Dear Dawnie Dear,
Yeah, your daughter telling you not to visit because you’d hate it because it is so dirty? She was here on business so probably got drunk. (She denies it.) The first thing I was told when I checked in by the valet was to take a picture of my valet ticket because EVERYTHING gets forgotten on Bourbon Street. I think one of the biggest things that gets lost on Bourbon Street is, well, New Orleans. It’s not as hard as it sounds. Some people come just for Bourbon Street, whether to throw themselves into the fray or people watch along a balcony. Myself, it took me a while to figure out how to get out.
It’s weird. I have a very good sense of direction. Bourbon Street, for me, has this weird quality that nullifies it–without even drinking. North, south, east, west? Nope. Not happening. Even with the help of my phone it took me a long, long time to orient myself. The weirdest thing, though, is that it should be easier, much easier. The French Quarter, and much of New Orleans, is laid out in a grid. Just like Philly. One way streets and everything. I finally did get out and quartered the French Quarter.
New Orleans is called the Crescent City because it lays on a crescent in the Mississippi River. The French Quarter is on a loop in the river (I just typed “liver” which fits just as well.) But you have the Mississippi and Riverwalk on one side, southeast. North Rampart Street to the northwest, with Armstrong Park. To the northeast is Esplande Avenue with the Jazz museum and the Marginay District beyond. To the southwest is Canal Street and Museum, Downtown and Garden Districts.
I’ll never stay on Bourbon Street again. Just a bit too grungy for me and I’m a bit too old for it. Warning from a street tap dancer: keep your wallet in your front pocket, keep an eye on your drink at all times, and do all your walking during the day and with crowds at night. But I’ll hand it to the police though: at night, there is a strong police presence here.
Just a few blocks from Bourbon Street, you’ll hit Riverwalk, The French Market and some more NOLA landmarks that has nothing to do with drinking (except coffee). I’m still getting far too much of a kick out of seeing the Mississippi. That’s where you’ll see Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral, the monument to Joan of Arc, Maid of Orleans and the Cafe du Monde, a NOLA landmark coffee and beignet staple. Lunch, I had the New Orleans sampler: Gumbo, red beans & rice, crawfish etouffee and jambalaya. Of course, trying to take the picture, my sunglasses ended up in the gumbo.
Three blocks away, though, the transformation is awesome. At Canal Street, you move from the French Quarter to Downtown and the Museum District. Past that is the Garden District. At the edge of the French Quarter is the French Market and Riverwalk. It really is beautiful. So many pictures to take, so many pictures that won’t upload. I hate technology. So, me being me, I just walked. I went to the riverfront and the Cafe Du Monde. I walked the river and then headed down Canal Street, making a left to see the WWII museum and then Lafayette Park.
Why a guy from Chicago gave the people of New Orleans a statue of a guy from Philadelphia is beyond me, but there you have it. Ben Franklin with one of his many quotes in Lafayette Park.
An interesting way to get around is the trolley cars. I was planning on walking but the storm hit the same time a trolley car was at the stop right by me. It as going in the wrong direction, but I jumped on anyway (it does a loop and storms in the south are heavy but brief). By the time we made the loop (Canal and the all the way through the Garden District) and got to the end of the Garden District, the sun was shining and I started walking.
Magazine street is the place to walk back. Filled with shops and authentic New Orleans, it’s just a nice place to stroll. It takes you out of the Garden District and into the Museum District. Then, back onto Canal Street.
Back down Magazine Street, you run into the Museum District (and Harrah’s Casino). Just a bit beyond that you are back on Canal Street. Up Canal Street, you run into North Rampart Street and along it Armstrong Park, with Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong. On the statue: “His trumpet and heart brought everlasting joy to the world, embodying jazz as the pulse of life.” I thought about it as I walked down Esplanade Avenue back to the Jazz Museum and the waterfront. I’m not a big jazz fan. All music is pure mathematics–that’s how Beethoven was able to compose deaf. BB King said something to the effect that the Blues is the little brother to Jazz, that the worst jazz musician is better than the best blues musician. I could never get a feel for jazz and the stuff that I do I don’t know what it is.
But there is so much to write. Did I mention that? Talks with locals, talks with other travelers, the small things and something that somebody wrote to me, that it is like I am getting a personal tour of America with the virus shutting everything down. It’s true. It is like being in the museum after hours. And I still can’t figure out how to tell what pictures are what as I insert them. I’ll figure it out eventually. At times, I feel like I am just running through the museum taking pictures of the emptiness. Which I why after I write I tend to just throw all of the pictures together at the bottom, huffing and puffing, quickly uploading, to get ready for the next run through a hallway. I think I got most of them? I also think it will take me months to figure out what is what. And lots of coffee.
Nowadays, I’m seeing mostly couples, hand in hand as they stroll down the parks and avenues. There is a longing. But that is why I am out here. As another friend wrote to me, after I explained that I blocked your brother-in-law on Facebook and iPhone because he was being a pain in the ass and making everything political: “you’re on a journey of tranquility–or something like that–and don’t need the negativity.” Just trying to stay free of the drama and the pressure pot, examining the outward while reflecting on the inward. Wondering how twisted I got with the lab just killing me. I think that might be my next “Coffee Chronicles.” I have been thinking that maybe that is why I long for the west? Beyond the cities and the Mississippi River. I realize it sounds weird (?) but I just get a feeling, call, that the west is where a person can/should be alone. With Alaska or Hawai’i (if they’ll let me in) the ultimate place to be alone and reflect on things before I travel back east towards the known and cities and couples and families.
Morning coffee brought me another acquaintance who asked me to have drinks later on with him and his wife. I think I’ll take him up on it. There are so many lessons to be learned. He and his wife are traveling west as well. He just received a bad medical diagnosis so closed up shop and went driving. He was asked at a party by a friend what one thing he would like for retirement. Anything. And it sounds like he has done pretty well for himself. His reply puzzled the person who asked, who didn’t take him seriously, so he had to repeat himself. “His wife.”
I’m looking forward to tomorrow, heading to Austin to settle down for a bit and reflect on the traveling lessons and what I need to do make the traveling and writing easier. How to figure out to upload and place pictures. So, as with all of the pictures I took and time pressing me, I’ll just add them all. Good luck trying to figure out what is what. I’ll get to it. And upload more.
But I think you’d love New Orleans. Just don’t stay in the French Quarter. –but I definitely would check it out and wander and people watch. Maybe do what I plan on doing tonight: getting a balcony seat on an upstairs restaurant to sip a drink, sip some coffee, have a meal, and not think too much.