New Orleans: Day 1

by tosca on Sunday, February 19, 2012

In which Tosca practises what the locals call 'lagniappe,' meaning 'extra.' If you follow me on Twitter and Facebook you'll see that I post umpteen photos there with little bits about them. Here on my blog, though, I'll give you lagniappe, a little bit extra, to go with whatever I'm posting.

Happy mardi gras, y'all! I haven't blogged much on this trip. Not like last time where it was everyday. Various reasons, but mostly because I think I briefly lost my blog mojo. Yeah, sure, I can use the excuse that there's so much going on that I'm flat out busy, and it'd be true, but that never stopped me last time. Just for some reason I've found it quite hard to remain focused, and my thoughts are quite hard to pull into some kind of coherent shape for a post - so I let it go. Then, while watching tv earlier tonight, I thought perhaps I'd take the pressure off myself and keep it as simple as possible. So instead, for this visit to New Orleans, I'll start blogging now (4 days out from going home) and simply queue up a post for each day with 3-5 simple impressions, photos, thoughts, conversations from that day. A sort of round-up of sorts, I suppose. It was bucketing down earlier today. So much so that a severe thunderstorm warning was issued, and various parts of Louisiana were on tornado watch (yes, we were here in Orleans Parish), and flash flood watch in a few of the other parishes. We're fine. We came back from a plantation tour and took a nap and it was over by the time we woke up again. So, here are my first five impressions etc. from the first day. Enjoy. Or not. Comments, queries, corrections, etc. are always welcome :)

1. There is art, even just in the airport like the two pieces above, all over the place that will blow you away.

2. There are buskers and street entertainers all over. Is it a cliché? Mais oui. Does that make it any less effective or charming? Mais non. I mean, sure, Louis Armstrong is a BFD (big freakin' deal) for very obvious reasons and you do see images of him all over the city, but no, he is not the only local musician people love to talk about. There's also the Marsalis family, Harry Connick Jr. (whom I have not yet had the pleasure of ever seeing live, and I'm gutted about that), Fats Domino, Professor Longhair, Dr. John, Jelly Roll Morton, Sweet Emma Barrett, Kermit Ruffins (and what a treat that was to see him live at Vaughn's Lounge - worthy of a post on its own, he even apologised to me for a set that he didn't feel was at its best and shit but I disagreed - it was everything I wanted and more), Irma Thomas, Sidney Bechet, Eddie Bo, Monk Boudreaux, John Boutté (did the theme for Tremé), Susan Cowsill, Allen Toussaint, Trombone Shorty, Ernie K-Doe, Al "Carnival Time" Johnson, Mahalia Jackson, Clarence "Frogman" Henry, The Neville Brothers, the Boswell Sisters, Alton "Big Al" Carson, Rebirth Brass Band, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Dukes of Dixieland, Louis Prima, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and so many others it's impossible to count. My love of New Orleans music was what attracted me when I was 8 years old and heard it for the first time and, even now, 28 years later, I'm still hooked.

3. Banksy's 'Rain Girl,' just around the corner from where I'm staying, is still as beautiful to me today as it was in Feb of '09. Possibly even more so. Something about it - its poignant look and feel, maybe? - means it still has a special place in my heart. (Or where my heart would be if I had one).

4. Locals have exceptional memories. We flew in about 11pm, grabbed our bags from baggage claim and saw Stan waiting for us. Stan was the same cab driver I had last time and he remembered me and caught me up on all things New Orleans since '09. When I was last here he gave great tips about things to do, places to see, food tips and bars to try, and I was stoked to see him again. His best tip: visit Tremé on foot, visit Lil Dizzy's there and mingle with the locals.

5. People beg for money. I never saw that, not once, the last time I was here, and I was rather taken aback by it. A few days later, one of my trvelling companions finds out from locals that most of the people begging for money are from out of state, that recently (unsure how recently) people shifted down from colder states and will often hang out begging for money. And by 'money' I mean a quarter or a dollar. They never ask for anything really big. Some were sleeping in Jackson Square. A few were curled up in doorways out of the way of the wind, sleeping. Along Jackson Square we almost stood on a person that we hadn't realised was there because we suddenly came upon him, fast asleep.

6. If you arrive late at night (like we did), don't visit the French Quarter at that hour. You really won't see the city at its best, and I think it's important that you do. What you'll see is drunks falling all over each other and vomit on the streets. Probably all from out of towners. Sure, that's a part of the experience, but it can give you a false impression. You really want to see it during the day, very probably early morning on, when the shops are open, the cafes and bars are doing breakast, work people are starting - that sort of thing. As the day goes on and the streets and shops start to fill, you'll see another side of the city again. See it at different hours, just don't start the late ones first.

I love this place. It is everything: dirty, historic, faded, beautiful, crazy, intense, edgy, gritty, laidback, charming, quaint, noisy, full name it, and this place IS it.


ooohh, I'd LOVE to see Harry Connick Jr too - if he ever came to NZ, we have a date :)

by Kelly M on February 19, 2012 at 8:00 PM. #

ahhh that sounds amazing. would be a dream to go there. have fun!

by Toni on February 19, 2012 at 9:22 PM. #

Leave your comment

Kia ora! Have a comment or suggestion to make? Then speak now or forever hold your peace.