Friday, April 20, 2012

4/20/2012 The Birthplace of Jazz

Warning: This is a long one!

They say New York City is the city that doesn’t sleep, I don’t think New Orleans does either. This city is alive and full of vitality and vigor and the locals are just the friendliest of people.

We started our day at the MWR office. That’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation in military speak. This is the place you go for discount tickets and the latest of info on where to go, what to do and what to see. These people know their stuff.

As I mentioned in a previous post this is Fleet Week which means there are an extra three thousand bodies that will be on liberty (that’s Navy talk for free time) and they want to see New Orleans too. If anything is going to take a ticket or a need a reservation made a trip to MWR is not only a good idea but practically required.

We did have one activity that was going to require reservations and tickets but decided to hold off on actually doing it until Sunday morning. Still, we bought our tickets just to be sure we got them and there was a spot held for us. I’ll tell you about this activity after it happens.

So off we went in search of the river front where we’ll park the truck for the day ($10.00) and board a free ferry that will take us across the Mississippi River into New Orleans.

We found the parking lot with help from a local lady. We had a map to the general area but it wasn’t detailed with street names. We were on the right road we just needed to go a few more blocks. When we arrived there was plenty of space to park but there was a steady stream of cars and trucks coming in and it would soon fill to capacity. We were glad we didn’t get a later start. The streets in the surrounding area were narrow and we would be hard pressed to find a space to park The Beast if we couldn’t have gotten into this lot.

Walking towards the ferry, did I mention it was FREE(?), I saw this, this thing. I still don’t know what it is but it caught my eye.


We didn’t have to wait but a few minutes for the ferry. The ferry runs every 20 minutes which is pretty fast considering that’s loading time, the trip across, unloading, loading again, the trip back, unloading and loading yet again.

Our view heading across the river.


These ships are part of the fleet that is in port but I forget what countries they are from.


This is what greeted us a entered the River Walk area.

The River Walk is a bustling area with tour booths, restaurants with outdoor patios for dining al-fresco, fountains and a good sized indoor shopping plaza. There is a mechanical bull riding ring and rides for the little kids. This is also the area one would come to in order to board the paddle wheel river boats for a cruise down the Mississippi.

First order of business for us was to get something to eat. I had had a bagel soon after we had gotten up this morning but Bob didn’t have anything and was now hungry. We picked Poppy’s TIME OUT Sports Bar and Grill on the River Walk as the place to eat.


Since it was such a beautiful day we opted for an outdoor table. The waitresses were all dressed as referees with black and white striped tops with their choice of black shorts, capris, slacks or a skirt and we saw all combinations.

I ordered a garden salad since I wasn’t all that hungry and it was so large I couldn’t finish it all. It consisted of an assortment of greens, grape tomatoes, green pepper and red onion on a bed a shredded cabbage. Bob ordered a catfish po’ boy. He raved about it with every bite. In addition to his po’ boy sandwich he had a side of Cajun fries. Once again, instead of lettuce and tomato on his sandwich it was tomato and shredded cabbage. Tummies full, it was time to see what this city was all about.

A fountain in the middle of the River Walk.


We made our way from the serenity that was the River Walk to the hustle and bustle of….


Canal Street separates the Warehouse District and the Central Business District from the famous, or should that be infamous, French Quarter.

We didn’t walk very far when we noticed everyone with cameras was snapping pictures of this storefront. Bob and I looked and my first thought was it was a lingerie shop. Then I noticed the name of the store and it clicked. Yes, this was certainly a different display window than what is the norm.


If it wasn’t for the fact that so many people were taking pictures I wouldn’t have given this place a second thought other than thinking perhaps it was a Victoria’s Secret because of the all the pink.


Every few doors was a T-shirt shop that in addition to the shirts sold beads and the obligatory post cards and shot glasses and coffee cups with New Orleans emblazoned across them.


Another T-shirt/trinket store staple was masks. Am I kicking myself now that I didn’t pick one of these up and actually hold it to my face and have Bob snap a picture instead of having just a boring picture of masks on a wall? ABSOLUTELY!


We walked about eight blocks and finally came to the most famous street in New Orleans.


This is where it all happens. This is where you think of when you think Mardi Gras. Bourbon Street. The street where you shouldn’t be surprised at anything you see. Where ladies of the night afternoon hang in doorways, where 10 piece brass bands perform on street corners, where the sweet sounds of smooth jazz emanate from open alley cafes. No, one should not be surprised at anything seen on Bourbon Street.


One thing that I was really taken with was the ornate balconies. I might as well tell you here and now you are going to see lots of pictures of balconies. Probably enough to make your eyes bleed. Fair warning.

The people of this party town take their balconies very seriously. The gingerbread woodwork, the intricate metal work, the furniture used, the flowers displayed, it all means something here.


The first person, who is a local, that we met was Chad. I believe he said his last name was Rigby, but don’t hold me to that. Chad is one of the nicest young men you’d ever want to meet. Personable, kind, engaged nearly every one he came across on the street. Happily posed for picture after picture with the tourists.

Though I don’t know this for sure, when Chad was a young boy he probably wanted to grow up to be a fireman. Maybe as he got a little older he thought he might want to be a pilot or a plumber or a bus driver. Chad’s parents, as they watched their sweet baby sleep, probably had visions of him growing up to be a doctor, a lawyer, perhaps an engineer or even a college professor.

Well, Chad didn’t follow the road to any of those professions. No, he certainly didn’t. Chad grew up, left Kentucky two years ago to find fame and fortune in New Orleans as………..



Yes, indeedy, there is a call for a Swamp Thing in New Orleans. Is he the only Swamp Thing? I don’t know, I didn’t ask. He offered us a free pass to go ride a mechanical bull but we declined his kind offer.

Chad’s work uniform is made from fish net covered in yarn, rubber alligators, plastic snakes and artificial flowers. I cant imagine how he wears this in the heat of a southern, coastal summer.

While talking with him he asked where we were from and we explained that we were full time RV’ers. He thought that was the coolest thing and would like to do this someday himself. He asked if I was on Facebook because he wanted to follow where we go. I wrote my name down for him and told him to Google it and that he would see his picture on my blog for sure. ::waving:: Hi CHAD! And Mr. & Mrs. Rigby, be assured, your son is the BEST Swamp Thing New Orleans could ever hope for. You can and should be proud.

Chad told us where to go at night time where the locals hang out. Where the music is still great but the tourist crowd isn't hanging around. Had we plans to stay in town through the nighttime hours that would have been great info to have because I imagine some of these sailors are going to get pretty rowdy this Friday night if they’ve been on ship for awhile.

So we said so long to Chad and watched him take off to do his Swamp Thing…thing but not before we slipped something into his bucket to help him pay his rent.


A look down Bourbon Street.


Another balcony.


We even saw a balcony for rent.


More balconies, are your eyes starting to bleed yet?


It was time to get something to drink as it was getting warm in the early afternoon. We slipped into this alley way café where the main attraction was the mechanical bull our new friend Chad wanted us to ride. I went to the bar to order our drinks while Bob went in search of the restrooms for us. The bartender put my soda on the bar and next to it three beers.


I told him that I didn’t order three beers, only one. He said, holding up one bottle, “This beer is six dollars.” He then picked up another one and said, “If I add this one to it, its still six dollars and if I had the third its still six dollars. If I take away one its six dollars and if I take away two, you guessed it, six dollars.” I picked up all three beers and took them to our table. When Bob returned he looked at the beers and asked why I bought three. I explained the whole thing to him. He said, “I’ll never drink all three beers.” I laughed out loud.

We watched the mechanical bull throw riders off while we rested and drank our drinks.


Back out on the street we ran into none other than Bart Simpson. We never did figure out the why or what for of Bart’s presence here but as soon as he saw a camera pointed in is direction he was quick with a pose.


This next fella was also quick to pose. Don’t ask me, I don’t get it either.


Guess what the next picture is of.


This is one of several street bands that we stopped to watch and listen to.


Did you notice the guy all the way on the right? His instrument is a plywood box, a piece of round wood much like a broom handle and a moderately thick piece of rope. He could PLAY this thing! You would think he had a cello.


Balconies overlooking a courtyard.


More balconies….your eyes have to be bleeding by now!


There was one street band on break and this little fellow took over the drums. They start them young down here with lessons or this tyke just has natural talent. He wasn’t just banging the drums he was truly playing them.


We just loved the old buildings.


As we were walking down the street Bob nudged me and asked if I thought that man we just passed was working. I quickly looked back over my shoulder and said, “Yeah, why did you ask me that?” Bob said, “Look again.”


I had to go back for a better look.



He just stayed there. Of course there was no place to take that piece of wood, there was no roof to climb to, he just climbed up two steps and stopped. It was actually pretty amazing to see. Nearly everyone who passed dropped a dollar or two into his bucket.
Further on down the street we saw this.




We walked down the corner to listen to this band.


And we watched these girls dance to the music of this band.


And I looked back up the block a quarter of the way and I saw this.


Same position, nothing changed. NOTHING!
I turned my attention back to the band and took several more pictures.


I looked back again and he was still “walking his dog across the street”. Well now I was intrigued. Just then he stood up straight and was talking to some passersby and I knew I had to meet him. So I walked back and he was standing there alone and I asked him how long he holds that pose for. He told me anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half. He’s known as Uncle Louie and he’s been doing this for twenty years. If I had to guess his age I would put him in his seventies. Maybe his very late sixties but I would lean more to early seventies. He shared with me that he makes a decent living at what he does, some days better than others but as a whole people are generous with their dollar bills and more often than not will put one in his bucket. I gladly did.

His little dog? Little Willie is his name. He's stuffed. Uncle Louie couldn’t find a dog that stays at mid stride for an hour.


As I was leaving Uncle Willie I put my hand out to shake his. He took mine and thanked me for the donation I made and for stopping to talk with him. I said something to him and was waiting for his reply. When he didn’t answer I repeated myself and it was then I realized he went into his working mode. He was just staring off into space with a the smile he had on his face when he was talking with me. It took me a few seconds to realize what happening and when I did all I could do was laugh. I went to pull my hand away when he tightened his grip ever so slightly so that I couldn’t walk away. Well, now here I am and he's not moving or talking and I can’t do anything. I yelled for Bob who was a couple of doors down and when he looked and realized what was going on he just laughed. By now passersby are stopping to take pictures of me and Uncle Louie. I called for Bob,,,Boooooobb!! but he was of no help. He just stood there and laughed. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity Uncle Louie stood up straight and yelled, “Booooobb! Here she comes.” and he let my hand go.

Still further down the street we came across this fellow.



Once again, our hands reached into our pockets for another dollar. You just have to add something to their buckets, you just have to.
We stopped in this bar….


….because of all the commotion we heard going on. Oh yeah, some sailors were partying hard. This woman on stage here is 65 if she’s a day. Somehow she ended up on stage and wouldn’t you know she lifted her blouse and bra up and gave every sailor in the place a show. I’m here to tell you it wasn’t a pretty show either! I’ll also tell you this is one sailor who is going to be hung over tomorrow morning!


Our next stop was the Musical Legends Park. At the entrance were statues of Fats Domino, Al Hirt and Pete Fountain, all jazz greats.


We spent some time here listening to the trio performing.


We caught this street band performing on the corner of Bourbon and Canal.


This musician really got into the music.


This is a good idea for getting around town to see the sights.


It came time to bid so long to the jester.


We had a great day in New Orleans! We saw some sights we’ll never forget, met some wonderful people, listened to some jazz like we’ve never heard before but do our feet ever hurt! We had forgotten how long city blocks can be!

We’re not done with Nawlins yet, we still have a couple of days here.


Anonymous said...

Waving at you from MWOP (feel free to edit that out if you want). I started reading your blog a few months ago (from the beginning!) and was so happy to find ya'll moving along and posting about your visits. So enjoyable!
Enjoyed todays post of all the street performers (its like a dollar store of performers. Those dollars add up!).
I suggest you create an travel e-book based on your posts. I think you could really sell it!
Thanks for letting me go along for the ride!

mAw said...

Glad you're having such a good time. Are you coming our way? Maryanne

Donna K said...

Awesome tour of New Orleans. I have never visited but Hubby has been there on a business trip. I can just bet you will never forget your encounters from this day. Wonderful pictures, just wish I could hear those jazz bands play.

Anonymous said...

Very nice. I have been there myself and it brought back many sweet memories. Have fun and safe travels - Janice

Anonymous said...

New Orleans was a highlight in my nightmare in the south, :op annon.

Gypsy Boho said...

So good to read a positive blog post about New Orleans and its unique culture. I live near the city and have taken for granted what you have reveled in. I do appreciate your enjoyment of all things the city has to offer. Ya'll come back now... hear?

viola_cook said...

You guys sure are having a ball! As for that guy that asked if you ever go to a motel for a real shower, etc! We get that all the time, I like the ones that see us setting up our satellite dish and say "My God, you're camping, can't you go without tv", I always tell them, "No you're camping, this is our life, when you go home do you watch tv" and they say "well, yes, of course" I tell them we do too, this is our home!