So, ok – where the stars FALL apparently.
For the last two nights we’ve been staying at India House -a beautiful hostel in New Orleans. Heather had found out about it from Ray – and I’m glad she did, though I don’t suppose I often seemed it.
I feel that ever since we left Virginia, I’ve slept in a dry bed like twice out of twenty nights or so. And that’s not random pets wetting the bed, that’s the ferocity of Southern humidity. It takes a toll on me, more than it should. The heat makes me weak, makes me irritable, and the general hideous moistness keeps from falling asleep.
But despite all that, New Orleans has been quite an experience.
Tuesday, Heather and I drove all day to get into the city at around 8.30pm or so. We checked into India House, got the tour, met the turtles, met the kitten, met the French, unpacked our stuff, and than pushed our way into the French Quarter.
Heather had visited the place once, six years ago – and I think she really Loves finally coming to a place where she’s got the tour-guide experience. And her memory, as always, was almost infallible. She took me on a wandering of dark, candle-lit bars, dimly glimpsed fortune-tellers working the streets, open-air performances of every type of music. From glass harmonicas to cover bands to the depths of wailing blues guitar. tapestries of noise blended from songs to screaming to the sultry pseudo-silence to be found in the alleys, occupied by rats, the omnipresent cats, and the echoes of the constant VIBRATION of the city.
Bourbon Street was packed with couples and stragglers and clumps of humanity wandering from bar to bar, sampling sounds and beers and whatever else they found. Men clustered on balconies showering beads on the women down below, and as we were eating red beans and rice and gumbo (of course!) at least once we saw a man stripped to his underwear, on whom the tables had been turned, haggling with the overhanging onlookers.
It was a little bit overwhelming. We were back to India House by midnight, local time, and Heather wandered out to the common room and hung out. I hit the bed and didn’t get up again till morning. Heather came back in at some point. I was so disoriented, waking out of a dream of half-remembered faces and old, dead friends, I don’t think I really knew where I was.
Yesterday morning, I got up early (for me) and took my semi-trusty Seagull out into the courtyard and replaced the string I broke in Atlanta. Watching the other inhabitants of the hostel, I didn’t really feel like I fit in. Mostly the grumpy morning rob speaking, I felt slightly uncomfortable in the mix of languages and styles that filtered through the space.
Actually – no. Not grumpy morning rob ness – I think a good deal of my discomfort came from the bathrooms. I’m such an anal bathroom connoisseur. Pun intended. I like private bathrooms. It’s what will keep us from ever truly making it in the bar scene. It’s a long story, but in any case, it was weird knowing that my every emanation would float out amongst the unfortunate listeners in the courtyard. Not that I did anything spectacular, mind you – New Orleans dishes agreed with me well. but. but I’m going to stop talking about that. Yes – Heather, I suppose that counts as ONE (since I haven’t made any verbal bathroom references today – ooooh, we’re on route 10 in Texas between a Jersey barrier and an 18-wheeler and it is very very cramped and I’m just going to look at the keyboard and I WISH HEATHER WOULDN’T CHEW HER NAILS WHILE PASSING THE TRUCKS AND I’m going to close my eyes now!)
Ahem. And then Ray showed up.
We were sitting in the common room working on our computers and thinking about our immediate future, when Ray popped up and claimed the ilyAIMY ite record for traveling the furthest to see us. He’d flown in that morning, was departing the next morning, but he arrived and made us comfortable just as some guy was deriding me for not knowing where the power outlets were.
Psh. I might not know where the power outlets are, buddy, but I don’t see anybody flying 1000+ miles to come see YOU.
So, it was back out on the town, this time with Ray in tow. Well, more properly, both Ray and Heather knew the city pretty well. I was the one in tow, though I tried to take control on occasion by ducking into shops and examining alligator skeletons and gumbo recipes, but I fear that if nothing had interested THEM there as well, they probably would’ve just wandered on.
We had spectacular food. Arguably the best I’ve had on the Trip. Is that true? I’m not sure. There are a couple of high points here and there. Deanne’s butterbeans, Kyle’s wife’s pork chops in Omaha, Nebraska, Jennie’s crème brouille in Colorado. and actually, Will’s chicken and vegetable dish in Rhode Island really places high on the list too. Mary’s ravioli and pan-fried basil, Del and George’s curries. We’ve had a LOT of great food – this was waay up there. Soft shell crab breaded and fried in some agonizingly savoury sauce, fresh green beans, and . I ordered alligator. Just to try it.
There’s no way to convey this in text. but. sort of like a long, juddering uhhhhhhhhh-h-uh with a little interruption for drool to pour forth from the corner of my mouth. I was in a daze of culinary orgasmic pleasure for several hours afterwards. Little did I know that it wasn’t to be my best meal of the day.
First gig of the night – we navigated our way to Fair Grinds and set up on the front porch/sidewalk and performed to a small audience of people passing by and we petted lots of dogs. Not much to say about the show. It was warm, kind of drippy, I made a mess of the “finish” on my Seagull by dripping on it. If I’d had a funnel mounted near the sound hole, I could’ve let saltwater fishes Live inside of it.
A man in the audience asked if we’d play for sushi. We said yes. We broke down, walked down the street, and set up on the back porch of the Asian Pacific Café. Al, the owner, had decided that he liked us, and that we should play for him for another hour while he made us a sampling of some of the most exciting little fishy dishes I’ve ever had. He had an Hawaiian sushi chef who he’d encouraged to experiment. This is the first time, I feel, that I’ve had sushi that outstripped the stuff we’d discovered in Fort Collins, Colorado. See the above sound, except combined with the fact that the jubilant owner and the chef were standing over us, guiding us through the menu selections, making sure we’re going to get what our hearts truly desire.
As we played, a kid wandered down from the balcony to where our instruments were set up, and asked if he could play my Takamine. Figuring there was no harm in it, we let him have at it – and he played us some dinner music as we marveled at our meal. Colin treated us to a pretty decent show, singing some lyrics, his dad filling in any missed lyrics from the porch. Colin’s apparently been playing keyboards since the age of 2, performing since he was 6, and performed at the House of Blues with his dad’s band at age 10.
Then his father, Jim, came on down and treated us to a little stint of another couple of tunes. After his set, Heather and I decided it was time to show them what WE do. A good response followed.
The distant outline of Houston rears out of the mist in the distance. The air is pretty yellow and (not “a” pretty yellow) and we’re hearing numerous reports of accidents and traffic in alien areas of a city we don’t really know. Pretty dramatic, hey?
We’re dramatic creatures.
**Heather would like to point out that she was making fun of this cliché depiction.**
***rob would like to point out that he KNEW that and only typed it when Heather said it out loud while he was typing something completely DIFFERENT!!!***
In any case – a good time at the Asian Pacific Café. We played well, and there were pretty women in the audience. We sold some CDs, made some friends, ate some incredible food. ended just in time to race over to the Fair Grounds Coffeehouse for our third and final gig of the night.
It was a long, long day, but well worth while.
So, that brings us vaguely and incompletely to…..