nawlins. the french quarter. vieux carre. decatur street. jackson square. the moonwalk. bourbon street. man....i could never live in this city. i'd never get *anything* done....but what a blast i'd have! :)
after leaving biloxi (and stopping for breakfast at mary mahoney's, where i learn that "the patriarch" really is an oak tree), we check into our motel, just a few miles away from downtown business district. after dropping our bags, we're off on our adventure!! first stop: a brewpub on decatur street, just a few blocks away from jackson square. after fortifying ourselves with some locally-brewed bock, we traipse along the moonwalk by the side of the river to the sounds of the steam calliope on "the natchez", a riverboat docked by the pier (trivia note: did you know that the *original* "natchez" participated in the most famous boat race in history, for a prize of $1,000,000 against the "robert e. lee"??). then it's the cafe du monde, for cafe au lait and beignets! :)
further down decatur street, we walk past a city bus. the sign on the front of the bus shows that its destination is desire street. neither nolan nor marietta realize that this really is a streetcar named desire. };)
we wander through jackson square, and see a statue of a general mounted on horseback. the horse has reared up on its hind legs, with both front legs in the air. i demonstrate my trivia knowledge to nolan and marietta: when the horse has both legs in the air, the rider died on the battlefield; when the horse has one leg in the air, the rider survived the battle, but died from injuries sustained in the battle. when the horse has all four feet on the ground, the rider died of natural causes.
wait a minute. the rider of this horse is andrew jackson. he didn't die in battle. he had a duel, but he was the winner! and he became president of the united states!! howcum this horse has both front legs in the air??? :::tiger retreating from the battlefield in abject utter confusion:::
at the rear of jackson square, a street band is in full swing. there's a guy with a drum kit, an electric guitar, a bass, a couple folks on trumpet, a couple more on sax, two or three clarinets, and two guys with tubas (well, one guy with a tuba, and one with a sousaphone). there's nobody in charge, here. everybody takes their turn, stepping to the front, taking their 32 bars, and stepping back. this band is great!! and they're playing in front of the cabildo, now a museum, but the place where the documents which estab- lished the louisiana purchase were signed. and they're right next to st. louis cathedral, where a sign proclaims: "quiet! church nearby!"
off to the french market, where we can buy sugar cane, garlic, hot pepper sauce, pumpkins, all kinds of vegetables, hurricane mix (a hurricane is a monstrous rum-based drink, supposedly invented at pat o'brien's - see below), coffee laced with chicory, beignet mix (mmmmmm), t-shirts, turtle shells, alligator heads (with or without the rest of the alligator), and all manner of memorabilia. i strike up a conversation with the hipster who's hawking jazz cd's. i tell him of one of my favorite albums - something by world- class pianist claude bolling and world-class flautist jean-pierre rampal. in the middle of my description, this blonde stops, and exclaims that this is one of her favorites, too!! :) i'm looking for another disk - one that bolling did with some world-class guitarist, who just died a few months ago. sorry....he doesn't have it. but we talk jazz for a few minutes, and he loves the fact that i live in greenwich village. i drop a few names....he drops a few names...and it's time to move on. yes, it's time for a drink!
we stick our heads into jimmy buffet's margaritaville. sorry...no sale. but i have a margarita (and a shrimp po'boy) at the nearby french cafe. nolan takes my photo, in profile, at the corner of rue des ursines. not the rue des tigres?
we wander down bourbon street. every third doorway is a cafe with a live band. our fourth (or eighth?) stop is the "maison bourbon", which proudly advertises that it is dedicated to the preservation of jazz. there's a couple old black guys in the band, and a couple old white guys in the band, but it doesn't really matter, since they're all terrific!! "when you're smiling" and "as time goes by" and "sentimental journey" and "margie" and "12th street rag" and a few more. jamil sharif, lead trumpet, actually uses the business end of a plumber's helper as a mute!! lol!! what a great band!
pat o'brien's is a world-famous bar! we have a drink in the central court- yard, which features a fountain and a mini-volcano. shades of the mirage, indeed!
we've been told that the greatest blues guitarist in the world plays at the funky pirate, 727 bourbon street. we're ready for anything! the lead singer here is al carson, all 475 pounds of him!! he sits on a stool, and belts out the blues. and he's great!! on guitar is harry sterling, a black guy, about 30 years old, who just happened to walk into the place a few years ago. wow!! this guy **really** knows his ax, man!! he's laying down these lines like no one else i've ever heard!! al is crooning these 8-bar 1-4-5 blues, like "you cain't get that stuff no mo'" (o/`you used to get this great weed, now all you get is a bag of seeds...), and harry is just doing this amazing stuff on lead... and the guy on bass never misses, and i never did actually see the cat on percussion.... at the beginning of the set, we're the only three people in the place. but as these guys get into it, people come in off the street, and they don't leave!! the joint is packed and it's jumping when al finally announces a break! wow!! whatta band!!! did any of you ever hear of roy buchanan, the greatest unknown blues guitarist in the world? well, harry sterling is *better*. man, oh, man! i haven't heard such incredible music since i once caught paul butterfield on harp, and buddy guy on lead, both sitting in with the james cotton blues band, somewhere in nowheresville, connecticut, 'way back in the early-70s...
harrah's opened tonight, and we're going to check it out tomorrow!!