Feel the Big Easy

“See me, feel me, touch me, heal me”, as the famous lyrics go from The Who. But what does this matter in the grand scheme of things down New Orleans way?

Well… “A horse walks into a bar, and the bartender says what’s with the long face?” It might sound like the lead in to a comedy routine, but it is just something you might see on an ordinary day in New Orleans…

It is easy enough to ‘see‘ New Orleans… the all-out alcohol theme park that is Bourbon Street, embellished with ubiquitous beads, as it provides the backdrop to a perennial staging of the brotherhood and sisterhood of global redneckery. The hobos competing for hard earned dollars that the tourists wish only to pour down their own throats. The quintessentially potholed grime of French Quarter chic.

Kenaz Filan vividly captures the ‘seeing‘ of New Orleans as “a hospice where morals and good character could die in a suitably entertaining fashion.” Probably most usually accompanied with a suitable greeting and copious amounts of your favourite liquid…

But, is it enough just to ‘see‘ New Orleans? I guess for the inebriated it is, but this is so much more than a city… this is a way of life wrapped up in a diverse cultural history and presented through the medium of a multicultural human gumbo.

Look a little closer and you might just experience a whole new world of beauty and wonder. Because to get to know New Orleans you need to ‘feel‘ the real Nou Awlings.

It may be indelibly stamped with the sounds of jazz and the blues, most evocatively experienced by the street procession behind a traditional New Orleans brass band…

… but why not also listen a little closer to the daily soundtrack… that of competing freight train and steamboat horns that blast across the city; and the churning of streetcar wheels grinding through spacious avenues. Not to say of the constant chatter of back stories and life’s experiences being exchanged in the cauldron-like heat of the day.

However, for a recognizably noisy metropolis there is no shortage of places for quiet contemplation. This is a city truly ‘born on a bayou’, a remnant of which is routinely ignored by tourists who only see City Park on the opposite side of the streetcar terminus. But, for those with a fuller functioning compass, tranquility and a little historic charm (e.g. Pitot House) await…

Then again, if reinventing gravity is your thing, the meditation garden in Audubon Park offers up an Isaac Newton experience, as your breathing exercises are occasionally interrupted by acorns falling from the overhanging oaks…

The French Quarter may be a hotbed of Spanish and Creole architecture, but this is a city of Cajun influences amongst so many other immigrant representatives. Once you have got your head around the voodoo intsrpretations of Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya-Ya, the street names of Tchopitoulas, Terpsichore and Capdeville, then prepare your tongue for Crawfish Etouffee, Okra and Louisiana Seafood Gumbo, Beef Po Boys, Jambalaya, Muffulettas, and Alligator Sausage. But make your choice of establishment a little more discerning… why settle for a faux tourist French Quarter restaurant when the real deal is a shack only 15 minutes walk away at Li’l Dizzy’s in the Treme?

Then there is the quintessential flirtation with death! They might offer some lotions and potions to hold back the grim reaper, but don’t bet on it…

… But, when the voodoo strikes you down, try reserving a plot in a city of above ground cemeteries that is constantly battling high water table and below sea level inevitabilities!

Be warned, nothing happens too quickly here; there is no better embodiment of the Welsh phrase “I’ll do it now, in a minute!” than a native or adopter of Nou Awlings. In fact, some take the slower pace of life to a whole new level…

And, with a view to doing their own thing, rather than following the spirit of America, just how un-American can you get? (Some things were just meant to rile those Fump Truckers!)…

Until we speak again, I make no apologies for reminding you of the prescient words of Dan Baum, that New Orleans is “a city-sized act of civil disobedience.” Come, look, but above all else, feel it!

Wind power

What better source than a combination of a skillet of Brussels Sprouts (with added bacon) and a glass of the amber nectar?

Until we speak again, thanks go to the Vacherie bar at Hotel St Marie in the French Quarter of New Orleans for providing the stage and necessary equipment for the production of who knows what subsequent stormy conditions!

A religious experience

The Last Supper

“Jesus… it is so easy to become one of the devoted disciples after crucifying some fried oysters!”

Welcome to blasphemers corner. But, that is something that NOLA [colloquial term for New Orleans, Louisiana] can do to you. A recent moment’s quiet contemplation, and suddenly I was there again. The day is 5th October 2017; the time is approximately 9.30pm; the bar is Vacherie in New Orleans.

The snare is a plate of fried oysters on spinach salad with belly pork and a bacon vinaigrette, with a glass of porter on the side. For tomorrow I take my leave, and a NOLA resurrection will have to wait.

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Until we speak again, in memory of Juno & Bella, Veganuary converts need not apply!

A Dumbfuckistan Trilogy

With only hours to go before the first Trump ‘State of the Disunion’ address, you can forget any great expectations of a new leaf being turned. With apologies to Matt Damon, there will only be Jason Bourne style amnesic chicanery, but without all of the engaging slick trickery.

Part 1 ~ The Dumbfuckistan Identity

Research recently reported in the [much maligned in high towers] New York Times tells the world what it sadly already knows… that the identity of the world’s strongest country is gun-shaped.

Americans are 4.4% of the global population, yet possess 42% of the world’s guns.

31% of mass shootings across the globe between 1966 and 2012 were by Americans.

In 2009 the US gun homicide rate was 33/million; compare that with countries where there is much tighter gun control: Canada = 5/million, and the UK = 0.7/million.

It is true that mass shootings can happen anywhere on the planet, but they only happen routinely in America.

Perhaps on reflection it was after Sandy Hook, where the mass killing of children somehow became a bearable consequence of the right to bear arms, that the ridiculous national identity was finally sealed.

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Part 2 ~ The Dumbfuckistan Supremacy

“I may be a teenage boy’s ego wrapped in a bum-crack combover to you, but my button is bigger than yours, and it works!”

 

Part 3 ~ The Dumbfuckistan Ultimatum

“If it went wrong, it was Obama’s fault, whatever it was. If it is going right, it will be great, really great; because I did it!”

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Until we speak again, Juno and Bella hope you don’t have too many Twitter-infused sleepless nights.

Hangin’ in the Treme…

Hangin’ in the Treme

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…Watchin’ people sashay
Past my steps
By my porch
In front of my door…

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Church bells are ringin’
Choirs are singing
While the preachers groan
And the sisters moan
In a blessed tone

 

Down in the treme
Is me and my baby
We’re all going crazy
While jamming and having fun

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Trumpet bells ringing
Bass drum is swinging
As the trombone groans
And the big horn moans
And there’s a saxophone

Festival Stage

Treme is a colourful location for the masterpiece post-Katrina drama series, as well as being a place of historic cultural significance…

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It was thanks to a tip off from the vunderbar Sue at the Vacherie Bar on Toulouse Street that resulted in me heading on down for an experience of stunning food and cool jazz in the heat of the afternoon…

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Until we speak again, keep jamming and having fun!

Full acknowledgements go to John Boutte for the lyrics of the Treme theme tune.

Seafood diet

Nowhere is the old adage “a see food and eat it diet” more apt than in a culinary navigation of New Orleans. What is it with that fundamental cats to fish attraction? This cat has always been rather circumspect about eating them, and much happier to enjoy them as a visual display. But, as I stroll around New Awlings anything that enjoys a water-based existence had better look out.

If you are looking for a tasteful starting point, listen when your knowledgeable company interrupts the fine Californian Pinot Noir with a recommendation. “Have you tried Turtle Soup?” she asked. A quick scan of the cans in my mind suggested that neither Heinz or Campbells have yet delivered up such a delicacy in my local soup kitchen. “Garçon, crack open some turtles!” I thought, fortunately without actually saying it. And Tableau on Jackson Square introduced me to a whole new gastronomic pleasure…

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Then, if you fancy a salad to satisfy the palate in the build up to the main event, why not drop in on Vacherie on Toulouse Street for a fried oyster and spinach salad. Sophisticates amongst you may say that a cool sauvignon blanc will complement it just fine; unsophisticates such as I, will find a glass of porter does the trick…

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When thinking about main dishes I rarely find myself wondering what will go with the brussels sprouts. But, at EAT on Dauphine Street the blackened salmon provides the perfect mix of crispy and tasty accompaniment. They just don’t know how to do great chips in America though! Fries! what’s that all about?

Meanwhile, back at Tableau on Jackson Square, the gulf yellowfin tuna with a poached egg came with a waiter recommendation of “cooked rare”. My lifetime scepticism about the edification of fish led me to go medium rare; which convinced me that the rare variety would probably have been eyeing me up for a fight or making its own way back to the kitchen…

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And my dining companion decided on the ‘heads on’ shrimp and grits. Nothing like having your dinner eyeing you up! Though hiding behind some plant-like camouflage wasn’t really going to fool a ravenous Mississippi belle…

Until we speak again, if it is the Oceana Grill in the French Quarter it must be time to share half ‘n’ half blackened and fried alligator bites… and make it snappy! The old ones are the best (jokes, that is, not alligators). Okay, so it’s not exactly a seafood dish, but that’s not a conversation I’m having with any alligators, so they’re in…

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Requiem in numbers…

New York City has become, for me,  a place of numbers. Who can reflect on the machinations of Gotham without ‘9’ and ’11’ quickly coming to mind. For those alive and old enough at the time, the images of the Twin Towers falling will be indelibly imprinted on the collective memory.

So, an immediate number of significance is ‘2’. The very footprints of these two subsequent icons of the imagination are now perfectly and emotionally represented in the form of two Memorial Fountains

The advent of the One World Observatory in the Freedom Tower raises the prominence of ‘1’ in the new landscape of the World Trade Centre

But who could forget the intervening ‘0’ of Ground Zero, with perimeter fences of heart-rending messages from loved ones. The site now partly accommodates the very moving 9/11 Memorial Museum

‘2002’ rings in a new chapter of hope…

And St Pauls Chapel provides an iconic place of sanctuary to share, or simply shed, a tear within the ubiquitous madness that is always Lower Manhattan. With a reminder you are in just one part of ‘5’ Boroughs devasted by the events of that fateful day…

Until we speak again, a new vista on the world has opened up to offer a future of innumerable memories and experiences…