upcoming Boys Trip is the motivation to look good naked, or nearly so(nearly good or nearly naked, works both ways), and the three weeks is short enough to stay on track, even in the Big Easy during Carnival. Or so I say to myself. Adding sunbathing to the required lists of tasks each day will be the easy one.

The project for the week was refreshing the bathroom with a new vanity and sink, a new mirror and medicine cabinet, and a new light. As always, these projects require more time and thought than they should as I struggle with my lack of skills and experience and desire to have them turn out looking like they weren’t done by a 12 year old who failed shop class. I’m still a little concerned that the electric work will burst into flame or the cabinets will fall off the walls, but I was momentarily stymied by a cabinet to be mounted to drywall—it was too heavy to hold level and mark the spots to drill into the wall for anchors. I think I will have to go backwards—set the anchors and then drill holes in the cabinet to match, always a sketchy proposition. I still will have the problem of holding the cabinet up against the wall and driving the screws, but I will not have to be leveling at the same time. Not today.

I did break into the dive bag to get fins out for the pool-don’t want to blister or cramp in the ocean-and will have to go through the gear, replace batteries and such, and re-pack over the next couple of weeks. As always, I will have more gear than I need, but be missing just the part to make everything work. I’ll see if I can stick with the promise I made to myself to bring less stuff this time.

Today will be cleaning house after a couple weeks and a minor construction project, making groceries, and perhaps Tom McDermot and Aurora Nealand at Buffa’s in the evening. The weekend is shaping up to be a big one with the usual shenanigans, a big Cajun music show at Tipitinas if I choose to go across town, and the Saints game on Sunday. And Mardi Gras is right around the corner!

Holidays!

A couple of guys hanging out in the neighborhood.

I feel a little tired after a crazy three weeks with lots of family time, food, and music. It was fun to explore around the city and state a bit with first Deanna, Stef and Rosalie, the Abbotts, and ending with Deanna and the start of Carnival, but I am thinking two solid months of partying might be a bit much.

We had some excellent meals, both family meals in Shreveport and some fine dining or at least unique Louisiana restaurants. I might not eat again. An incomplete list:

Cane and Table

Brennan’s for brunch

Commander’s Palace for Jazz Brunch

Bacchanal

Prejean’s in Lafayette

Lazyone’s in Natchitoches

Guidry’s Fried catfish

Meauxbar

Soubou

Parasol’s

Elizabeth’s

Turtle Bay for pizza

La Boulangerie

Excellent cocktails from some of the best bartenders in the city:

Carousel bar

Tonique

Manolito

Tujagues-mike and Melissa

Finnegan’s courtyard

Molly’s at the Market

This is a music city, and we tried to get out every day to see some live music. Some standouts:

John Papa Gros

Alexy Marti

John Martin trio

Dinosaurchestra

Walter Wolfman Washington

And of course the 12th Night parade-beginning of Carnival to end the Christmas holiday season and begin Mardi Gras. Harry’s Corner and the Abbey proved to be excellent places to run into friends and watch the parade go by.

Now it is on to house projects, refreshing the bathroom with a new vanity and accessories, and getting ready for the Boys Trip to Puerto Rico and points east and south.

Happy Solistice, and Big Ink

It is the Solstice, the origin of all winter holidays, and one of my favorites of the year. It kicks off the season for me with the promise of warmer days and more light, with Christmas, New Years, and the kickoff of Carnival season in New Orleans. It only gets better from now until March, and then Spring is on us, and the peregrination back to Alaska.

Yesterday was the start of a big tattoo with Jamie Ruth at Treasure Tattoo. She spent a lot of time with me on the art, and works in a more linear fashion than Rodney. We have the big piece plotted and sketched, ready to be transferred to a stencil after final review. She does the line work first, outlining the whole thing or the big chunk we are working on, and then will fill details, shading and color in subsequent sessions. Rodney would try to complete an individual element of the piece, through color, and then tie it in with background work later in the process. I find Jamie Ruth’s approach more comprehensible, if not as pretty in the time between initial appointments and finished product.

The idea is to tie the two partial sleeves together with a Japanese style upper back and shoulders, maintaining the color and ocean theme. We decided on maintaining the octopus as the main figure on the back, with an orca on one side of the chest and a boat on the other, secondary to the big curling wave shapes. So far, so good, and only a dozen or two more hours of ritual self-mutilation before a finished product.

Deanna arrives today, and we start our Christmas rodeo. Stef and Rosie arrive tomorrow, and we all drive to Shreveport for a few days with Larry and Judy, and then back to New Orleans for a few days with the Abbott family. Everyone disappears right before the New Year, like Cinderella at midnight, and then a less crowded week.

Happy Solstice!