So I finally went back and my city WASN’T gone. Used to go to New Orleans quite a bit back in the day. But that was pre-K. To see it now, post-K, warms my heart — altho’ Armstrong Park is still desolate, and the statue of Satchmo is secured with long strands of thick, knotted rope so that it doesn’t topple, producing a horrifying image of a man bound.
By JERRY DeMARCO
Got propositioned on Bourbon Street one night while walking back to the hotel with some Arizona green teas — by a woman behind the wheel of a Civic. Met fascinating people who’d come from as far as California and close as the Carolinas. And, of course, lotsa Texans.
Met a bridal party while doing tequila shots with a genuine Brooklyn guy who went to Westwood High School. “Kinderkamack Road!” he shouted, raising a glass. Bottoms up….
Did the Treme tour: Love oral histories. This was rich with tales of free men of color, nunneries and a fierce resistance to the pro-slavery South. Didn’t know New Orleans had its own Rosa Parks — several of ’em, in fact — long before she boarded that bus.
I kept biting my tongue during the musical portion of the tour. Our guide kinda glossed over some things, rewrote a few others. Gave me an idea, though: My own tours. Nawlins, Memphis, Nashville, the Lower East Side, Seattle, St. Louis, Detroit, Chicago, Austin, L.A…. Hoboken! I had to write Lloyd Price while I was still there, tell him that I was at the JM Record Studio where he got his start. Flashed him a pic of the old jukebox — he recognized it, of course.
Made a slide show, with music:
One thing I did learn: Like our railroad apartments up this way, shotgun shacks got their name cause they go straight through — you presumably could fire a shotgun through the front door and have the bullet come out the back.
Saw a fascinating museum exhibit of Spanish cartography of the New World. Amazing how they got the details of the Gulf and California coasts so perfectly. Napoleon’s signature was kinda cool, the little rat bastid.
Speaking of museums: St. Louis Cathedral will always draw me in. It’s truly magnificent. From there, it’s only a few steps to the Big Muddy. And would you believe: Not a single person anywhere said a thing about my Steve Earle shirt. Go figure.
Armstrong Park was desolate. Gently sloping hills, water fountains, ducks, geese — and only two entrances/exits, the rest wrought-iron fencing. A tragic anomaly if ever there was one. Sitting duck or no, I had to climb into the prohibited area to see “Pops.” And although I took a snap of him in ropes, I’ll never share it. It’s a heartbreaker.
Back in the Quarter, each meal topped the last, starting with Bayona, then Broussard’s (salmon stuffed with shrimp, crawfish and crabmeat) and then my beloved Irene’s — the spinach/veal sausage canneloni as succulent as ever, the service impeccable.
And the Royal for oysters, of course…. I remember Acme BEFORE the lines — thank you, Randy Diamond (Don’t expect I’ll be goin’ back there, not with those crowds. Reminded me of Carmine’s in the theater district).
Walked a lot, which is what you do, of course, in a walking town. Pretty much kept off Bourbon, though I did indulge in a bottle of premium rye that up here would’ve run a half a C-note. $19.95. Next time, I’m bringing an empty suitcase….
Amid the insanity that was literally a block away, I found peace in-between excursions, in an upper back room at the lovely Dauphine.
“This city won’t wash away,” Steve sings in “Treme.” He’s right.
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