I’m sitting on the steps walking down to the Mississippi River. She’s high again today, with her brown murky waters christening the tops of a few sand bags. Acting as a final layer of protection to the French Quarter, these sandbags are only for a worst case scenario.
It’s Saturday afternoon, and I just finished a glass of iced citrus herbal tea at a cafe on Frenchman. I’ve spent my morning with a skip to my step, fueled by a great week at work, sunshine, and relationships with new friends in town. I’ve only been here a month and I’ve found more to do with incredible people than I had imagined possible. I’m out more often here than I ever was in East Lansing, Traverse City, or Ann Arbor. The ability to easily find something fun, exciting and unique is abound in this city. For instance, last night, I played a few holes of disc golf at City Park, then enjoyed a Dark and Stormy (a cocktail made by mixing dark rum and ginger beer) with Valerie, who had a few watermelon mojitos. Two guys whom I had met prior were also at Pal’s; one who shares the same name as the Waterboy (Bobby Boucher), and Eric who has family in Omena, Michigan – neighboring my families land. We ended up at a hamburger joint near Royal street, where I had a bacon and peanut butter burger. In a word, it was excellence. The bartender friendly, sweet, and funny. We talked about tourists, how the doorman would make fun of the drunks at 4am who would fall in the streets, and then he’d shout “Watch out for the sniper!”
The ting-ting-ting of the street car alarm that gets switched but never really signals an oncoming trolly sets a beat in the background, and the man to my right sits in a lawn chair with a cassette tape, singing to an old jazz song about New Orleans. His clear plastic bowl that has a few dollars, a pair of safety glasses and another nick-knack or two gently asks the passersby for a few dollars if they like his style. Out of the past 20 who’ve walked by, only one or two have dropped a dollar. But, the man seems unaffected by the lack of donation. He, too, enjoys the breeze, the ting-ting-ting, the eclectic mix of locals, tourists, church groups with bags from Bourbon Street, and the street people who find a sense of romantic infatuation with steam punk and living as freegans.
Moving now to Jackson Square, sitting among artists selling their wares tacked to the fence surrounding the park, I find a quiet doorstep to sit. To my left, the tarot readers, the psychics and mystics are looking for their next prospect. With some yielding the powers of crystal balls, others have multiple decks of tarot, they are all looking to make a living. I see them here every night, and all weekend. Perched under umbrellas, trying to catch attention with quick one-liners, or by simply looking at a beaten softcover book, as if they were studying the words and not the story.
“Po Boy and Gumbo” calls out a tourist to his wife, recommending they visit Cafe Pontalba, whom claim they specialize in “Creole Cajun Cuisine”. The line is slowly forming to the open-air bar. More tourists walk by, their skin pale, as if it hasn’t seen the sun yet. That’s one thing I am thankful for; all year, I’ve been in warm near-tropical climates. My body has acclimated to the heat, to the humidity. The bars make it easy, though, to be comfortable when you’re out. I was at Coops again a few nights ago, my de-facto favorite for local Cajun cuisine, and met a few Couch Surfers who were sitting next to me at the bar. It may be the secret hangout of CS’ers, as it’s the second group I’ve seen in only a few visits. Jambalaya Supreme is my standard, which is a mix of rabbit, sausage, dirty rice, tasso, and cajun spices. I dined on duck quesadillas the last time I was there, which were delicious. Pair the duck with an Abita Amber, and you’ve got a recipe for a meal that would put even Chef Morimoto in tears.
I have five short days until my mom and sister come to town. They’re staying for five nights, and I’m eager to show them my new home. Either Le Bom Temps or the Hi Ho on Thursday for local brass jazz, the Quarter on Friday, and maybe I’ll don my MSU t-shirt and try to look like a tourist as I accompany them to Cafe Du Monde for breakfast on Saturday. I’m in desperate need of a couch, possibly a rocking chair, and a reclining chair. The only furniture in my apartment is my bed, a 6-chair-and-table setup, and a few milk crates. I hope that my mom and sister can help me with that decorating, and figure out a solution to the 12-foot windows that lack curtains. I’ll take them shopping at the furniture stores, and then work the logistics out of renting a truck to take everything back.
A few friends have requested a spot on the floor in the coming months, and I have a feeling that’s just the start. If you’ve ever wanted to see the Big Easy or see what Southern Hospitality is like, shoot us a line. We’re happy to host. In two weeks, James will have his furniture from storage in Florida and I’ll have my climbing gear and tent. I believe the party is just starting. More to come. Much, much more.
Welcome to the Rock Show.