All over but the shouting

It was a cold morning but I took the walk along the river to shop at Canal Place. A 15 minute walk from the new bohemia to the mall in America. After finding what I was looking for, I stopped at Mollies to work on photos for a bit, but instead got into a conversation with the bartender and a musician friend of his who had just returned from a Texas tour. The afternoon was filled with errands, picking up packages and making groceries.

I went to the Marigny Brasserie for a set of music from a pair of women harmonizing with a bass and drum set, apparently all originals. It seemed almost experimental rather than meant to be entertaining. I ate some portobello truffle mac and cheese, which hit the spot on a cool night. I sat next to a woman in her 70s who was wearing a leopard fur and was dripping in diamond tennis bracelets drinking martinis. She did not quite know what to make of the music, and I couldn’t offer any assistance.

The Touro/Royal/Kerlerec section was placarded for a TV shoot, NCIS New Orleans, and Frenchmen Street was full of film equipment and people. I suppose I should watch an episode to see what the neighborhood looks like on TV. DBA was closed for the evening and was all lit for the production. People were in and out of the other clubs, but it was an odd experience to have half the street taken up with generators, lighting, cables, and the food buffet, and the other half with the Young Fellaz brass band doing their thing. Quiet on the set?

Cecile was a little perturbed that she was not allowed to park in front of her house, and was ordered off her own front porch by the movie crews. I think she was more upset by the attitude of entitlement from the film staff—we’ve got a permit so we can take over your neighborhood for a day—than by the inconvenience. Manners are important.

I weaved my way through the film crews and equipment and ended up at Three Muses because I saw a bass player, a Japanese guy who plays with a number of traditional jazz bands I like, dragging his upright bass into the club. I will have to pay closer attention to his name the next time. I had another great cocktail at the bar, this time a riff on an old fashioned with good bourbon, honey, herbs, and orange. The bar setup is interesting because the “secret ingredients” are prepped beforehand and put in small bottles, labeled by drink. It takes some of the fun out of it because you can’t quite see what the bartender is up to, but the results are good. The music was good traditional jazz, with a clarinet lead and a violin to go with the bass and drum kit.

I ended up at the R-bar, where I met the Hank was Here crowd and Seker playing pool. It was good to see Chris after a week or so, and we made plans for the Saints game on Monday.

I had a deliberately mellow day, thinking about a long tattoo day to come. I cleaned the condo, moving the furniture and finding no nasty surprises, polishing furniture and the like. I started planning the holiday eating schedule, reminding myself of the restaurants I have been wanting to visit. There is no shortage of good food in the city. I read a couple of books, and had a good piece of redfish at Buffa’s. The fog came in overnight, and the foghorns from the ships on the river woke me as an unusual sound until I figured out what they were.

Tattooing is all over but the shouting, if shouting means healing and highlighting. I had another good bahn mi at Em Trai, this time smoked pulled pork. It was excellent, but perhaps I just like bahn mi. It is good to eat before a tattoo. This was a hard session, but I am done with long ones, with a highlight/detail hour or so to come after Mardi Gras. I am excited to have this heal and be done with this project. I’ll try to respect the healing and have a mellow weekend. On to Christmas!

The Geek Squad

The cutlassing of the banana trees went well, and I filled three garbage cans with the two big trees. I left a little stump and a couple of smaller shoots, and I’m hoping they re-root and grow. The garden furniture appeared to survive the ordeal. Still in a horticultural mood after the big gardening project, I walked up to the Robert’s and bought a rosemary plant shaped like a Christmas tree. The mustache jewelry from the costume bag made for good ornaments. I’m not quite ready for the Santa hat, but maybe another week or so.

I took a long walk through the Quarter, and as I turned on to Royal Street at Dumaine I saw a walking parade with a brass band and a number of walkers from different krewes. I saw the Zulu Tramps in full regalia and several others I did not recognize. There was a producer-looking guy running up and down the street herding people, but I did not see the cameras. The marchers turned up St. Peter’s towards Bourbon, but I continued on. I walked a little further than usual and sat with three conventioneers at the Old Absinthe House on Bourbon. They tried absinthe for the first time, and complained that it was not as smooth as Bud Light.

I walked back to Molly’s for a Guinness, and then on to Harry’s Corner. There were a couple of women from New York celebrating a birthday, and they quickly incorporated me into their rather ribald conversation. They had hired a guy to take them on a pub crawl, and he had taken them to the R-bar, Harry’s, and the Abbey was the next stop. I didn’t know that tour existed. They live in the city, but observed that the whole drinking on the street thing changed the picture and turned the town into a party.

I walked Frenchmen in search of a set of music and a sandwich, and found the Swinging Gypsies tuning up for their first set at Bamboula’s. I had a fried oyster Po-boy, one of the good ones. There was another tour guide, this time with an older couple and a shirt that said “Best Day Ever”. I’m guessing he is on the higher end, and the concierge-style tour would appeal to a lot of folks I know.

I went up to Buffa’s to listen to Antoine Diel, a singer accompanied by a pianist. He has a great voice, and was taking requests from the 70-something crowd who were interested in Sinatra and the 1950s songbook. It was a nice mellow end to the evening and a good New Orleans day.

Another disorienting day in New Orleans as I walked out my door to an 80 degree sunny morning in the courtyard, walked to the coffee shop, and when I walked out of Envie it was 60 degrees and windy. It felt cold, although I am sure my Alaskan friends would beg to differ.

I walked up Decatur to Canal, and back along Royal, stopping in the M.S. Rau gallery on the way. I saw only a part of the collection, spread over three floors. it is the first time I have been in a museum quality gallery, with lesser works from some of the masters like Picasso and Monet with price tags attached. The prices ranged from new car to house to lifetime income, with the small Picasso from the blue period topping the list at $2.5M. They displayed an interesting selection of furniture like an Italian strongbox with an elaborate locking mechanism, and a mechanically expanding round table with pie-shaped leaves to insert. I enjoyed the nautical large scale paintings of naval battles and sailing races. I try to imagine the person’s life who would walk in and actually shop in a place like this rather than just gawk. “I’ll take the matching Roman busts for $3M. Can you deliver?”

The highlight of the day was the pirated showing of The Mandolorian at Buffa’s. Huggy the bartender played all five episodes of the new Star Wars tv show to an enthusiastic group of adults at the bar, all cheering for “baby Yoda” to survive the explosions and gunfighting. One of the couples watching the show was decked out head to toe in Saints gear, including a Saints Santa hat worn by the man in his 60s with a full white Santa beard. He was a retired Air Force officer and forester who had gone to grad school at the University of Illinois in the late 70s. The Geek Squad will reconvene next Tuesday for Episode 6, same bat time, same bat channel.

Football and…

It was a big football weekend, with college football conference championships and the Saints/49ers. The LSU/Georgia game meant a big party on Touro Street, made more interesting by folks traveling in from Lafayette for the Saints game. There always seem to be decisions to be made about entertainment in New Orleans, and this time I opted out of the Krampus parade, the Bad Santa run, and the Mr. Bingle Christmas parade in favor of friends on the porch. The late night bleedover of costumed people on the street gave me a nice NOLA buzz, a taste of good things to come as Mardi Gras season arrives in a month. I’ve been slacking in the costuming department, but there is time to pick up my game.

LSU won the prestige game, and folks were ecstatic. There was lots of drinking on the porch, and some of the conversation got a little ugly, with an older rural Louisianan making provocative racist remarks to see who would bite. I didn’t rise to the bait, but it certainly makes for a less pleasant evening. I had a good conversation with Eric, the unofficial mayor of the neighborhood. Kim, Cecile’s neighbor, was with us on the porch, celebrating the end of a project and the acceptance of a couple of her films at Sundance. A talented woman! She tried to recruit a group to go to the drag show at the Golden Lantern, but most folks were one or two too many tequila shots into the evening to make the trek. I was a little more sober, and in need of a palate cleanser, so walked down with her to the gay bar for the show. On the way we were intercepted by a wedding second line headed down Royal to the R-bar, one of the fun things about the neighborhood.

This was my first nighttime visit to the Golden Lantern, and my first drag show outside of a multi-performer burlesque production. The performers were spectacular, some concentrating on dance, others on outfits, and one on displaying her perfect breasts on an offensive lineman’s body. All of them worked the crowd with aplomb, and the diverse crowd played along with enthusiasm. The apparent regulars didn’t pay much attention, involved in their own conversations in the corners. I hung out for about an hour, long enough to see each of the performers a couple of times and have my fill of cheesy lip-syncable pop music. Apparently I need to broaden my musical horizons because most of the crowd was able to sing along and I am pretty sure I had never heard most of the tunes.

Kim was fully engaged on the dance floor and I left her to her own devices. I went over to Buffa’s for a beer on the way home, and sat next to Tom McDermott, the piano player, and a woman in full skull makeup. A Nutcracker soldier sat further down the bar. I’m glad not to be into psychedelics.

Sunday was more mellow, with an exciting football game that ended badly for the Saints. It was one of the best football games I have seen this year, but the ending took the fun out of the afternoon.

I woke to find a couple of big banana trees down in the courtyard from no apparent cause other than big trees and shallow roots. I have an afternoon project and get to break out the cutlass. Maybe I should break out the pirate costume as well?

Midweek in the Zone

Working on the tattoo recovery, not a bad one this time, but it does sap the energy to have that much healing going on. Another day off from pushups and such so long as it is still visibly swollen. I walked thorough the Quarter, half-heartedly looking for Christmas decorations and a hide a key for the outer gate. I’m convinced that I will lock myself out one day and don’t want to deal with the realtor box.

I struck out on both counts, but it was a warm sunny day, preternaturally quiet. I had a beer and a chat with Jill at the Hole in the Wall, knowing they will be gone next month. I like the stories from the bartenders who have been on the street for years, usually nothing profound or focused, but a connection to the old New Orleans from an interesting perspective.

After a quick stop at Walgreens, I sat in the sun for minute in front of the Cabildo and listened to a few songs from a brass band. The light was right, and I took a couple of photos to add to the street music series. From there, it was Muriel’s to make a holiday reservation, and I sat at the back bar, intending to check out the Seance Room upstairs. Seker texted that he was out and about, and he met me at the bar having run into Pam and Paul from the neighborhood at the door. We talked story, and I was reminded that Paul had worked for Dan Blanchard as a boat captain for part of a season and had fond memories of Southeast Alaska. He also reminded me I had promised him salmon, which I can do.

Seker and I continued on to the gyro place on St. Peter, and then on to Molly’s and the R-Bar. It was a good mellow day.

I walked along the river in the sun after coffee, and then back through the Quarter. There was a saxophone player busking/practicing right at the stairs. I have seen him before, and it was good to listen to him run through the bossa nova songbook. I didn’t have change to tip him so I didn’t get photos, but the steamboat was photogenic. I returned to find that Neighbor Dave had bought a gas grill, a good addition to the courtyard. I swept the leaves and took the old charcoal grill to the curb with the garbage, and it was gone in an hour. It is an oddly efficient system for disposing of usable junk, a cross between theft and recycle/reuse. It sure beats sending all that stuff to the dump.

I walked up to the Robert’s and stopped after making groceries at Kajun’s on St. Claude, one of the cornerstones of the neighborhood, established fairly soon before Katrina and a fixture during the storm recovery. The owner, Joanne, was featured in a book called Nine Lives, about people who had survived the storm. She sat next to me at the bar and we had a short conversation about the neighborhood, but it was a little odd to know her story(she is a trans woman) as least as presented by a journalist, and to have her know nothing about me. The bar itself is a self-consciously divey space, concrete floors and no furniture other than the bar, gambling machines, a laundromat attached, and a small stage for burlesque and karaoke. Joanne is famous for inclusiveness and for helping the down and outers. I’m glad I walked in.

Later in the day I went to Manolito for a happy hour daiquiri and was the only non-employee in the joint. It was fun getting to know those folks better, and I hope they have a better weekend. It was a slow week for everyone I talked to, but it is a football weekend culminating in the Saints-49ers at the Dome.

The week has been a little disorienting after the busy holiday and the long tat session, a little fever reaction to the tat, and a salad, coffee, and beer diet. It did not help at all to walk the Quarter at 85 degrees in December. There were women walking Bourbon in lingerie at 2 pm, trying to attract business for their clubs and bachorlette parties disrobing in groups trying to match the spirit of the strippers. I sat in Hole in the Wall next to Nicolette, a 50 year old woman who sports glued on vampire fangs and surgically modified elf ears. One day I will get a picture of her, but want to be more on my game to get that personal with her. All in all, together disorienting afternoon was not a great way to try to get a handle on things.

I went to see Shawn Williams for a set of rockabilly at Cafe Negril, and then home for a break. I read a little bit, intending to walk Frenchmen later in the evening for a snack and a set of music but a hard rain fell for about an hour draining any motivation to walk the street. I braved the elements to get a burger at Buffa’s, running the gauntlet of begging guys out front. A tourist sitting next to me asked for my leftovers to give to the guys out front, and handed over the leftover burger and cold fries for which he got yelled at by the unwashed. I try to tip the street musicians who I listen to or photograph, and give leftover food to the travelers on Decatur, but try not to encourage them in my neighborhood. Aggressive panhandling turns to mugging in a heartbeat.

Boon asked me for my burger card, which I had never heard of. I feel like I graduated to being a true local when he gave me the frequent flier card and punched a half a dozen holes in it. I’m now an official card carrying regular at Buffa’s. I stuck around for a partial set from a outlaw country type singer songwriter in the back room. The slide guitar player was excellent, but a half dozen songs was enough of that genre for the evening.

I took a walk in the morning to a couple of garage/antique sales in the Bywater, but the junk to treasure ratio was pretty high, and there were no perfect mid-century modern chairs, piano benches, or congas on offer.

More Color

A tattoo Tuesday! I had coffee at Envie, and heard a New Orleans neologism: “You want that in a here cup or a go cup?” I think I should start spreading that one around, although every native New Orleanian I have run it by has been shocked and appalled.

I decided to eat before the tattoo session, apparently a good plan, and stopped in Em Trai on St. Claude. It is a Vietnamese sandwich and pho shop that was well reviewed, with the brisket, roast beef, and tendon being called out. It started as a food truck, then a booth in the St. Roch Market food court, and now a counter service stand-alone at the edge of my orb. The menu was pho, bahn mi, and po-boys. The special was a hot sausage po-boy for $8, but I decided to go for the bang bang shrimp bahn mi. It was perfectly fried spicy shrimp on Vietnamese bakery bread dressed well. Perhaps it is as good as a Bamboula’s fried oyster po-boy, my standard for a fried fish po-boy. I will have to come back for the pho and a deeper dive into the sandwich menu. The menu looks dangerously good, with a lingering question to be answered only by experience of how different roast beef, brisket, and tendon can be.

It was a good long tattoo session, finishing the left chest panel with detail and some bright colors and pumping some color into the right shoulder tentacles. Walt the tattooer was not very busy, and was telling stories, the most memorable about a tattoo artist who belonged to an outlaw bike gang, the Galloping Geese, and was their enforcer. A good guy to have on your side, even if he had to scoot out the back door when police came in to be tattooed. He also talked about having to fabricate their own needles from sewing needles, and sharpening them once a week—the apprentice’s job. The needles were sharpened on Saturdays, and the shop was closed Sundays and Mondays, so those in the know got tattooed on Tuesdays before the needles got dull and dirty, resulting in pain, blurred lines, and infections or worse. He was joking about every OG tattooer he knew from the 70s ending up with solid black arms as the ink in their sleeves bled together. I’m hoping, and confident that the modern inks and techniques hold up a little better.

I walked by Melvin’s, the dive bar on St. Claude next to the tire shop. It is one of the few bars I have ever been in that had a buzzer to get in. You walked into the entryway to see a second door, and the bartender buzzed you in if you appeared to be proper Melvin’s clientele. I’m not sure what exactly that is, because it was a $3 shot and a beer place with some rickety pool tables, a mixed race clientele, and clearly no dress code. How you look at someone through dirty glass and determine that they indeed have $3 in their pocket I don’t know. I had no real desire to become a regular.

Last year, one of the local TV shows had filmed a fire scene there, and it was hard to tell the difference between the actors playing at firefighters and police, and the firefighters and police working the detail to make sure the joint didn’t burn down. Last night, Melvin’s had a real fire and the rear half of the building burned completely. The bar area was smoke and water damaged, and the owner was hemming and hawing about perhaps not having insurance on the news. The neighborhood changes all the time, but as it is on the same block as Gene’s Po-boy, which ain’t there no more, it makes you wonder. Some developers have big plans and no scruples.

I had a shot and a beer with the Hank was Here corner crowd, and then wandered onto Frenchmen Street. It was early, but as dead as I have seen it, which matched my energy level. I had excellent $2 happy hour tacos at 13, stopped in the bookstore and bought a collection of stories by a local author, and ended up at dba for Dinosaurchestra. Miles was back on the trombone, and in good form. There were only half a dozen folks in the bar, and it was a one set and done evening. I’ll try to remember nights like these come New Years and Mardi Gras.

Mustache Massacre

I went out for a mellow evening after completely cleaning out the kitchen pre-travel. I had a beer at the R-Bar, talking with the smokers outside, and ended up at Three Muses for an excellent cocktail and a good bowl of gumbo. Monte, the piano player, sat next to me at the bar and he had noticed that I was one of the only people in the dinner hour who was paying attention. I stashed for one set of Meschiya Lake, a vocalist. I had forgotten how nice the little club is when you are in the mood.

I stuck my head in the door at the R-bar, and it was Monday night barbering night, $10 for a haircut and a shot. I had not had my mustache trimmed in a year or so, and it is hard to get it even when you do it yourself. I waited my turn, and then told the guy what I wanted, just a trim, even around the mouth, and nothing too drastic. He repeated back to me, just a trim, about the same as it is now, just cleaned up a bit. This is a bar, not a barbershop, so there are no mirrors to see what he is doing, and I heard him run clippers for about thirty seconds.

A glorious mustache was gone in thirty seconds. I went from Pancho Villa to Freddy Mercury in less than a minute. Arlo Guthrie should write a song.

I had taken my lobbying mentor seriously when he suggested that distinctive facial hair is the key to success, and had cultivated the look for decades. It is like if you went in to get your hair dyed blonde and the hairdresser dyed you red. There are even bible stories about men and their hair. It will grow out, but I’m feeling naked.

The Thanksgiving holiday was great. It was good to see Mom, and her place. I am pleased that even after a debilitating illness she is coping well. Winter is coming, the hardest part of the year for her, but she seems to have developed work-arounds for the hardest parts. Sue is a great hostess, and it was good to reconnect with Dave, Sue and Jimmy. Sue’s kids are great, and I spent time talking with Virginia Rothwell, Jim’s mom, for longer than I had before. Jimmy even gave up his kitchen for a day to let me experiment with a turkey and sausage gumbo. Sue’s friends are fun and it was good time with a full house. I liked the tour of Columbia’s entertainment venues.

Travel back to New Orleans was a bit of a hassle, with a flight delay out of Columbia. You know you are in trouble when at 9:30 pm for your scheduled 10 pm flight the announcement is “We are boarding for the scheduled 6:30 flight to Chicago.” To their credit, I only missed the door closing on the midnight flight at O’Hare by five minutes, but the only advantage to that is there was a crying customer service agent who had just been yelled at who was apologetic and appreciative of good manners. United did a much better job than their reputation, re-booking me for a 5 am flight and messaging me with no input required from me. I signed into their re-booking computer and it looked like a 24 hour layover, but got the message before I pressed the button. It was still not fun zombying my way through the airports in Chicago and Houston, but it was efficient.

The flight over the Gulf Coast from Houston to New Orleans was fun, with a window seat and a good view of the coastal plain that I have been reading about.

The edge of the orb

I’m getting spoiled by the weather this week, with every day in the mid 70s and mostly sunny. I try not to look too close at the weather in Craig, but I’m guessing we have it beat. It is a good thing to sit out in the courtyard in shorts for lunch or in the coffee shop with all the windows and doors open. Most people seem a lot happier than they do at 40 degrees.

It was Dr. John’s birthday, and I had heard about a second line in celebration starting at Congo Square. I went up to Armstrong Park to find a small crowd milling around the closed and locked main gate. It is one of those off historical notes that keeps resonating. Armstrong Park was created by destroying about 6 blocks of the Treme and Basin Street neighborhoods in a round of urban renewal projects that included the I-10 corridor through the other side of the neighborhood. The wealthier, whiter French Quarter fought and won the battle to preserve itself, and the poorer, blacker neighborhood lost. The park was created and then gated. There is no access from the back of the park, in the Treme itself, and the park is cleared and gates locked at sunset. Although named after a famous black resident, containing a bona fide historical site important to the history of Black culture in Congo Square, and being built on the homes of generations of black people, it is closed off to the public even for something as benign as a memorial second line. I can understand the resentment.

The musicians showed up promptly at 6, and began playing. The lead band was the James Andrews band, and there were several middle school and high school horn players who joined in. The police escorted the motley group of about a hundred down Rampart Street and then up Basin Street into the neighborhood. I wasn’t sure where the party was going to end, and did not want to end up under the overpass after dark, so I peeled off. It was a positive experience to see a non-costumed, non-commercial second line, more of a link to the culture of the city that the common purchased second lines that run down Bourbon or Royal.

I took a walk through the Quarter, stopping for a good old fashioned at Tujague’s. A group of businessmen were at the bar drinking sazeracs and engaging in salesman banter. It was an interesting change of pace from the vampire tour crowd that I often run into at the standup bar. I am glad to have escaped that life long ago, although their matching fancy shoes were nice.

It was a mellow Thursday. I went through some computer stuff, repopulated my calendar I had misplaced and had a lunch in the courtyard, followed by a late afternoon walk through the Quarter to Rouses with the excuse of buying a few groceries. I had a beer on the way home at Harry’s, but otherwise respected the low energy day.

Friday was a good 80 degree day in the Quarter. I took a walk to enjoy the warm weather and to get a serious book for the Thanksgiving trip. I went to Faulkner Books in Pirate’s Alley, a small room with a good selection of New Orleans history and fiction. I settled on John Barry’s history of the 1927 flood and its social ramifications for the city and the South. I walked it back through Jackson Square and ran into Katie Leese selling art. We chatted for a bit about Thanksgiving plans, and she told me about Opening Day at the racetrack on the weekend. Everyone, or at least all the cool kids, come in costume, with the main themes being the roaring 20s garden party, but a lot of random thrown in. Katie is doing a big hat with a two foot tall hand made flamingo over a gold sheath dress. Never get in a costume contest with a New Orleans artist.

I stopped at Mollies for a Guinness and read the prologue and the descriptions of the photos in my new book-it was hard to put away, and a good place to sit in the afternoon, like a library with beer.

I have been shopping for furniture to replace the first round in our condo, specifically looking for a comfortable chair or perhaps a living room set that would give us a positive upgrade. As always, the furniture store had a limited time only sale, with an advertised 40 percent off for Black Friday. It got me in the door. I was salespersoned for about an hour and discovered once again that my taste out ranges my budget. I did come to some conclusions, like I’m probably not ready for a full set of couch and chairs, but the right price (not found yet) could do put me over the edge. I am leaning against a recliner, but a small hidden mechanical one might work, but they don’t seem to exist. I did find a modern recliner in light colored leather with an ottoman that I liked and was comfortable, but it was not a bargain and within ten or twenty dollars of a similar one I liked at West Elm. I’m coming to the conclusion that this is just what good furniture costs, and perhaps I like the money in the bank more than the leather in the room.

I wanted to check out the junk/used furniture store in the Bywater, and walked in the heat of the afternoon through the Marigny, stopping at Mimi’s to cool off for a bit on the way. It is an excellent neighborhood bar, with a much higher ratio of apparent locals to Airbnbers, and a complete absence of bridal parties or cruise shippers. The outer edge of the inner orb has been discovered. I walked into the Bywater, reacquainting myself with the relative locations of some of the better restaurants and cafes in town, and the new, bigger Fifi Mahoney’s salon. An important landmark right there. The Bargain Center was closed, although full of inventory, and there was no signage but there was a homeless person sleeping in the doorway. I’m guessing it ain’t there no more.

I walked back towards Frenchmen Street, stopping once again at Mimi’s to say hi to the neighborhood dogs and refresh the bartender’s memory. I walked past the Silk Road and Suhko Thai and developed an appetite. I walked past Shawn Williams playing at Negril in favor of a fried catfish po-boy at Bamboula’s and a set of good jazz from the young combo I had seen last week. They play a good set, and I talked with a couple of them after their time. They were bemoaning the overgrown college boys at the front tables who not only talked over the music but distracted the musicians and, of course, did not tip. It is like the live band playing three feet away from you is wallpaper. Just part of playing the bills, I guess.

I went home to take a break, planning to come out again for a late set. I heard what sounded like someone was tearing the house apart, and went outside to see fireworks over the river. They were celebrating the start of the holiday season with a tree lighting ceremony and the fireworks. I went up on the upstairs neighbor’s porch to watch the show, and was joined by the British couple staying at Jennifer’s. It was a good distance from the show-we were able to see clearly, including the vast clouds of smoke in the humid air, and it was not offensively loud. Most times a fireworks show seems like an auditory assault, and the porch view mellowed that right out. All in all, it was a good day in the neighborhood.

Sunny Weekend

Blender or Blunder?

Victoria met up with her friends to enjoy the weekend. I went to the Treme Gumbo Fest at Armstrong Park, stopping along the way at a pop-up art sale at the Gallier House put on by a friend from the pool, Simon. There were a number of large format primitive style pieces, none of which caught my eye although aggressively priced($100 for 3 foot x 5 foot panels). The main figures were doll-style, like a raggedy Anne doll, surrounded by smaller sketches of buildings and lists of words scratched into the paint which was bright colors but not neon. They were interesting but I was not ready to throw one on the wall. I did not spend enough time looking at piles of charcoal sketches, mostly nudes and architecture, at $10 each. I bet there were some nuggets in those piles.

I walked up to the park, without art, and through the vendors to the music stages. One of the main stages was completely in shadow of the building, and the Congo Square stage was in the sun. I took a bunch of photos at the sunny stage, and ran into Ken and Cyndi from the neighborhood. I saw a good band of younger musicians who I did not recognize, and then the Corey Henry Treme Sextet. They were great, and he is a former Rebirth band member. James Andrews and his band were in the audience with us for that set. The bands were great, and these festivals are fun because the late night guys, the musicians, are out with their extended families during the day. Little kids are invited up to dance or perform on stage, and a pre-teen trombonist pulled a respectable solo in front of the festival crowd.

I took a break from standing and photographing on Bourbon Street, and ran into a small second line along with a bunch of college football fans. It appears that Johnnie White’s is indeed sold, and the complex of four businesses on the block will be broken up, with the Original on St. Peter the only one remaining as-is. I know a lot of the people who work at the other three, and it will be disruptive. It is interesting to me that New Orleans has such turnover. As a tourist, given the level of decrepitude and pride that people take in things being old, it seems like Johnny White’s or Tujague’s had been there forever and would continue forever, but they are businesses that grow and change. Johnny White’s took over from a fancier nightclub in the same location about 30 years ago, and catered to the local or tourist looking for a comfortable dive bar without the edge of some of the neighborhood joints. Another place or two will probably spring up to cater to that crowd, although the trend seems to be towards the more profitable daiquiri stands. Hopefully the new owners of the buildings have a better plan in mind than a Willie’s Chicken Shack.

I returned to the park for the last part of Big Sam Funky Nation’s set and Kermit Ruffin’s Barbecue Swingers, both fun. It was good to be able to take some photos of some of my favorite musicians. I met with Victoria and her friends at the Apple Barrel, listening for a set with Billingsley and his crew, always entertaining, and a nightcap at the Brasserie Marigny. The band seemed awfully good, and it turns out they were the Squirrel Nut Zippers minus Dr. Sick, their frontman. I’ll bet they are recording in the neighborhood again.

Sunday was a football on the porch day, with another Saints win, and James smoking hot dogs all morning for slaw dogs. Good hot dogs, but hot dogs none the less. I met Ken and Cyndi at Lafitte’s and had a good conversation before we went up to try to see the Indians at the festival. We had just missed the “battle” of three tribes, but Bo Dolis, Jr., and the Wild Magnolias were just about to come on stage. I got some good photos of their performance before the light went away.

On Monday, I walked through the Bywater with Victoria, toured Dr. Bob’s, on to Elizabeth’s for brunch, excellent as always, and then a walk back along the river to the Quarter. Victoria got a massage as I worked on photo editing in Molly’s being entertained by the bartender who is a stand-up comic. He wasn’t telling jokes so much as provoking, in a gentle way, difficult conversation from the five or six folks at the bar. He and I talked about race and policing and were joined by a couple of other people at the bar, and then he steered the conversation to sex and porn, getting a jack mormon 30 something year old woman to discuss her experiences. A man with talent. I got Victoria to try a frozen Irish Coffee with peanut butter whiskey as a float, highly recommended, and we walked the tourist strip and French Market. After a break we reconvened and went to the John Boutte show at dba. I love that show, but don’t want to go to the well too many times. We ended the night with bar food at 13, where we got good bartender karma for putting up with a very drunk patron who was absolutely fascinated with the fact that we both had shaved heads and I was wearing a hat that made me resemble Walter White from Breaking Bad. I hope Vic had a good experience despite the crazy level of drunkenness.

I fully intended to hang around in the sun and do house chores on Tuesday, but my buddy Chris texted that he took the afternoon off. We walked through the Quarter, with no particular mission but staying in the sun. He bought a good cigar, and we ended up at Manolito, with just Lily and the other staff playing a game she calls Blender or Blunder. One of the staff brings in an ingredient and she makes a blender drink incorporating it. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. The chef brought in spam, and it really does not work as a daiquiri ingredient. It was more than a little nauseating. No amount of bartender magic was gonna save that one. We went to the R Bar on the way home, and I met Michael Wilder, the musician and archeologist from the neighborhood, hanging out with the dogs and smokers right over the “Hank was here 1955” graffiti. We had a good chat and it was good to see him again.

Another warm and sunny day, and perhaps today I will get some house chores done.


Victoria arrived safely after a long travel day and we met at Harry’s Corner, across the street and up the block from her hotel, the Chateau on Chartres. She got a great off season rate, and was happy with the old style lodging. The location is great, and worth a recommendation. We immediately plunged into the French Quarter, walking through Jackson Square and down Royal Street as the daytime vendors were packing up and the nighttime folks were starting to come out.

We started at the Carousel Bar, hitting the Happy Hour early rush so we missed a seat on the carousel, but sat in the window able to watch people walk by and watch the chairs of the bar rotate past. Victoria got a Vieux Carre and I went with an old fashioned. We then went to the Napoleon House and got the little alcove table in the main room. We had a good meal of muffuletta and red beans for Vic, and I had the seafood gumbo, very dark and hit the spot on a cool evening. After a little food, we continued on to the Old Absinthe House, waiting for the Belle Époque to open. We found a seat at the bar, unusual in my experience, and enjoyed the 200 year old bar. The Belle Époque was a whole other thing. It is accessible through a speakeasy door at the back of the Absinthe House and a carriage way off Bourbon. The swank factor went off the chart, with antique fountains at the bar and an extremely accomplished bartender. The absinthe list itself was about 50 bottles long, a little incomprehensible. Vic got a house specialty with egg white and a couple of liqueurs, and I got an excellently prepared Death in the Afternoon. The absinthe, a local one, was floated on top of the champagne, frothed with the bubbles. It, and everything in the bar, was beautiful. It should be a good addition to the swanky bar crawl.

We walked down Bourbon for a few blocks, then across Jackson Square to Tujague’s and the standup bar for an old-fashioned and a Grasshopper for Victoria at the ancestral source of all grasshoppers. We took a detour to Buffa’s to hear Tom McDermott and Aurora Nealand in the back room. I was happy to find a seat for that show, and to have Victoria see and hear Aurora, who reminds me of Stephanie M. in her vocal range. A successful bar crawl with good food and music.

The next morning we got up and did it again. Victoria’s posse did not arrive until late afternoon, so we did a walking tour of the Quarter, starting with an excellent breakfast at Horn’s and a brief tour of the Chez Marigny. We walked to Royal Street with some architectural discussion, and toured a few of the galleries, successfully staying within the art budget, which for me is zero, but I enjoy looking. We took a break at Finnegan’s to look at the preserved but not restored courtyard, and then, after a tour of Rouse’s, on to the HNOC museum to look at the old well in the courtyard and the beautiful museum shop. They were filming some Mardi Gras themed thing, with three floats on St. Peter and a crew of dozens milling about. We didn’t see a hint of what they were shooting, but interesting and entertaining nonetheless.

We walked along the river for a bit, ending back at Jackson Square so Victoria could negotiate with the carriage tour people, and went across to Cafe du Monde for beignets and coffee. It was stranger being there in the afternoon, but the beignets were perfect as always. If you are going to eat one donut a year, this ought to be the one. We wandered from there to Manolito, my first visit of the season, and had excellent cocktails, a Floridita for Vic and a lime leaf daiquiri for me. The lime leaf was a thrown drink, and it was a blast watching the tall bartender in the low ceiling bar getting a couple of feet of throw as she iced the drink. I had to have two to go with my cheesy arepa. We found the Vampyre Boutique for a final stop on the tour for the day as Vic collected her luggage and headed out towards the lake.

There is a cheese festival at the US Mint, and the Treme/Gumbo festival at Armstrong Park. I think I can skip the cheese in favor of two stages of music and arts displays at the Park. Ill have to fit in a football game for a few hours…