My day started with a quick jaunt from my hotel in the Garden District of New Orleans so I could visit the camera department of Best Buy for some supplies. After some comedic errors, I finally found the correct Veterans Blvd. location that had the Real (the first barely had a camera dept.), purchased my goods, and headed over to Magazine St., where I tried Nirvana’s Indian buffet, which friends had raved about. I’ve been lamenting my lack of access to good Indian food since I left New Haven ten years ago. There were at least three Indian buffets I frequented that were an easy walk from my job at Yale Press. I wished that my old compatriot, erstwhile part-time boss, later merely co-worker, and always friend Peter Sims were here with me in New Orleans today so we could savage a buffet (pronounced buff-it, in Peter’s inimitable way) together, as we did countless times during my few years in CT. But alas, we lost Peter earlier this year to cancer, which was a great shock to me. We had sort of lost touch in the decade since my departure from Yale, and I was much the poorer for his absence. All who knew him are poorer still for his departure from this coil. But you are remembered, sir, and spoken well of by all who knew you. I say that without reservation, and that's the finest testimony to a life well lived that I can think of.
(You can learn a bit more about Peter, if you didn't have the chance to know him, here
and at another former Yale co-worker Robert Pranzatelli's blog
. I suggest you do.)
From there, I returned to my hotel to watch my beloved Bulldogs trounce the hated Rebels of Ole Miss (How could you root for a university called that or for a team with that mascot? I don't know, but it is done, even by some folks I greatly respect and love. One never knows, do one?) in the Egg Bowl and edit a video I took yesterday at a ceremony commemorating the anniversary of the Thibodaux Massacre. The video came out quite well, as did the photos. You can see the video at https://www.facebook.com/dailycomet
(look for it; I'll be dogged if I can figure how to link to the post itself right now), view the photos at http://www.dailycomet.com/photogallery/DA/20161125/NEWS/112509992/PH/1
, and read my colleague Kevinisha Walker's nice story at http://www.houmatoday.com/news/20161125/relatives-of-thibodaux-massacre-victim-gather-in-memory
After I was done with the video, I spoke with my friend Michelle at some length about the curious political situation we all find ourselves in these days, and then it was time to hop across the street for sushi. I won't bore you with what I had, but I definitely recommend Sushi Brothers on St. Charles if you should find yourself in the area. And by the way, I also highly recommend the accommodations at the Prytania Park Hotel. Very affordable, clean, amenable, quiet and convenient.
Before long, it was time to head to the French Quarter for a show I had tickets for at Preservation Hall. The streetcar I took seemed to have an odd electrical-ish smell happening, and sure enough, about halfway to Canal St., the driver stopped it and had us go across the street to take a bus a bit further toward Canal, but it stopped short enough that I still had a few blocks to walk.
Upon crossing Canal, I found an absolute mob scene. Bourbon Street was wall-to-wall with throngs of people. The interesting thing to me was that they were 99% black. I've never seen that in the Quarter. I have noticed that recently I see far greater numbers of black people than I did when I was careening around Bourbon St. in my early twenties, but it seems normally still to be dominated by hordes of drunken white frat dudes and sorority chicks. Which is why I don't do late night on Bourbon St. anymore, particularly since I haven't drunk in years. It was nice to avoid all that honky bullshit.
It took me probably half an hour to get from Bourbon and Canal to Preservation Hall (a walk that should take maybe 5-10 minutes), but I did make it. The crowd, while elbow-to-elbow filling the streets, was collegial and oddly sober-seeming. I did smell a lot of the stickiest of the icky, but I didn't get puked on, which was nice.
While waiting in line, I was sandwiched between a couple from London and several folks from Japan. I struck up a conversation with the Brits, and it turned out that she is a documentary filmmaker touring sites in the U.S. for a documentary on music. She plans to visit Jackson next and, I think, check out blues sites in the Delta. (I don't know how you'd survey heavy-duty musical sites without the MS Delta.) So that was cool. I gave her my card and asked her to email me so I can hear more about her project.
Preservation Hall, man. My dad loved that place. The last time we went there was in 1988, just before the Republican National Convention started in New Orleans. I remember seeing all these honky motherfuckers in fancy shirts checking out the local culture, and even then, before I'd developed much in the way of political awareness, I held them in contempt. But looking back, I had no reason to--at least not because of their having enough on the ball to check out Preservation Hall. I do, however, retain my belief that Republicans should never gather.
The show itself was one of the best I've ever attended. I had little idea what to expect, but I knew it sounded good. Local rapper/singer Mia X performed with a brass band, and they blew my doors off. I'm running out of gas here, but there's video of it, so check it out.
I did an end-around to avoid Bourbon on my way out of the Quarter, but as soon as I got to Canal, I found mayhem of a different sort: police line, mounted police telling everyone to get the hell off Canal St., etc. One man told me that there'd been a shooting, and lamented that folks just can't act right. I agreed, and said it was a shame that the mood had been ruined.
Canal Street's being shut down took the St. Charles streetcar out of commission all the way to Lee Circle, so I ended up having to walk all the way there before I could pick one up. I got blisters on me feeters, and that kept me from even thinking to look over at the controversial Confederate monuments that are causing outraged New Orleanians to leave comments on every. single. NOLA.com article in creation regarding their hatred for Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
Culture all up in it. It'll take me a little while to work out my thoughts on all that. But now I have to sleep, for I have a Saints game to shoot at noon tomorrow.