New Orleans – 2017

April 29th – Day 26

Up late. Another cloudy and humid day on the horizon. Quick read of the online newspaper before heading off for day two of Jazz Fest. Alarmingly there was an armed robbery just a block down from me last night at 4:30 A.M. As I have told the crew, be vigilant at all times and do not become complacent even in the French Quarter.

Got a Facebook message from Skye, looks like they have had another late night and will not be getting to the fest until late afternoon. Ran into Jennie and Owen at the bus stop. We are quickly becoming bus buddies.

Breakfast today is a Crawfish Enchilada and a Natchitoulis Meat Pie. Ran into Bryce again and he has offered me a free ticket to Tuesday’s Threadhead festival. May just take up the offer. I decided not to take my camera today. The reason being two-fold, it is heavy and my photos are no where near as good as Wendy’s. 

I caught the end of Charmaine Neville’s set in the Blues tent and then moved up the front to get a good seat for Kenny Neale. Great set, which he dedicated to some of his old Baton Rouge musician influences. One guy he brought out was a singer known as Boo Boo. He must be well into his seventies. Man can he still sing and the crowd went wild with his dance moves. The whole band was grinning from ear to ear. Should have brought the camera after all. Kenny then introduced a tribute to B.B.King and for the song he swapped guitars. He told us that as a young performer he toured with B.B. as a bass player. He has one on B.B.’s famous ‘Lucille’ guitars which has Mr. Kings autograph in large white letters. First time I have ever seen a guitar get a standing ovation! The song he chose for the tribute was the aptly named, ‘Everyday I Have The Blues.’ Next up he introduced singer and harp player, Oscar Davis who toured with Slim Harpo.

It is 2:15 and time for a visit to WWOZ for fresh fruit and iced coffee. Still no sight of the young’uns.

The Blues tent is chokers for Cyril Neville so I stood outside and listened. Lucky Kate is not with me. I have just been caught in the middle of a bee swarm. People are running everywhere. Toward the end of the set I spotted another Aussie friend, Geoff. We chatted for a while and waited for the crowd to disperse. Then went into the tent and got a good spot for the Honey Island Swamp Band. The HISB kicked ass and we hung in for the full set.

As I was leaving the tent I felt a tap on my shoulder. Would you believe it? Craig Horne from a WOW favourite band the Hornets. Craig is a great friend of Wendy and I. Craig is heading to Lafayette tomorrow but will be back Wednesday and we are going to try and meet up for dinner. He told me that he himself had just unexpectedly caught up with Andy ‘Big Boy Lemonade’ Ogden. Sure is a small world sometimes.

Skye has got through a message to say that they have arrived and were heading to the Gentilly Stage for the Alabama Shakes. That is where I am heading also. I sat out against a wire fence on the track to listen. The crowd is much bigger than the time I saw this young band a few years back. They are extremely popular now. 

I left about 6:30 to head to the bus and wouldn’t you know it, ran into Jennie and Owen again.

Once I was showered and rested I headed to the Verti Marte for a burger. Cheryl and her crew are sitting out on the balcony. Apparently last night when I did not answer the door for the young’uns they then knocked on Cheryl’s door and partied with her crew. Junior sang a few songs and Cheryl said he had a great voice.

New Orleans – 2017

April 28th – Day 25

1st. Day of Jazz Fest. Humid day

Facebook message that Kate and Cara are back in Orlando. I know that Kate has been so looking forward to enjoying Disneyworld with her sister.

I headed to the bus stop at the top of Toulouse St and Rampart around 10:30. A bus loomed in the distance. I hope it is the Esplanade bus which goes to the festival sight. I am in luck, it is the right bus. Now that is strange, it was not overly crowded but it just sped on by. Looking a little closer I noticed that there is no longer a bus stop sign. The penny finally dropped, the bus stops have all been moved to align with the new Street Car line.

Finally made it at 11:35 and went straight to the Blues Tent to catch the end of Johnny Sansone’s set. Said hello to the security staff that I have come to know over the last few years. Then caught up with another blues fan, Gary, who I see every year.

Time for a bite to eat. My favourite Yaka Mein and then a serve of spicy boiled potatoes Note to self. Most New Orleans food is spicy and they do not note the word spicy in the meal description. However if spicy is added to the food description they really mean, HOT. The spuds were tasty but I quickly had to look for a cold drink to put out the fire.

Went over to the Acura Stage for a little of the New Orleans Suspects and to catch up with some of the Iggy’s Bar crew. Then back to the WWOZ hospitality tent for some fresh fruit and an iced coffee. Got a pleasant surprise when WOW members Jennie Chapman and Owen joined me. I gave them a bit of a heads up about the festival site.

Went over to the Fais Do Do stage and caught up with Stew, Carol and their son Darren and heard a bit of Chubby Carrier.

Finally got a message from Skye. They are on the way to the festival. Seems like they kicked on after I left them last night. The bright lights and mayhem of Bourbon Street has worked its magic again. They have had a late night. Bourbon Street will do that to new comers no matter how much they have been warned! I meet up with the trio at WWOZ. 

We all went over to the Gentilly Stage for Leon Bridges. A young R ‘n’ B singer. Must say I was mighty impressed with his singing and oh so cool dance moves.

Ran into another Aussie, Bryce and we talked about music in general.

I have been wearing my Tulane Baseball cap and am getting lots of positive comments, I guess from current and past Tulane University students.

Hungry again so got a Crawfish Po Boy with fried jalapenos and onion. Then headed back to the Fais Do Do for the Travelling McCourys, a kick ass Bluegrass Band of the highest order. My friend Jeff who I spoke about during the French Quarter Festival had sent me a nice email to let me know he was a stage crew member at Fais Do Do. He said to make myself known and I could come and hang back stage. I saw Jeff and he gave me an artist pass. I got to sit up on stage whilst Geno Delafose closed out the day. Not only that the Stage Manager insisted that I have a beer!

On the way to the Bus Stop for the trip home I ran into Brian Wise of RRR. Showered and rested I am in for an early night. I was just about to nod off about 11ish when there was a knock on the front door. I know who it is. Skye, Georgia and Junior, they are calling to see if I want to come out. Luckily all the lights are off and I laid low. I am just to old to party with the younguns.

New Orleans – 2017

April 27th. – Day 24

Gee, I am a little hung over this morning. 

We are meeting up at Ruby Rose for breakfast mid morning. The trio were already at the cafe when I arrived. There was a Mimosa waiting for me!

Once we had eaten it was time to head off for a walk around the Quarter. A very long walk on a warmish type day. I am saving Bourbon Street until nightfall and instead walked the guys back down Royal St for a look at the art galleries and antique stores and of course a listen to some very good buskers. Millsy has got into the swing of things with being called Jnr. and is introducing me as his Dad.

At 3 o’clock, Georgia decided it was cocktail time. We were close to Pirate’s Alley so I steered the group to Olde Absinthe House for Margaritas’  and to share an Absinthe (the Green Fairy). Tonight Skye has booked us in to the most famous restaurant in New Orleans, Commander’s Palace.

At 4ish the crew decided we needed to share a grazing plate before the formal dinner. Junior had heard that Bacchanal Fine Wine and Spirits was a good place. In fact I know this to be true as Pat took Wendy to the same place last year and Wendy was very impressed. We caught a Uber as it is maybe 15 minutes drive outside the Quarter. Fantastic place. Check it out Someone should do something like this in Melbourne. We sat out in a beautiful garden area to await our food and a band (Roamin’ Jasmine) was just setting up. Junior was so impressed with Roamin’ Jasmine that he bought a C.D.. We are supposed to be dining at Commander’s Palace at 7. The time flew and we didn’t finish up leaving Bacchanal until 6:30. We still had to shower and dress up as Commander’s have a pretty strict dress code.

The guys got to my apartment in a Uber around 7:15 and we didn’t get to Commander’s until 7:30. Good thing we phoned them whilst in the Uber as we would have lost our reservation. As it is we had been moved to the courtyard, which was very pleasant. I was very pleasantly surprised when I was told that the first timers to New Orleans were shouting me dinner. It is a very posh restaurant and the waiting staff are very formal. The food was excellent, as was hoped. My steak was melt in the mouth. We had a look at the wine list and skipped the $800 and $900 bottles. I had some sort of cocktail, reasonably priced at $11

Time to head back around 9:30. Now is the time to show the crew Bourbon St. We started at the 100 block and walked all the way to Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith shop. The walk took a long time as Jnr. wanted to stop and listen to each pub that was pumping out music. That I may add is a LOT of pubs. 

I am pretty tired and tomorrow is the first day of Jazz Fest. We decided to have a night cap (or so I thought) at Jean Lafitte’s. Up the back of the very dark and dingy bar a piano man is singing. After each song he asked the crowd around the piano for the city they come from. He then proceeds to sing a sung relating to that city. For example, Boston, the Cheers theme song. Most people in the bar joined in with the singing. I had one beer and called it a night. I left the crew gathered around the piano player.

New Orleans = 2017

April 26th – Day 23

Got a message from Kate and Cara, unfortunately the Baseball game they went to see, the New York Mets v’s the Atlanta Braves has been washed out. That’s a bummer as I know they were looking forward to the game and all the off-field hype.

Skye has messaged me, they are about to board their flight from L.A. to New Orleans. They should arrive around 3:30. As soon as they freshen up they will come over to my place. They are going to be extra tired but it is best to try and stay on local time. We might go to the free music at Lafayette Square or just head over to Frenchman.

So far the weather prediction for Jazz Fest (starts Friday) is looking good. Clear weather for Friday and Saturday but maybe some rain on Sunday. I am prepared for foul weather this year. I have waterproof booties to put over my runners and zip lock plastic bags for storing my cell phone and wallet. Well when I say I am prepared it was Wendy that prepared me!.

Went over to EnVie’s for a Danish and iced coffee around 11:30. On my way back I spoke to a couple of locals who live on Governor Phillips. One of the ladies I know as she walks past the apartment very often walking her dog. She gave me advice on another 6 places to eat. Mostly local neighbourhood hangouts which was nice of her.

I sat out on the balcony with Cheryl and Peter and caught up with what has been happening.

Gentilly Jnr. phoned at 1:30 with  the news that Aussies Noel Goodwin and his wife Cheryl are in town for a surprise visit and that he is going to bring them over to the Quarter. Gentilly has invited me to hook up at Harry’s Place around 2:30. Sounds like fun but I better go and grab something to eat. Decided to go around the corner to Verti Marte and grab something to fill the hole. Got a half pint of chicken noodle soup and crackers.

Steve and Betty have arrived from Kentucky and will be staying next door as well. It is like old home week with all my American friends coming in for Jazz Fest.

Headed off at 2:30 for the short walk to Dumaine and Chartres. Gentilly, Noel and Cheryl were already at Harry’s and enjoying their first drink. We had a good laugh and a few beers. I got a message from Skye to say they had landed in New Orleans and once they were showered and settled in to their accommodation they would come over to my place. Their other travelling companion is Rob Mills who some of you may know from Australian Idol as well as Neighbours. Rob is coming in from Chicago and will not get in until after 9:30.

The girls arrived around 5:30. Tired, thirsty and hungry. They are determined to stay up to acclimatise to the local time. We headed over to Frenchman Street and I pointed out a few local historical buildings, including the La Laurie Mansion. The most haunted home in New Orleans. Have a read here and be scared, very scared!

Once we hit Frenchman I thought it would be cool to do a little club crawl to acclimatise the girls to New Orleans. We started at the Spotted Cat for a few beers and a listen to a real hot Dixieland band. Then next door to the little dive bar, the Apple Barrel. A few more beers and some music from a R & B duo. Both Skye and Georgia were pretty impressed. Then over to Three Muses for some Gypsy Jazz and a food plate to share. Again, I think the girls dug the music. Keep in mind we have already seen three different types of music with no cover charge. The food was damn good as well. Next to Checkpoint Charlie’s, a bar that has a Blues Duo playing. The singer introduced a guest guitarist from Australia. The music was so – so. One more stop for the night at BMC for a little bit of soul. Not bad for their first night in town, music and a good sampling of local beer. Back to the apartment with a six-pack and a bottle of wine to await the arrival of Rob. The girls meet my neighbours and we sat out on the balcony and partied on. Rob finally pulled up in a cab, still with his travel bag and joined in with the frivolity. I have never meet Rob before and was not sure what to expect. Gotta say he is a real nice guy, funny and in no way a big head. The girls have decided that to not confuse the issue I will be called Senior and Millsy will be Junior.

I think we finished up around 2:30 A.M.

New Orleans – 2017

April 25th – Day 21

Up early, well 8 o’clock! Read the Age online and am glad that Essendon beat the Pies in the Anzac Day clash. Also Wendy has posted a photo of our Dawn Service. The crowd turnout was fantastic. I know Wendy and her helpers, Bob, Sue and Ernie have put in a lot of work to ensure the service was a success. Congratulations to all involved in organizing and also the volunteers for their efforts on the morning. 

Laundry day and Dinah welcomes me back to Suds ‘dem Duds, she even remembers my name. Today I am heading out just before eleven to collect my Brass Pass for Jazz Fest. For those of you that do not know, WWOZ sells the Brass Pass which gets you in to each day of the festival as well as giving you access to their hospitality tent. Fresh fruit and iced coffee as well as clean porta loos are well worth the cost of the pass. You also, by buying the pass become a member of the WWOZ for the next twelve months. They have tightened up the rules of entry into the hospitality tent as you are no longer able to take in a guest. They also state that you will need photo I.D. I hope that are not to diligent in checking I.D.’s as I would like to be able to have Kate use the pass to get some of those famous and delicious Ponchatoula Strawberries.

As I was leaving the apartment, William was taking his dogs for a walk. I said that I had not seen his car for the last few days and that Mickey has not been around. He sorta laughed and said ‘you are becoming a neighbourhood local, noticing things like that.’ They had been to Biloxi for a few days. William has also kindly offered to take me to a large Supermarket to stock up the fridge and pantry for Kate’s arrival.

As we walked (both heading in same direction) I asked William of his opinion regarding the removal of the Confederate memorials. He could not see a lot of sense in it. History is history and a statue should not change your view on what was an evil time in Southern America. We sort of agreed however that the first monument that was removed was indeed a blight on the history of the City of New Orleans. The Battle of Liberty Place monument celebrates a white supremacist movement and although I am just a visitor I can see the merit in getting rid of it. Make your own mind up by reading this article in today’s Picayune.

And here is a more detailed account of the Battle of Liberty Place.

As I walked down Canal St to get to my favourite clothing and shoe store I noticed that the first block of Bourbon St is now closed to traffic. The long awaited renewal of the street and sidewalks has begun. I wonder, if I manage to get back to New Orleans next year, if the reconstruction will have been fully completed.

I got me a pair of cheap shoes and some bright coloured socks for our dinner at Commander’s Place next Thursday. I have also got my eye on a pretty nifty shirt but will wait for Kate’s approval. Note that Wendy would not approve!

Next, into IHops for a feed. I ordered the sirloin steak tips with mushroom and onion gravy, mashed potato and corn. Drat, they don’t have Root Beer and before you know it I had ordered a Dr. Peppers. What was I thinking. I had a Dr. Peppers many years back and did not like it at all. Surprise, it tastes a little like Root Beer and I am now a Dr. Peppers fan. The food was good as well.

I got half way back to the apartment and had to tie up my shoe lace. Something twigged as I bent to tie my lace. SHIT, I have left my new shoes back at IHOPS. I gotta turn and walk back 15 or so minutes with my right knee telling me that I am an idiot. I got back there and to my relief the waiter had found my bag and stashed it behind the counter. Slung him a $20 reward.

New Orleans – 2017

April 24th – Day 21

I just read online that the first of four Confederate Monuments was removed overnight. There is a lot of controversy surrounding the removal of these monuments. One of those slated for removal is the famous Robert E Lee statue at Lee Circle. I can sort of understand both sides of the argument. It is an emotional time for many of New Orleans citizens. 

For me, weather wise, it is perfect. Clear blue sky and around 20 degrees Celsius. Another of those must visit restaurants was scratched off the list today. I finally got to Coop’s Place on Decatur. It is a little dive of an establishment but it has a lot of character. Unfortunately Lonely Planet mentions the place and so it is normally packed. Come Thursday and right through to the end of Jazz Fest there will be a line waiting to get in.

I ordered from the breakfast menu even though it was 12:30. Got me the Hang Town Fry Omelette. Fried Oysters, bacon, cheddar cheese and green onion served with fries. Legend says a death row inmate requested this dish with hard to get ingredients for his last meal, hoping for a delay. Must admit it would make a very good last meal.

‘Remember you can’t drink all day unless you start in the morning.’ Logical indeed.

My niece Skye has been in touch. We will catch up this Wednesday when she comes to town with her friend Georgia. I am looking forward to showing them around my home away from home. Skye has told me that she has made a reservation for all of us to dine at Commander’s Palace Thursday night. The most famous restaurant in New Orleans. We will have to get dressed up a little as they are strict with the dress rules. Maybe I can borrow a ‘dress’ from one of the Drag Queens!

Facebook has told me that Kate & Cara had a meal at the Olive Tree in New York. I kinda figured that Kate would find her way back there! They then headed to the 9/11 Memorial which is a truly moving, sad but also inspiring reminder to the terrorist attack on the World Trade Towers.

Back to the Verti Marte for a take out dinner. John greets me with ‘welcome back Rob.’ Tonight it is Creole chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans. Truth be known I still have green beans left over from last night’s dinner.

Back to the apartment and I caught the end of Gentilly Junior’s show on WWOZ. 

Pat has sent through a Facebook message to say that she has purchased her airline ticket for her trip over to Melbourne in September. We are looking forward to showing Pat around, introducing her to our ratbag friends and going some way to providing the hospitality that Pat and Bob have always shown to me, Wendy and Kate.

New Orleans – 2017

April 23rd. – Day 20

Woke up to the coldest day to date. Maybe 17 Celsius. Read that Cara has landed in New York and has checked  into their apartment on Times Square. She is now waiting for Kate to arrive.

Pat is picking me up at 11 to got over to the Artisan Café. Big Dave invited us over for the first of what will be a regular Sunday Drag Brunch. Mother Tuckers’ Drag Queen Incorporated starring Coca Mesa and Special Guests. This is sure to be fun. I waited out on my balcony and met my new neighbour for the next few days. A lady from Illinois, it is her first visit to New Orleans.

We got the Café just after eleven. Big Dave is at the bar. When in Rome as they say. Pat ordered us a Bloody Mary each. Sure cleared out the cob webs. We ordered some food. Mike is the chef and the food is real good. Next drink was a White Russian. Gonna be a fun day for sure. Mark the ex-pat Australian we meet a few years back came in for a chat. He is now a U.S. citizen. Mark has sold his bar and is looking for another business opportunity. He has been keeping up with the price of property back home and is astounded by the cost of property, as we all are.

The Drag Show was a hoot. Got a few pictures taken with the girls. When one of the photos was being taken, one of the girls said to me, ‘get closer I don’t bite.’ I stupidly replied, ‘I hoped you would.’ She leaned in close and whispered, ‘I will if you want me to.’ That shut me up pretty quick!

We left the bar around 2 and headed over to Bucktown in Metairie. We passed many fine homes. The levee of Lake Pontchatrain is right in front of us. Our destination was the 8th annual Pinch a Palooza Festival. A free family festival with music, crawfish eating contests, crawfish races.

Pat has a close friend of hers living close by so we grabbed three beers and went over to visit. It was nice to sit out back and have a chat.

Another great day hanging out with the locals.

New Orleans – 2017

April 22nd.- Day 19

WOW – I am pretty dusty this morning or should I say very late this morning. We drunk Blue Moon beer all night and I think Bob has given me a bit of a touch up. I feel more like I was on the ‘Dark Side of the Moon.’

The only thing I do today is go down to the House of Blues for a meal. I misread the menu. I thought that you ordered two sides with the Meat Loaf. So I did, a side of fries and a side of BBQ Baked Beans. My meal arrived and with the large serve of Meat Loaf covered in a mushroom sauce was snap peas and green beans with grape tomatoes and a mighty big heap of garlic mash. No way I will eat it all but I did give it my best try. 

Pretty much the rest of the day was couch surfing and watching T.V.

New Orleans – 2017

April 21 – Day 18

Again sleep has eluded me. 

Back to Belle’s at 11 for a late breakfast. Not feeling overly hungry so went for an omelet. ‘the Pig Cheesy,’ chislesi ham, cheddar, provolone cheese and American cheese plus of course hash browns. Excellent omelet although I think I have just eaten a pound of cheese.

When I was In New Orleans last year there was a high profile murder. Ex Saints football star Will Smith was shot dead by Cardell Hayes after a minor traffic accident in the Lower Garden District. Hayes also shot Smith’s wife twice in the legs. It was all over the news for the whole month I was here. Well this time the news is all about the trial and the subsequent sentencing of Hayes to 25 years jail. The prosecution wanted a life sentence. Another two families lives ruined by senseless gun violence.

I meet up with Bob and Pat at Iggy’s around 9 for a couple of beers. Iggy’s does not seem to have the same atmosphere that it has had in past years. We then went on over to Big Dave’s new cafe and bar on St. Claude. A very short drive from Iggy’s. Dave was real glad to see me but was disappointed that Wendy was not with me. We laughed a lot and shared a few stories (mostly true ones). The cafe looks great, lots of local art including an authentic display of Mardi Gras Indian beading. Lots of tables and chairs for dining and a real neat little courtyard. No Abita on tap so Bob and I gave the Blue Moons a shot. By the end of the night I felt like I was on the dark side of the moon! Big Dave told us about a Sunday Drag Brunch he is starting off this Sunday from 11 til 3. Sounds like a lot of fun and we have decided to give it a try. That is Pat and I as Bob is a little wary. 

New Orleans – 2017

April 20th – Day 17

Another bad sleeping night. I just don’t seem to be able to sleep until after 3 A.M. I have been leaving the radio on tuned into WWOZ. You hear some good music late at night.

I tried a new restaurant for my first meal of the day. Pier 424 Seafood Market on Bourbon looked ok menu wise. It is only 11:30 but I have not eaten so in for a penny, in for a pound. I ordered half a dozen charbroiled oysters and a Creole pasta. The oysters were first class. The pasta one of the best meals I  have ever eaten pasta wise. Seasoned chicken, andouille sausage, shrimp, bell peppers, red onion, mushrooms all roasted then simmered in Creole sauce over linguini pasta. So, so good. I am glad I took a chance on Pier 424. I had intended to try and do the Jazz Brunch at the famous Court of Two Sisters but it was booked out. I will make an online booking for next week.

Because I don’t sleep well at night I have found that as soon as I sit down in the afternoon I fall asleep. I thought of Arthur when flicking through the T.V. channels. There is a Western Chanel that only shows old 50’ and 60’s shows. I have been watching the Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers and Laramie. They seem real corny but still enjoyable. Lots of fighting, shooting and of course ending with a moral to the story. Life was simpler way back then.

Music is planned for tonight. Heading over to the Three Muses on Frenchman for Luke Winslow King. I have a couple of his c.d.’s and have seen him perform before. Got a bar stool and settled myself in with a beer. Alas Luke is not playing tonight due to a family emergency. Instead there  is a three piece jazz band. They are good (as are most musicians in New Orleans) so I hung in for a set and made sure I put a couple of dollars in the tip bucket. Then headed to the Spotted Cat, it is busy tonight and as I could not get a bar stool I didn’t hang around.

Instead I fished up at the Apple Barrel which is next to the Spotted Cat. Where else in the world can you walk out one music venue into another all within a few feet. The Apple Barrel is a small dive but tonight the band is fantastic. Old timey music played by young’uns. I think I have seen a few of them busking on Royal. Upright bass, clarinet, drums, banjo and resonator guitar with kazoo. Great playing, harmonies and songs. I stood at the bar next to an old local that I had seen at the wedding reception last week. The guy that looks like Willie Nelson. His name is Charlie and the Apple Barrel is his local. Also got introduced to another guy, John. He has been coming to New Orleans for over 30 years and he was up for a talk. He lives 6 months of the year in Southern Mexico. He had lots of stories about New Orleans which were very interesting.

It is already 11 o’clock and feeling hungry I dropped into the Verti Marte for a take-out on my way home. Pork chops, mashed potato smothered in gravy and green beans. No wonder I can’t sleep at night!