God I loved New Orleans, and I can’t put into words why. Okay, blogs are about words, so I should probably try.
In December of 2017, a travel buddy & I embarked upon what may become an annual excursion: Experiencing New Orleans at the best possible time: NOT Mardi Gras.
This was largely evidenced by the fact that many of the first-floor establishments in the heart of the French Quarter (i.e. Touristville) were party-bars serving up this so-called local cocktail known as the “Hand Grenade,” which was clearly designed to get women sickeningly drunk and free-spirited, if you know what I mean.
(The disgusting signature New Orleans drink: The “Hand Grenade”))
That being said, the rest of New Orleans was just magical. This city belongs in its own dimension. It’s somehow filthy and disgusting and falling to pieces (note: a cursory Google search shows that French Quarter was largely spared from the terrible effects of Hurricane Katrina, with flood levels really only rising slightly above curb-levels), but at the same time, it is either decaying slowly on an evolutionary time scale, or has been somehow paused.
What is clear, is that the buildings making up the French Quarter are an unbreakable mish-mash of tar, lead, and wood (with wrought iron accents of course) that is likely never going to give way, no matter how indicative it is of doing so.
Our goals there were simple: Music, sights, food. We largely succeeded. We found the best music a vibe to be down on Frenchman street (where the local color moved once the French Quarter became the tourist hotspot from hell). We did stop in for a show at Preservation Hall and found it to be remarkably underwhelming. While Preservation Hall’s heart is in the right place, it was too rehearsed, staged, and “themed” to have any authentic connection to its roots and legends of jazz (Louis Armstrong among them). Preservation Hall had gone to great lengths to portray itself as being a part of the larger Nola Zeitgeist of decrepit buildings with character, but a light inspection revealed that it had clearly been heavily restored and weathered by means of a decent painted-on faux patina and treated wood, much like most buildings in Disney theme parks. In spite of this though, it’s surprisingly easy to miss.
(Preservation Hall’s fake patina’ed exterior)
No the place to hit up is Frenchman Street which felt real, alive, and scudsy the way New Orleans. In fact, clubs like d.b.a., The Spotted Cat and The Maison just about wrecked us. Between Meghan Stewart, Soul Brass Band, and I am guilty of forgetting who we saw at The Spotted Cat, it was a trip unlike any I had ever taken.The only problem was, I spent so much time walking and standing that my Achilles heels in both legs seized up on me, and my final day was spent feeling like I was walking up the side of a mountain.
But I didn’t even consider that to be a problem. The only problem, in fact, is that New Orleans still has a Confederate Museum. That’s messed up, and we needn’t forget, that’s why Louis Armstrong left.
Regardless, I’m hoping to make this an annual thing and look forward to going back and posting on more bands and food and literally, all that jazz.
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