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new orleans – fat tuesday

New Orleans.. it’s a strange mix of poverty, destruction, history, and culture… the things that stick out most are the dichotomy of upper echelon galleries, restaurants, hotels, antiques, attorneys, bankers, catholics..vs the seedy strip clubs, casino, bars, hustlers, vampire punks (as we call them..you know the type.. beyond heroin sheik. grungy, tatooed, and pierced) and missippi ghetto gangster kids from the upper ninth ward.. it seems like a weird purgetory of fried/buttery foods, intellectualism, mysticism, ritualism, catholicism, liquour, and exploitism. Dolled up socialites, bankers and the dirty homeless on the same street corner adjacent to a french bistro and the 24hr immigrant run junk/liqour store. The history is rich and so are about 10% of the people. The other 90% are students (tulane), tourist, and the mostly poor.. real new orleans folk. The influence of the port of the missisppi is dominant. I noticed that the city water taste good (we decided it was from an overhaul of the water system after Katrina) I’ve noticed that the nappy head ghetto boy look and sound of the urban culture is alive and kicking here. I’ve noticed that coffee is everywhere here.. brokers, traders.. cafes.. the food is as rich as the culture.. the homeless and crime rate is horrible but the people are charming. the re-construction opportunies seem to have gone south of the border in construction and services and the real estate market is wide open where it seems that every other building is for sale.. with large areas of the city still under construction. Trump is building a new tower downtown.. the NBA Allstar game is coming up this week.. the convention business seems to be good…
If i was to compare it. Charleston is much smaller..more British and new orleans is more expansive, spanish and french.. simple as that.. new orleans is more ecentric with a wider sphere of influence, Charleston is more confined to the (hugenot/brit) republican and moderate at the same time (ie.. episcopal-esque) and our eastside is a 20th of the size of the upper ninth ward. We saw a piece by Jim Leher on how far behind the public schools are here… New Orleans has quite a bit more New York and las Vegas in it than does Charleston.. I think this is good.. Let’s be glad there are open container laws in Charleston and that we don’t have to round our benches off in order to keep the homeless from sleeping on them. New Orleans has awesome culture though.. the galleries, food and music is more varied (better) than charleston. The people are louder and fatter but in some ways more charming. The african american population is far more urban (seemingly african ..in a way… big earrings excessive makeup, exotic garb) in there traditions… the creole, and cajun landscape of the outlying areas can best be described as slow, muddy and down to earth.. like the delta itself..but this is also what makes up the unique artistic, musical, and cultural makeup of new orleans and it’s certainly still a classic american city that is indicative of what all of the entire missisppi is about from chicago, st louis to muscle shoals alabama.. New Orleans is like the melting pot at the end of the missippi with a foggy immigrant culture dominated by the spanish and french..
…today we’re headed over to the garden district for lunch at Casamentos a tour of Tulane, the Audubon Nature Institute and the Museum..
…and the last thing i’ve noticed is that the swirling chaos that is new orleans sucked me in and wore me out so i say Adieu.. as we head back to our own wonderful little hurricane ravaged town (McClellanville. St James Santee Parish).. Charleston SC.
…Galatoires was completely awesome, especially our waiter John Fontenot (this excerpt from NPR features john in an interview) who has waited tables there for 30 years… we woke up from a nap last night after our extra long lunch with a bottle of wine at did some research on craps and then went to dinner at Dickie Brennans place… i think the gulf coast oysters are more plump and mild and have nothing on McClellanville Oysters as our oysters seem to have a more salty and ‘buttery’ flavor to them.
and we made it to friday… it was a late night at Vaughns with another couple, started on bourbon at Lafite’s with a candlelit round of drinks to a piano player and then caught a cab across town to Vaughns….we had red beans and rice just after midnight.. couldn’t have been a more ecentric or electric crowd of thirtysome.. half East Village NY and half Upper ninth ward… and at 3am we found ourselves on the street corner having a great chat with Kermit and the band.. his bassist for the night was leaving in the morning for Chicago to play with Allan Toussaint and Dianne Reeves and sure enough kermit was toting his grill in the back of his truck..
… we’re heading off to a four hour lunch now at Galatoires and even though we just woke up. we’ve been giving strict instructions to order a bottle of wine, sit downstairs and let the waiter order for us from Louis..follow up… we were wiped from tuesday and we were asleep early… it was nice seeing the city at a bit more of a leisurely pace and the ritual seemed to move on to Ash Wednesday as it seemed half of the city was catholic with the number of ashy foreheads on the street… there a good share of art and galleries in the city including Noma and CAC
…. tonight we are going to see Kermit Ruffins Play at a place called Vaughns (Every Thursday for the last 15 years Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers have played a weekly show at Vaughan’s bar in the Bywater neighborhood) on a tip from photographer Jerry Moran who had some great photography of local musicians….we’ll try to go early to catch some of Ruffin’s BBQ.

vaughns new orleans

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it just happened that Ginny’s National Association of School Psychologist Conference fell on the end of Mardi Gras… which is absolute craziness.. we had bloody marys po-boys and muffulettas for an early lunch.. we saw the zulu today and we’re headed out for some voodoo and music. We’ve got a long week planned..zulu
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…and on another note… we had the most interesting drive in through Gulfport and Biloxi.. the aftermath of Katrina is still a mess two years later. I could only imagine what a thirty foot wall of water could do to Charleston after seeing that.