Day One and Two

Wednesday – 9th April



‘Mean’ Willie Green (ex Neville Brothers)

One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain’ – Bob Marley

Woke up at not sure what time, showered and went out to get some breakfast before checking out. The Camilla Grill is just a few doors down from the hotel. I had to show a northern couple where the door to the grill is. I forgot to wear pack my watch and as yet I don’t have a phone so I asked the Yankee (that’s what us Southerners call those Northerners) who couldn’t find the door what the time is. It’s 11:15 man. Oops I was supposed to check out at 11.

I went quickly back to the hotel to pack up and check out. Carrying the suitcase down the two flights of stairs was only marginally better than carrying them up the stairs some 11 hours ago.

It took me about 10 minutes to walk over to my apartment. Mickey who lives in the same apartment as my landlord William had just finished cleaning my digs (1123 Bourbon St.) Go on put that address into Google maps for a bird’s eye view of where I will be living for the next 4 weeks. Mickey told me that William is off to his AA meeting. “What, I said, is he off the booze’? “No” Mickey said with a grin – in fact he was up drinking wine with the previous guests of your apartment until 5:30 A.M. Now the New Orleans chapter of A.A. sounds like an interesting organisation!

I walked down to the French Market to see if one of my friends from last year Sunshine was still working at the Cajun Café. Looks like she has got the travel bug again and moved on. Leslie the lady behind the jump was just as friendly. She has a radio show on WWOZ Tuesday mornings and knows another couple of friends of Wendy and mine in Bob Gentilly Jnr and his wife Pat. I will be catching up with Bob and Pat sometime soon. Bob also has a show on WWOZ. In fact Bob has presented his blues show on Monday nights for 30 years.

I opted for a Gumbo and I must say my home-made version of chicken and sausage gumbo stands up to the taste test. Although I may be making my roux a little too thick. While I enjoy my meal I listen to Leslie talking to the tourists (I am not a tourist!) … it feels like I have never left.

Now I would not normally talk about having to take a dump however I had to let you in on this bit of graffiti I read on the dunny door. ‘Don’t beam me up Scotty, I’m taking a shi’

I called in to my favourite cloths shop ‘Wicked Awlins’. The owner Robert is an interesting character and we had a chat for about 10 minutes. He membered me from last year. I spotted the perfect t- shirt for Kate.

William was back from his meeting when I returned and we had a long chat. He is very pleased to see me back and he said that Wendy and I are welcome to stay any time.

I headed out around 3 and called into the Café Maspero which is also a great bar. The in-house juke box is blaring out of all things ‘Thunderstruck’ very unlike New Orleans music. I didn’t travel for more than 24 hours to listen to AC/DC! Oh well a couple of icy Abita Ambers help make up for the classic rock music being belted out.

It is another 15 minute walk to Lafayette Park where my music fix is for tonight. Free music in the park is held every Wednesday through the spring months. On the walk over I spotted a work van that took my fancy. ‘Rooter Man – When Your Drains Don’t Work We Do’

When I got to the park I ran straight into our great friends Stew and Carol. We exchanged hugs and news and Stew gave me a side of stage pass which comes with free beer. The Funk Monkeys are up on stage and sounding pretty good. Saw some other friends from last year, Kym who is a professional photographer and her partner Chris. Spotted another cool t-shirt ‘If You Don’t Sin, Jesus died for nothing.’ Albright I don’t want to let the messiah down so I filled up my cup with another Abita.

Not sure why but my right knee is giving me hell again. Same as last year when I was in ‘awlins. Maybe it is a humidity thing. I wonder if they recommend taking my anti-inflammatory pills washed down with amber. I guess I will know in an hour or so.

Stew introduced me to many people back stage including an actor that appears in the third season of the HBO series Treme.

The New Orleans Suspects are the main band of the night. A band featuring many of New Orleans finest including ‘Mean’ Willie Green who was the drummer for the Neville Brothers. Great music and I enjoyed the set immensely. The night finished with a second-line down the road..

I followed the second-line for a while. Here are a couple more great t-shirt moments. One for my vegetarian friends. ‘You Don’t Win Friends with Salad’ and for the Way Out West committee ‘Beer Is the Reason I Get Up In The Afternoon’.

The last thing I want to leave you with is a bit of sage advice. It is not a good look for older men to wear jeans that have been dry-cleaned that leaves a pleat mark down the middle of those said jeans.


On the Road

Tuesday 9th April – Travel Day

Travel day has finally arrived. Wendy and Kate made the trip to the airport with me. I am not looking forward to 18 hours in a plane however the effort will be worth it. I am travelling with V Australia this time as their planes are a little more spacious as well as giving you your own screen to view movies.

The line to get through customs at Tullamarine was very much on the long side. Round and round you go as you wind your way to the scanning area. I heard someone call out my name and was surprised to see Lauren from the Williamstown RSL in the line beside me. She is off to New Zealand for a wedding. I was pulled out of the line after the scan and was asked if I was carrying any explosives. The only combustible I am carrying is last night’s Mexicana pizza sitting low in the gut.

I was pleased to see that Flight Centre had come true with their promise to get me an aisle seat. I am a bit too unsteady on my feet to be climbing over passengers. Bonus also as the seat next to me is occupied by a young boy. I dreaded that a guy I saw at check- In would be sitting next to me. He was a very big hunk of a man and I would have finished up with many rolls of fat on my arm rest.

Once we were in the air the pilot gave us the news that we would have a tail wind all the way across the Pacific and travelling time would be cut by near on an hour. Great news although it means my 8 hour stopover at L.A. airport will blow out to 9 hours. Gotta say the service was very good and the food was very unlike airplane food.

Some six hours into the flight and my Lynx deodorant has let me down. 12 hour protection is bullshit.

We landed in L.A. around 7:30 A.M. and this time getting through border patrol was very quick. So much better than last year when it took 3 hours due to a customs strike. I was asked what food I was carrying. I had ticked the entry form for food. I said 4 tubes of Vegemite (gifts). The customs guy said I don’t class that as food and waved me through.

I got my checked luggage from the carousal and then checked it in for the 4 hour domestic trip down to New Orleans with Delta airlines. I have about 8 hours to waste. I decided to go through the domestic check in and sit it out in the lounge. The security checks for domestic flights in the U.S. are more stringent than International flights. L.A. airport is undergoing renovations and unluckily for me this effected the number of points of entry.

What should I eat? Hmm… Red Miso Beef and rice was an excellent choice.

Eight hours of people watching, reading and checking my emails on my Galaxy Tablet (free Wi-Fi at the airport). I have such a long wait head of me that my flight is not even listed on the departure board. Finally after an eternity of trying not to nod off our flight is ready to board. I know I must be in the correct departure lounge as there is a women in her mid -twenties very drunk waiting to board the plane. Well she is going to New Orleans so she may as well get a head start.

We got into New Orleans just before 11P.M. and I am dog tired. It is always a great relief when you see your luggage on the carousal. Until you can spot your suitcase you always think the worst. I.E. my suitcase has gone to Alaska.

I got a cab and asked the driver to take me to the St Helen hotel on Chatres St in the French Quarter. I will be staying at the same apartment on Bourbon that I had spent 3 months in last year. However seeing I stuffed up my leaving date the apartment still has guests and I can’t get in until Wednesday morning. I booked the hotel via Expedia as it was the cheapest I could find. I thought I must have stuffed up as my cab driver keept saying to me ‘I aint never heard of no St. Helen hotel. I showed him my handwritten address. ‘”Oh man, you mean St Helene”

I got to the hotel at 5 minutes to midnight. Check- in was painless until the concierge said that I was on the third floor. The problem was as he said “This is a very old hotel sir. We do not have an elevator. You will need to carry your suitcase up two flights of stairs.’ I can tell you I was puffing like an old steam train when I finally made the third floor.

Sorry for the delay with the posts, I have had some connection problems