A Stop In Mamou To See Fred’s and Tante Sue

I left New Orleans around 2am after eating one last big, fat, juicy sandwich at Verti Marte (a super delicious deli on Royal St. and a must for anyone that likes good food). I drove until I felt like I needed a nap which was around 5:30am. I got up by 9:30am and I made it to Mamou a little after 10am Saturday morning.

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I found Fred’s and before I walked through the door, I could hear music going as I walked up. Once inside, I could see the action was in full swing. The appearance is a lot like most any small bar, dimly lit with photos and local nostalgia on the walls and a casual but hoppin’ atmosphere. Ordering a bloody there is like a right of passage, so, I had one and it was quite good, pricey of course, but it was good enough to get a second one before I switched to MGD. There was a band playing and plenty of people and couples dancing; mostly folks a few generations older than I. There was also an old lady walking around with slices of boudin for people (a tradition originally held by Sue before she was let go). A conga line even broke out for a while. At one point a woman invited me to dance with her so I obliged.

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The Bar

It’s hands down the most lively bar scene I’ve ever experienced so early in the morning, and they’ve been doing it for 70 years. The whole thing is aired on a radio show as well, which has been done almost since the place opened.

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The Band

The whole time I was looking for Tante Sue. I didn’t know exactly what she looked like but that she had white hair and is a fairly old woman. Eventually I went outside to check on my dog and I met a guy who told me it was Sue’s birthday, and there was supposed to be a party. After I walked back to the entrance to Fred’s I ended up talking to another man who was sitting outside on the bench. We talked about my trip and where I’m from and he told me about some of the really good local Cajun musicians, and how the band that was playing was more like rock and not true Cajun. I mentioned that I was hoping to see Sue and he informed me she worked next door and wasn’t at Fred’s anymore, and, at that very moment he pointed her out since she was literally just about to walk into the bar next to Fred’s. I excused myself and hastily walked up just in time to open the door for her and walk in with her. We talked about how I discovered Mamou, how I heard of her, and that I was glad to meet and talk to her. I wished her a happy birthday and then we got a picture taken, but only after she strapped on her leather holster custom made for a bottle of hot damn. It was her 85th birthday.

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Tante Sue and I

(The photo below was not taken by me, but it shows her holster)

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This is not one of my photos, but it shows her drink holster

Since I heard she wasn’t at Fred’s anymore, I had to ask about it. Apparently she was fired after being there 69 years. Kind of a bitter end. The place came under new ownership quite a while ago, and Sue was part of the deal, but at the beginning of 2016 they decided they didn’t want her there any longer. Anyway, the experience was different, interesting, and a lot of fun; I met some good people, heard some good music, and I’d recommend it to anyone passing through the area.

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A poem I found on the wall about Sue

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One of the many pictures on the walls

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What is NOLA?

NOLA stands for New Orleans, Louisiana. So, what is that? I’ve lived here for over three months now and have steadily woven myself into the local fabric, and, I’ve talked to a LOT of people, fresh transplants, travelers, and locals. So I’ll explain it the best I can, but honestly it’s near impossible to put the genuine essence of life here into words. Luckily I’m a poet of sorts, and I think I’ll give you a pretty good impression. With that said, if you’ve ever even thought of visiting this place, don’t wait any longer.

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Poets doing the day shift on Royal St. (I’m furthest to the left)

NOLA is a vibrant, bustling mix of sound, lights, color, smells, and beyond…

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Artist on Dacatur St.

Trains with their bells and horns, bangs, rumbles, low engine hums, and the riverboat and cargo ship horns, dj beats with the sound of people partying as cruise ships go by, music of all types coming from all directions in the streets of the French Quarter, marching bands in a second line (for those who don’t know, a second line is basically a parade through the street, sometimes for weddings, or for special occasions, such as when David Bowie died, and just today, there was one for Prince, may he rest in peace) people cheering, talking, laughing, singing on their bikes, ringing their bells and the rapid ticking of the wheel as they ride by, a vendor yells “Gumbo man! Gumbo man!” to make sure everyone who’s drunk and hungry knows he has the best hot gumbo on the street; you have bells from church, birds singing, sirens, car horns, trucks, helicopters, jets, planes, skateboards, clopping of horse hooves, machines and construction work in the distance, thunderstorms, you get the idea.

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Parade debris

You can’t quite look anywhere without seeing beads, on the ground, in the trees, adorned on fences and stair railings, on bikes, and obviously around people’s necks, there’s girls wearing glitter, there’s old and funky hats, weird and old timey fashion, lots of dirty kids, homeless people, and tourists. If you’re ever on Frenchman Street late enough to see all the people go home, you’ll see a special twilight hour when all the stray cats come out of the woodwork. They basically own the street after everyone’s gone, touching noses in the middle of the street or running up and down the sidewalks. When everything is happening and bumping, you smell pizza, or seafood and crawfish, fried food, and waves of trash and sewage as the winds change, and, naturally, the unmistakable smell of good ganja is somewhere on every street, along with traces of sage, cigars, and the occasional clove. There’s always someone with a dog, and of course, the smoke from the street barbecues lasting late into the night.

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Traveling kids aka dirty kids aka punk kids busking on Frenchman

Beyond all that, there is a sea of art blanketing the whole area. In shops and galleries and all over the street and sidewalk; painters, sketchers, photographers, jewelry makers, and even poets for hire. Driving by, there’s art cars, school buses that have been converted to mobile house parties, and even bikes that tow gigantic trailers with swings and hammocks mounted for people to hang out on. And on and on the sensory smorgasbord goes.

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A ship from my home state going down the Mississippi

The feeling, is hip, hip, hip; free, cool, happening, crazy, wild, fun, loud, and proud. Even daring and edgy, fancy, flashy, sexy, trashy, and classy, all swirling together at once.

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Brass band by the French Market

I should also point out that I’m describing the French Quarter and surroundings areas primarily, which is where the culture is at it’s highest concentration. Honestly, I could write novel upon novel about all the things NOLA is, because it’s ever changing and fluctuating and just plain teeming with life, culture, and style. It’s certainly a very specific brand of living, and I imagine that there’s nowhere else in the world that can truly compare. Needless to say, if you have even the slightest creative bone in your body or even a tiny interest and appreciation of the world of arts and culture, you, like me, will quickly fall in love with the place, and the people, and the lifestyle, that is NOLA. So, I’ll say it one more time: artists, musicians, writers, and admirers alike, do NOT wait to visit the crescent city any longer than you already have.

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I took this picture sitting on the very top of the bike trailer that has a hammock and swings

Making Friends In New Orleans

Folks, I’m sorry I haven’t had any posts for a while… I actually had one ready but never published it since I thought I needed to add more to it, but after rereading, I think it’s best to leave it the way it is, since a short post is usually better anyway. So, thank you for your patience. And, I PROMISE I won’t let more than 10 days go by without a post. All I can say is, there’s just so much going on and I’ve been very caught up in the vortex that is New Orleans. Without further ado, here it is, as it was written on the 12th of February:

I’ve been in New Orleans for about a month and a half now and it’s a very unique experience to say the least. I’ve met quite a variety of very interesting and good people who have all helped me feel at home, travelers and nonresidents alike.

 

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“Doc”

One of the first people I met was a guy named Trevor who does ghost tours and goes by the nickname “Doc.”  I ran into him when I went to Cafe Du Monde on my second night in town.  I was on a mission (per my Gramma’s recommendation) to have a cafe au lait and beignet. So, we sat together, and split the beignets while I drank my cafe au lait – “Doc” had a hot chocolate. He was wearing all black as part of his tour getup and amazingly managed not to spill any of the powdered sugar that they pile on. We talked for a bit and I learned that he’s been married to his high school girlfriend, but, just recently they agreed to try a separation. They had a house together and he literally had just moved into a new place with some roommates the day before we met. It was mostly her idea, but they’re both amicable. I felt for him. I then found out that his biggest passion is designing games, like card games, and he’s even had a successful kickstarter campaign for one of them. We talked about a lot of other things and just enjoyed each other’s company… he even picked up the bill! Pretty lucky for my second day in town. As always, nothing is better than meeting genuinely good people.

After being here a few more days, I ran into another guy who gave me some of my first local insights into the community. He arrived here right after Katrina to help rebuild, which was 10 years ago now. He talked specifically about how the fabric of the area is uIMG_9967ndergoing some changes… Basically I asked how long he’s been here and his response was, “Too long man… It’s time to get out…” Of course I asked why, and he summed it up by saying that since he’s been here he’s seen the area become “posh and retarded.” He went into more detail, and basically what he was saying was that the gentrification process has been steadily picking up momentum. I’ve heard that word quite a few times around here now. I also learned from him that many locals who were scattered from the storm never came back because much of the land was bought by wealthy developers and is now too expensive. I was bummed to hear all that, but also glad that I finally made it here before things change any more than they have.

 

Journey into Dixieland: A Musician’s Pilgrimage

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I arrived in New Orleans on new years eve. This is my first visit and it’s literally a dream come true. I’ve always considered this place to be my own personal Mecca because music is one of my greatest passions and obsessions. So to visit or, make a “pilgrimage” to the birthplace of American music is a really big deal for me, not to mention, I especially love jazz and blues.

I’ve been here four days now and as expected, I’ve already had some “religious” experiences. The first real moment I had was when I went out Friday, (1 Jan). It was my first night really experiencing the city… The night that I arrived I pretty much just found a place to park and rested, however I did play my horn on Canal St. for about a half hour. Anyway, I was at the Balcony Music Club and the Big Easy Brawlers were playing when I walked in. They played a cover of “Stay With Me” and it really hit me. They were really feeling it, and so was I. The rest of the night was no different. They played until 1am or so. After that I found another spot called the 3090 which had a band similar to the Brawlers- funky, with a touch of R&B. Every song was great, too great for words really, especially their cover of “Crazy” by Gnarles Barkley. They played until 5am and I stayed for the whole thing. Again, the experience was spiritual, complete with goosebumps and a few tears of joy.

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Part of the band at 3090

On my third night in town I didn’t do much, but, walking back to my truck from Starbucks in the evening, I ran into Tanya and Dorise on Royal St. They’re local celebrities and extremely talented. I had actually read about them just a couple days before. So, in the usual fashion, (it seems to be turning into a pattern) I was floored by their performance when I first walked up to them. They’re a perfect marriage of chemistry and passion. I requested “Sleepwalk” by Johnny & Santo, and like with the other bands the night before, they brought a couple tears to my eyes.

 

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Tanya & Dorise

I’m planning on staying until Mardi Gras, and I know the days are just going to fly by. There’s so much to see and do and my experience has simply been amazing so far, and I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface. Aside from the music, I still have tons of art to check out, and a lot of food to try. According to my cousin Steve in Mississippi who’s been all around the world; New Orleans has the best food anywhere. I can see how it’s going to be hard to leave…

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Art on Royal St.

 

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Another from Royal St.

 

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And another