Saturday, September 11, 2010

despite all the computations/you could just dance to that rock 'n' roll station

I had loads of fun today. In browsing the NOLA LJ community the other day, I came across the following event:

One Book One New Orleans is a literacy initiative that encourages all the residents of New Orleans to read the same book during the same time period. This year the book is Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans, the 1954 Louis Armstrong memoir.

This Saturday, Sept 11, there will be a self-guided walking music and literacy tour of the downtown and Old Algiers areas of New Orleans.
There will be stops along they way where you can take a free tour (Preservation Hall!), get 2-for-1 drinks (Hotel Monteleone), and receive discounts on purchases (LA Music Factory). All you have to do is show the map that you will pick up at the start of the tour: Basin St. Station at 501 Basin Street.
The tour ends after a free ferry ride across the Mississippi River to Algiers Point and the Jazz Walk of Fame. Just a few steps away you will find Hubbell Library, a branch of the New Orleans Public Library, where there will be free food and drinks provided by the Bourbon House, as well as the chance to sign up for a library card and view the Jazz History posted on the walls of the library's temporary home: the Carriage House behind the Algiers Courthouse at 225 Morgan St. The library closes at 5:00 pm.

Since I've been dying to get Christie to come visit me, I sent her the link to the event and we made plans to go trounce around the Quarter. We grabbed some coffee at the Rue and then headed down to Rampart (after getting slightly lost in Mid-City, but I easily figured out where I was going! No small success for someone who has as many issues with directions as I do.)

First, we had to find the visitor's center to pick up our map. The map, as it turned out, was a kind of shoddy hand-drawn map of the Quarter. It was a little confusing and resulted in us going up and down the same block 3 times, trying to figure out the correct way to go. Christie remarked, "I think maybe this whole thing is an elaborate scheme to mug lost people."

Our first stop on the tour was the St. Louis Cemetery #1, to see the Musician's Tomb. While we were there, I showed Christie Marie Laveau's grave (and kicked myself for forgetting my camera). We strolled around the tightly packed tombs and hypocritically snickered at a tourist group. We then had the "walking the same block" experience, as noted above, which was maybe our punishment.

Next was Preservation Hall, which I've actually never visited. I don't think I'd want to pay for a tour, but it was cool to see. Almost like a little jazz church. Following that, we wandered through Jackson Square and considered getting a palm reading, in the spirit of the day, but decided against it because no prices were advertised and we didn't feel like trying to talk our way out of the situation if we asked and the price was extraordinary. We also passed a large, grungy looking man in Adidas sweatpants, wearing a "turban" and sitting beside a handwritten sign, advertising his services as a "clairvoyant, angelic, psychic fortune teller." We took a pass and headed over to the Faulkner book store in Pirates Alley (nice article on it here). I'd love to go back there when I have some money. It was very small, but a really lovely place to hang out, with a great assortment of books.

The third item on the list was the Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone, with 2-for-1 drinks. Christie and I debated what we should order, mentioning juleps, sazeracs and mojitos, but I finally decided that I wanted a Pimms Cup, because it was sweltering and I needed something refreshing. The Carousel Bar was a pretty jazzy place. It is, as it sounds, a bar that spins very slowly. Not a place to get shitfaced, because, as Christie said, the spinning perfectly mimics the drunk spins (also, I'd feel like an asshole getting soused in such a classy bar). But as a place to sit and sip a couple of drinks, it was wonderful. I'd love to go back at night, because there are fiber optic lights in the ceiling and the carousel awning over the bar has old-fashioned light bulbs (not so great pic here on the Monteleone's website). I may see if my parents would want to go for my birthday.

We considered spending the rest of the day drinking, but we were both pretty tipsy already and very hungry. We decided to hit up a Cuban place we'd seen. As we stood outside looking over the menu, a man approached and told us, "You HAVE to order the porkchop. It's the best thing on the menu. You should split it, with the baked potato and a salad with oil and vinegar dressing. There's no passing it up! Get a side of guac. I eat here all the time, I'm a regular. The flan here is amazing, don't forget the flan, it's not that cheap stuff, it's really good. Hold on, let me get you a good waitress." We dutifully split an order of porkchop with a loaded baked potato, salad as prescribed and some guac. It was AMAZING. We never even made it to the flan, because we got so stuffed on everything else. I gave Christie my card to give to the waitress while I ran to the bathroom and when I came back, she said "check out that ticket." We were undercharged by about $3 (no extra for the loaded potato or the guac). We left a hefty tip. I am so going back there. I want to eat that porkchop every day.

We were pretty lethargic after our Cuban extravaganza, but checked out LA Music Factory. Both of us have been before and will go again so we didn't stay too long. The last leg of the tour was a ferry ride over the Mississippi to Algiers Point for the Jazz Walk. Riding the ferry was a lot of fun. I really love being on a boat; it reminds me of summer and family. There's something about the wind that comes off of a river. Maybe we were just dizzy with heat, full bellies and Pimms, but we were pretty loopy by the time we made it to Algiers. We just started wandering around the town, exclaiming over adorable houses, being lost (being lost in Algiers seems to be a developing habit of mine), talking with locals and basically forgoing the entire last leg of the tour. We ended up at the last stop, the library, where I got the Coke (diet, blech) I'd been lusting after for hours (why didn't I get it with lunch? Or at the bar? I don't know. I wanted a FREE Coke.). After about 10 minutes, we decided to take the ferry back to NO proper. We began sleepily walking back to the car but, at my insistence, we stopped at Southern Candymakers for a praline (me) and a turtle (Christie). Okay, I also got a dark chocolate cashew cluster and a milk chocolate raisin cluster, both of which I greedily devoured, saving the praline for later (my whims, they make no sense).

All in all, it was a wonderful and educational day, made better by being on the cheap. Though I have to say, we hardly learned anything about poor Satchmo at all, except that there is a statue of him in Algiers.

Tonight, fun continues--I'm going see a band and see Ann off (well, technically I'll see her tomorrow morning, after I hand over her tranquilized kitty, but that'll probably be a rush).. I'm feeling better than I have all week. Almost sunshiny! Time for dancing!

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