Day 11 – April 16
Well, I wish I was in New Orleans, I can see it in my dreams,
Arm-in-arm down Burgundy, a bottle and my friends and me
Hoist up a few tall cool ones, play some pool and listen
To that tenor saxophone calling me home
And I can hear the band begin “When the Saints Go Marching In”,
And by the whiskers on my chin, New Orleans, I’ll be there – Tom Waites – I Wish I Was In New Orleans
We IS Riding
We are up at 8 to get ready for today. Feeling a little dusty after my session with Gentilly last night but I can’t miss today. We need to leave around 9 to get to Iggy’s bar for our lift. I was ready first and waited out on our balcony for Wendy and Kate to get ready. I guy stopped to ask a question. He looked pretty dishevelled after a big night. I recognised the accent as Australian. Yep he was. He wanted to know if I knew the name of the cross Streets that ran off Bourbon. I rattled off those I could remember. Asked him why, and he said he got to N.O.yesterday and had been drinking at a Bourbon Street bar all night. His friend (who has an apartment somewhere off Bourbon) left him with a girl. He kept telling me he thought he was doing all right which I guessed meant that he thought he might get his pecker wet. Anyway he now is standing in front of me having had his IPhone and wallet lifted and he does not know where he is staying. I sought of felt sorry for him. What is it with Australian tourists and Bourbon Street bars. Do they not know that for 150 years this street has been known for hookers and pickpockets that will prey on unsuspecting suckers every day of the week.
We got to Iggy’s right on time and meet Bonnie who is giving up a lift. She is an elderly lady who is very friendly and chatted the whole time it took us to get down to Chalmette (about a 12 minute drive). It is raining pretty heavy and we all hope it will clear. Today (drum-roll) we are riding on a float for the annual Chalmette Parade which celebrates the Irish and Italian settlors. It is very rare for an out of towner to be invited to ride. Our float is one of 45 floats and the parade features dancing teams, riders on horse-back and all kinds of interesting people. Our float has a roof and on board porter potty which is handy as the parade takes over 3 hours. We have our own on board band called the Jukebox Heroes and Ed plays bass with the band. Kate and Wendy help with the decorations and all who are riding with us are very friendly and inviting. It is still raining but hopefully it will clear up by the time we roll (around noon). Refreshments and food is stowed away and Bonnie gave us a huge bag of throw beads plus a big bag of carrots and 3 bags of potatoes. I also receive a large supply of plastic flowers which I get to hand out to the ladies and girls in return for a kiss. Kate has on her green and white tutu and Wendy a crazy headdress. We get ready in a large Walmart car-park and just across from us are many horse floats. One group of riders are called the New Orleans cowboys.
As the rain looks persistent we headed to the Walmart to get me a rain jacket .It is the biggest store we have ever seen. Think Bunnings and then some.
We start rolling just after noon and thankfully the rain has stopped. The course takes us out of town and then we do a U-turn for the return journey. The road is more a highway with a wide neutral ground (median strip) and people are lined up on both sided of the out and back course. It was so much fun throwing out beads, handing out flowers to the ladies as well as our stash of potatoes and carrots. Why the potatoes and carrots you may ask. Well this is an Irish Parade and you should gather enough stuff to be able to have an Irish Stew. Some floats are also giving out cabbages, bananas and pineapples. Our float is thumping out great r ‘n’ b tunes. It is so good to see all the smiling faces as you throw out some beads. Some of the crowd barbequing some have couches to sit on and plenty of libations are being taken. The parade took over 3 hours to complete and by the time we got back I was exhausted. It is very tiring having this much fun.
We got back to Iggy’s around 5 for a relaxing drink. I went back with Ed and the girls with Johnny (the singer in the band). Ed told me about his Katrina experience. As we drove back he told me that the area was under sixteen feet of water and if you go back a few streets off the main drag you will still see (after 11 years) abandoned homes. Ed and his wife evacuated the day before the hurricane hit. Their home has major wind damaged and some flood damage as well. He did not return until two months after the storm. There was still no electricity and he told me that it was eerily scary to see N.O. completely black at night. No birds, no dogs all life blown away. The first thing that came back to town were the rats!
Mark Jackson an ex-pat Aussie who we meet last year at his bar down in the Parish for his annual crawfish boil called into Iggy’s for a drink. He told us that he just recently sold the bar. We told him we had a big jar of vegemite for him and he was so excited. Told us that the two tubes of vegemite we gave him last year only lasted a week!
Ed told us some stories about some of the crazy locals that used to call into Iggy’s One such was called ‘Danny the Tranny’ who loved to play pool in stilettos and a mini-skirt. Danny was apparently (in Australian lingo) built like a brick shit-house and was very able to look after his/herself. We met another guy at the bar who had written two hit songs for Willie Nelson and one for Merle Haggard.
We left Iggy’s around 6:30. I am exhausted and my feet are aching real bad but this is one day I will remember for a very long time. New Orleans people are very special and they will go out of their way to make you trip unforgettable. Well this sure was an unforgettable day