New Orleans, Louisiana. What can I say about the place? Wow, what a trip. This is a city that has a parade or festival for virtually everything. Oh it’s 12 days after Christmas? Time to start 12th night… kicking off the partying leading all the way up to Mardi Gras. Halloween? They’re on that. Thanksgiving? C’mon, they’re on it. St. Patrick’s Day? Really, you have to ask? On it. You name it, and they’re on it. We spent 2 weeks there and I feel like we barely scratched the surface of that city. That said, I had the impression if we scratched too far we would never have completed the trip (either we would have quit our jobs and turned into crust punks [actually there’s no way we would wind up as crust kids, we like showering too much… also from here on out they will be referred to as ‘Crusties’], or simply have rented/bought a home after living in the bus in NOLA for 6 weeks). New Orleans is a city that commands you to have a modicum of self restraint or you’ll burn yourself out.
The first week was spent in a RV park, our first time in a RV park in fact. Other than being in close quarters in the bus, living at a park is fairly comfortable. The facilities were cleaned daily, you never had to wait to use the bathroom or the shower and there were no ‘quiet time’ rules for the park, which for us is good. We generally stay up late, and we can sleep through noise. Given an unknown living situation (can we park the bus? is there room for us to sleep/work?), I would definitely opt for booking time at a RV park. Our time at the park was generally spent working, getting the bus in good order for living and working, and playing Magic at night (thanks again to Matt for letting us [see: Jake] go through his unused cards to make a deck of each color).
On our first night in New Orleans Jake and I dropped by Loren’s (our friend who has been living in NOLA for 6 or 7 years now) workplace, Buffa’s Bar and Lounge, to surprise him and find out what’s up. I had been unable to reach him by phone because he had gotten a new phone! Digits acquired (HEY BOO, HOW YO PHONE RANG?), we also met Loren’s new roommate Shifty, and got an offer to park in front of their house. We accepted but on the condition of parking out there the following week as we had already paid for the RV park. Jake, Shifty, and I bar hopped to the next joint (R Bar) but Shifty bowed out when Loren joined us due to one too many whiskeys. We shortly followed suit with a cab back to the bus. Through the week we learned not to trust public transportation in New Orleans, and came to appreciate the number of available cabs. (Side note here, I’m fairly certain ‘Baby’ is the second most common word in NOLA right after ‘drink’. When it’s used there’s really no sexualization of the word. When we walked over to a Rally’s to get fast food [we were nursing some solid hangovers] the female Rally’s employee used ‘Baby’ when taking our order virtually every other word. This wasn’t uncommon when ordered a drink or getting food anywhere else in the city. Baby is like the salt and pepper in every sentence in New Orleans. This was illustrated to great effect by Loren when we were trying to get cabs… I had called the cab company and had waited around an hour with no cab, Loren calls them up, uses ‘Baby’ about 20 times in 3 sentences and he’s promised a cab in under 5 minutes. No joke, if you don’t use ‘Baby’ in conversation it will be pretty clear to the locals that you’re not from NOLA). There wasn’t much around us at the park aside from some gas stations and a gated Family Dollar. Clearly, the park wasn’t situated in the best of areas but the park was gated and we never had any problems while we were there.
While at the park we had to restock on some necessary vittles, so we rode the city bus across the water to the Winn Dixie on Chef Menteur. While we were there I spotted Wendell Pierce (Bunk Moreland in The Wire, and Antoine Batiste in Treme) and pointed him out to Dan. I really wanted to say hello and ask for a picture but I wanted to ‘play it cool’ and not bug him while he was just around living his life. I did however hit him up on Twitter and commend what he’s doing with his community especially with Sterling Farms (bringing easy access to a grocery store in the city ). He tweeted back:
We all had Friday off so we went in to explore the city, get some grub, and I went to get a tattoo (you can read about the tattoo I got from Kenny Cox of Tattoo A Go Go on the ‘Tattoos‘ page). We also decided that evening to relocate the bus to Loren and Shifty’s place. As the week progressed we met the rest of the motley crew living at Shifty’s. A wonderful mix of bartenders, musicians, cooks and service people. The house was filled with 4 dogs, a couple cats (that we rarely saw), and a rotating mix of people passing out at the house after a morning/afternoon/night out. All of Loren and Shifty’s friends were great people to meet and spend time with. From George (who sings the best rendition of ‘The touch, the feel, of Cotton..’, see the video below) to Heath and Patricia, to Stephanie (who gets along ‘swimmingly’ with Heath), and everyone else that I failed to mention.
I don’t know if you can spend any serious amount of time in New Orleans without coming away with some story of the NOPD being complete shitheads, and our experience was no different. On the night that we biked to the city park we also went to a bar in Midtown (the name of which eludes me). We arrived at the bar, and the bike rack forces you to keep your bike partially in the street. Someone had parked their urban assault vehicle (read: SUV) really tight to the bike rack and we were trying to figure out a way to get the bikes off the street as much as possible. While in the process of locking up the bikes, the owner of the car came out and threatened to run our bikes over if we didn’t get them off the street, flashing her NOPD badge at us while she got into the car with a beer in hand. Good lookin’ out NOPD. The flipside of our experience with the NOPD was our last night when doing a crawfish boil and the cop that came out was really cool with us and only asked that we turn our music down. Two sides to every coin I suppose.
I already miss my time in New Orleans and all the great people I met. If I don’t move to NOLA for some period of time then I will be by to visit for an extended period.