Goodbye New Orleans, Hello Texas

So today is my last day in New Orleans. I’ve been here exactly five months, starting from New Years Eve. I had no idea I’d be here for this long. Initially I thought I’d be back in Maine by now, and at this point my arrival back there is estimated for November. We’ll see what happens… I still have to get to California.

The next stop for the moment, or visit I should say, will be in Mamou, Louisiana. A friend of mine in Maine who’s familiar with a lot of southern culture, recommended a place called Fred’s Lounge. He said I should see Tante Sue before she dies. After doing a bit of homework I learned that Fred’s is one of those small spots that’s larger than life in character and reputation. It’s like the Cajun music capital of the world, and, it’s only open early in the morning on Saturdays. (I actually postponed my departure from Wednesday to tonight just for that.)

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After Fred’s, my next visit will be Austin, Texas. I don’t plan to stay more than a week since I’ve already spent almost half a year in NOLA, and I’m anxious to get to El Paso to see my family, which is one of the main reasons for this road trip. I’m also starting to miss my friends and family in Maine. I’m in no hurry though, just excited; to see cousins, aunts, and uncles I haven’t seen in 20 years, to see my sister, nephews and nieces that I haven’t even met, and visit my dad and step mother, and revisit new friends I made at the beginning of the trip on the way back home.

Overall, my experience in New Orleans has been transformative and I will take a part of it with me everywhere I go. I will also try to continue visiting every year. I feel very blessed having made so many good memories to look back on, and living every present moment for all it’s worth, and having so much more to look forward to. I only wish I had more free time to write so I could share more of my experience. I hope you’ve been enjoying the journey so far and thank you for being a part of it.

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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