The Crescent City
I should at this point thank Mr Dave Hook, for filling me with an almost terminal fear of the Crescent City. Not only did it significantly lower my expectations of the city, it would keep me well on my toes while I was there. All five senses workin' overtime. When I arrived I was really quite surprised at everything about the city, it's size, the amount of office and hotel towers; I guess I was a little naiive.
I had decided to spend only a short time in New Orleans, so a quality trip was in order. I rang Kevin at the House of the Rising Son Bed and Breakfast and made sure he had a room for a few days. Kevin is a top bloke, a Cockney Englishman who'd found his true love and his wife in New Orleans. One would dare say that his true love is Jazz, though having met Wendy, his lovely wife, I'm sure it's a tough battle! ;-)
Kevin is writing a historical study of Jazz music and musicians in the Algiers Point area of New Orleans. It's a labour of love. It was fascinating watching him eagerly grab the daily paper, head straight for the obituaries and quitely look for the tragic losses in the Jazz world for that day. Strange but cool.
I couldn't have chosen a better place to stay considering my planned short stay. Kevin was able to provide me with the best tips on what music to see in the city and where to go. Staying at Algiers also meant that I was only a short ferry ride from the French Quarter and all the great music and food within it...fantastic. Unfortunately though, it pretty much meant that that was all I was going to see in Nor'Leans.
After arriving on Monday evening, and God help me the Taxi ride across the river was nothing short of an epic journey. The driver spent most of the time on the telephone getting directions from Kevin to get to the B&B. Pretty much all the drivers who pick up in the downtown area have no idea of addresses and locations outside of the quarter, they're illiterate and some are on crack. Yes, it was funny.
After checkin' in, meeting Kevin, and a feast of Red Beans and Rice at the Dry Dock cafe, apparently the best in all the land (though I was to learn their secret on Wednesday at a cooking school), I went to see Kermit Ruffins at the Lizard Lounge, a funky little bar in the quarter. Kermit plays trumpet and sings with all the style and panache of the great Sachmo' - he put on a great show, his band - keys, double bass and drums were tight and heaps of fun too. The band play for tips though my $20 got me a CD, with $5 left over for the band.
On Tuesday, after coffee and toast I hit the streets looking for a great Vintage Guitar shop downtown. Like all great music stores, they don't open until midday - when the muso's wake up. I was there early - a muso on holiday - so I ducked around the corner for a two hour sojourn at the famous D-Day Museum, America's tribute to it's own involvement in the second world war. It's undoubtably one of the best museums in the world devoted to the war with heaps of artifacts and a very modern and interesting layout. What caused me the most horror was not the atrocities of Normandy, nor the aftermath of Hiroshima - it was simply the fact that the American government, still so intent on keeping blacks from whites, went as far as separating black blood supply from white blood supply so as not to taint the supply from the white troops. Madness.
After a quick trip 'round the gift shop I made my way back over to the Guitar shop. There I was well rewarded for my wait, plenty of great guitars and one fantastic amp. Pedro - if you're readin', get your soldering iron hot and get out the design spec's for a 1958 Fender Bandmaster, at $US3600 it's a little outta my reach financially, though I reckon that you'd be able to whip me up one over a weekend or two...huh, maybe?! :-) Pretty pleeeeaase! It sounded great, since it's only 35 watt it broke up really nice at low volumes and had a really full, phat, smooth-assed tone. Yummy.
I took another stroll through the quarter and found a bar with a great blues picker hard at work; John Fohl. There's some recorded stuff of his out there, I reckon it'd be worth checkin' out. Incidentally, I have tried to restrain myself from buying CD's - even though I still have quite a few - after converting the dollars I'm not always likely to make a saving on them.
As the eveing approached to took a stroll up to Bourbon street and for the first time had my camera in hand and was happily taking snaps just like a regular tourist. The Quarter is really something, you couldn't always say that it was beautiful; it is intriguing though and in some spots - pretty damn stinky.
I asked around for a good sea-food feed on Bourbon, seemed that the Red Fish Grill was not a bad place to eat - so I headed there. The place was packed, so I took a seat at the bar for a pint of beer and plate of oysters. And, honestly, the oysters weren't that flash. I first had a half-dozen of BBQ'ed oysters, which are like KFC oysters, and then, desperate to see what Gulf oysters really tasted like, had a half-dozen of fresh. They were ordinary. They're big, life-less and not very tasty. I much prefer Tasmanian - smaller, sweeter, more succulent and like delicious mouth-fulls of the sea. These other oysters were a little muddy like the Mississippi.
After a delicious feed of blackened redfish. I strolled over to the Ritz Carlton hotel, their French Quarter Room to see Ingrid Lucia (as recommended by Kevin) - I went a little weak at the knees.
Ingrid has a voice like Billy Holiday and a body that would turn good friends against one another, probably even start a war. She was great to listen to and even better to watch. I sat queitly at the bar, drank scotch and scribbled notes in my journal. The notes are hilarious to read now that the thrill has gone. The silouette lingers though...oh how it lingers.