8 June 2013

Once-a-year cherry blooms blot the paths in Spring shadows. No weighty midsummer dapples here, just treesful of vernal eclipses. Looking up, one pink blossom would fit just the “O” of my mouth. I could swallow them all and bring back the sun.

Ginger and The Skipper in the Crescent City, Part 3: 17 August 2013

We had an early evening flight and the last day blues. Stanley Restaurant (on Jackson Square) was highly recommended for breakfast, especially the gumbo, but the wait was twenty minutes. After some casting about, we went back to La Divina Gelateria for some excellent coffee, an egg panini, and a one-egg omelet with goat cheese and sun dried tomatoes, followed by chocolate gelato for dessert. Eating outside in a quiet alley, away from the bustle, we revived enough to talk about lunch.

After hustling to check out and check bags, we ambled back along the river and made for the Cabildo to see where the Louisiana Purchase was signed. We were quickly defeated by the air-conditioning but would definitely return. Instead of lunch, we went to Tujauges for Pimm’s and a Turbodog plus tequila. While I got in line for a muffuletta at Central Grocery (plane snacks), The Skipper located a bar. I found him happily ensconced in a window seat at Molly’s with a drink and The New York Times, and we settled in for a pleasant afternoon. Too pleasant, in fact. A friend found us, and we all stayed out longer than we should have. With no taxis in sight and Decatur Street a parking lot, we opted for a street car to our hotel – an exercise in frustration if you’re actually in a hurry. But it all worked out.

It was a rich experience to break out the muffuletta at 30,000 feet and waft the smell of olive spread around the airplane cabin. It was also somewhat like birthing a calf. When I reached into the bag, my arm came back covered in oil. We finished the muffuletta for breakfast the next day while listening to our new Coco Robicheaux and Champion Jack Dupree CD’s. There wasn’t room for boudin in my suitcase, which means Ginger and The Skipper will be coming back to New Orleans. Soon.

Ginger and The Skipper in the Crescent City, Part 2: 15-16 August 2013

Sometimes I’m a sucker for tourist-y attractions. We scratched that itch with breakfast at Cafe du Monde, sharing beignets and the Times-Picayune, which had a cover story about an ASPCA raid that confiscated hundreds of fighting roosters. Hello Flannery O’Connor. Our next destination was Algiers, via ferry, across the Mississippi. Hello Samuel Clemens.

Unsure of the ferry terminal’s exact location, we stopped at an Information Booth by the river. Using small words and many hand signals, we explained our intended destination to the former Delta Zeta behind the counter. Her face puckered with concern. She’d taken hundreds of steamboat rides and familiarized herself with all there is to do in the French Quarter but never in her life (violent pony tail shake) had she been to Algiers. Seriously? She couldn’t guess that the big building ten yards away from her booth with access to the water might be the ferry dock? No. She had no idea. Information Booth #2 confirmed that the ferry terminal was indeed located ten yards away from us and that Algiers was a viable destination; however, our desire to visit was judged with a shrug. Maybe I’d have the same reaction if someone wanted to take a ferry from Manhattan to Paulus Hook, NJ.

It took eight minutes to cross the Great River, time enough to pass Indians in their pirogues and trappers and Spaniards and slaves and barges. The people going back and forth today are service workers in the Quarter. The neighborhoods of shotgun and Greek Revival houses around the Algiers ferry terminal are quiet at midday, but the Richardsonian Romanesque style Algiers Courthouse is open for business. It was so pretty we almost got remarried right then. Still, we couldn’t quite forget that the levee was higher than the rooftops.

Ginger and The Skipper in the Crescent City, Part 1: 13-14 August 2013

I woke up early tasting like undergrad: sour beer, stale cigarettes, mildew. Not quite sure where I was. No matter. It was time for breakfast. Ginger and The Skipper had five days in New Orleans, and as many opportunities to eat as our stomachs would allow. I brought my eatin’ pants and my walkin’ shoes. Time to shake a tail feather to Elizabeth’s. I could sort out last night on the way.

I picked our hotel, the Creole Inn, because of its proximity to the Lost Love Lounge. The red paint and pool tables reminded me of my favorite bar in graduate school, but the Lounge also hosts a fantastic Vietnamese restaurant. Working backwards, the evening ended with adamant finger pointing at the kimchee dumpling picture on the menu. There were only six of these handmade, gyoza-shaped hangover helpers, and I had to share with The Skipper. I could have eaten twelve, fried, with more kimchee on the side. I’m not sure if these guys are Vietnamese or Korean or Japanese, but I’m looking forward to a sober meal there some time soon. As it was, we slurred a block back to the Creole Inn, Tecates in hand, and I don’t know who took off my boots.

Before that, there were 3-4 Buds in a bottle from Big Daddy’s bar. More local than Lost Love, with corrugated aluminum on the inside, a very clean bathroom, and the kind of bar stools with cushioned backs that cradle you through the night. Lost Love had them, too. Do these bar stools migrate from bowling alleys in Buffalo to retire in New Orleans? We watched the ebb of the older crowd from the hood as the younger crowd with tats and mohawks flowed to the dj’s techno dance beats. We could have been in Brooklyn, except for the absinthe shots in plastic Dixie cups. And everybody was freakin’ friendly. Rod-at-the-bar suggested The Joint for BBQ instead of Irene’s for Italian. Done.

Ginger and The Skipper in the Crescent City: Final Thoughts

– Bourbon Street: Turns out I am annoyed by drunk, entitled Southerners such as what wanders up and down Bourbon Street. Being from the South, I figure I can say this. I know I could skip Bourbon Street, but what struck me, especially in the evening, is the edges and the shadows. There are people there, working there, and all the lights and sound just make the edges more desperate. One of our cab drivers said, “There’s lots of shadows in this city at night, you can’t see through them.”

– Trash cans: In Fauborg-Marigny and Bywater, trash cans are huge and decorated, and they seem to be an extension of people’s real estate onto the sidewalk. They move, they hang out and reserve a parking spot, they are an active part of the street scene. But the garbage trucks do seem to come through regularly.

– Streets: The streets are not in good shape, and there is only one street sign per corner if at all. This keeps traffic slow and maybe explains why everyone rides fat tire cruiser bikes.

– The scene: In Fauborg-Marigny and Bywater and Algiers, it is quiet, houses shuttered against who knows what. Perfectly refurbished ones stand next to properties abandoned since Katrina or before.

– Food: we didn’t eat at Galatoire’s or Irene’s or Commanders Palace or other classic places, so I can’t fully compare/contrast our New Orleans dining experience. But, we didn’t have a bad meal. And if Maurpeas and The Joint and Crescent City Pie are any indication, we can look forward to plenty more good meals when we return. Our other observation about dining out was that the portion sizes, especially for entrees, varied widely within one restaurant. Entrees involving hunks of meat were huge while shrimp and grits or etoufees were moderately sized.

– Katrina: It seemed like the elephant in the room, to me. Nobody really talked about it, but everybody still seemed to be living with the aftermath. Just because there is a before and an after doesn’t mean that there is an end. It is not something to “get over.” When the man renting us a car found out we were from New York, he sincerely asked if we were ok after our storm (Sandy) and offered his sympathy to everyone affected.