Welcome to part two of Sarah’s and my trip through southern America, drinking and eating and generally debauching our way home from Texas. In this chapter, we cover that little piece of filthy living and fatty food that we call New Orleans, Louisiana. There’s so much to see and do in NOLA, and rest assured we did most of the normal stuff like drinking our faces off and showing everyone our tits (clarification: Sarah drank her face off and I showed my tits…nobody even had to give me beads!), but we also found some of the Crescent City’s stranger attractions.
Nightspots: Bourbon St. and Beyond
As Sarah pointed out in her previous posts, the first thing we did upon hitting the city was go to the Quarter to eat dinner and drink and hopefully see a little music. The French Quarter is one of the most picturesque and charming neighborhoods in America, there is no doubt. Check this shit out:
Bourbon Street, while comprised of roughly the same architecture, is a weeping nightmare of tacky bars with overpriced frozen rum drinks, bad cover bands and drunken assholes. Upside: no-cover live sex shows! True story: we did not partake of the live sex show, but for the next four days or so we repeatedly discussed that we may have made a huge mistake. We ended up making a solemn pinky-swear that if we are ever faced with the opportunity to see one in the future, we will take it.
For a city with such a rich musical history, the bands that play on Bourbon St. are by and large garbage. They’re terrible blues and rock cover bands of approximately the same quality that you would see at some of Cincinnati’s finer Catholic church summer fairs. There are a few places with better entertainment, though. We ended up in a bar with a cajun/bluegrass band playing that was entirely delightful. In retrospect, neither one of us could remember what they were called, so for the sake of ease I will assume the band was Cajungrass.
Half a block off of Bourbon you’ll find Preservation Hall, a tiny, hot, uncomfortable room in which you can see some of the most talented dixieland and New Orleans jazz musicians in the world play two sets every single night. We didn’t visit this time, but when I was there last year I went two nights in a row because I am a nerd. It bears mentioning that Preservation Hall might be the only place in the entire French Quarter that doesn’t serve alcohol. But I went twice anyway. It was that good.
On our second night we decided to use the incomparable power of the interwebs to find entertainment. We ended up at DBA on Frenchman Street. As we were driving up we encountered one of New Orleans’ greatest charms – a teenage brass band set up on the corner, playing their little hearts out.
When they finished, we went inside to see Glen David Andrews who, as one of his songs states over and over again, will melt yo’ ass like butter.
When we had dinner the following night with the fabulous Miss Ashe of Ashe in Fashion, she informed us that Frenchman St. is where the locals go to hear good music and get away from the tourists. So apparently, Sarah and I are the best travelers ever. Suck it, Not For Tourists Guide.
We loved DBA so much that we went back the next night to see the Treme Brass Band, one of my favorite live acts in the world. Last year I happened to catch them by accident at Preservation Hall and literally followed them a mile away to another bar they were playing to see them again. More on that later.
Here is a taste of how awesome Treme Brass Band are. I will tell you this: though it doesn’t really show through in this video, the things the bandleader can do to a trumpet are neither sane nor of this earth:
At the DBA show they invited women – and women only, though some blissed-out white-dreadlocks hippie walked up anyway – to come up on stage and dance. And you know Sarah was down on that. Apologies for the following picture: in my infinite genius I thought I wouldn’t need the camera that night, so this was taken on my cell phone:
Also during the set, the trumpet player tossed his plunger mute into the audience, and guess who caught it:
Apparently, when I went back to the car to get my camera between sets she asked him to autograph it and he hit on her. Every single stereotype about musicians is true.
So the next night we went to see them again, this time at the Candle Light, a tiny, packed, air-conditioning-free bar in the heart of Treme, where the Treme Brass Band have a standing Wednesday-night gig. This was the same place that I followed them to last year, and is the place the above video was filmed at. This gig is outrageous. I’m pretty sure they let anyone who wants to play up on the stage, and it gets bananas. There were like 27 people in the band that night, and the house was packed. They also serve free red beans and rice, which is the way every bar on earth should operate. Do you hear me, House of Blues?
Other Wacky Things To Do In New Orleans
Contrary to popular belief, you can actually do things other than eat, drink, listen to music and vomit in the streets in NOLA, and Sarah and I were determined to do…well…some of them. I mean, it was fucking hot and we didn’t really dig the idea of doing too much outdoors shit.
The majority of our time – when we weren’t wandering around the Quarter taking pictures of wacky store signs – was spent driving around the Garden District gawking at beautiful old houses. This is a noble, air-conditioned pastime and everyone who visits should try it for at least several hours. They offer walking tours too, but they were expensive and, as I said, it was balls-hot.
Some people like to visit the cemeteries, but we largely outgrew our collective goth phases and also balls-hot.
We did, however, spend a few hours in lovely City Park, New Orleans’ answer to Central Park. There’s an art museum, lakes filled with weird bayou waterfowl and a small amusement park for the kids. But we were most interested in two aspects of the park: the botanical gardens and Storyland.
If you think this motherfucker right here will not go to some botanical gardens, you do not know this motherfucker right here. I like plants and peace, and botanical gardens feature both in abundance. The one in City Park also has some pretty spectacular sculpture as well.
Plus, check out the epic Busby Berkeley-style water lily choreography:
Yeah, the botanical gardens were great, but the real draw here was Storyland. Storyland, as I will demonstrate shortly, is a tiny little park filled with fiberglass representations of fairy tale characters. Last time I was in New Orleans I desperately wanted to go, but I was by myself and figured that the creepy, sweaty dude lurking around the kids park alone would probably not go over terribly well. So this time I took advantage of Sarah’s presence. Apparently, creepy, sweaty couples lurking around the kids park without a child of their own is perfectly fine.
This place defies description, so I will only present you with the photographic evidence:
Starting to get the drift? This place was amazing, and if it weren’t so hot and I were on way more hallucinogens, I could have spent all day there.
Our final act of tourism in New Orleans was to visit the motherfucking bog. We went to Jean Laffitte National Park which, I’m pretty sure, is the only part of our National Park system named after a goddamned pirate, making it officially the world’s most awesome park. Even though the park closes at five and we drove up at 5:10, even though there was a cataclysmic thunderstorm bearing down on us, even though we were woefully unprepared to enter the moist hell that is the bayou, we ventured out of the car and took a stroll down the trail. Make no mistake, I’m glad we did because we got to see things like this…
…but when you go to the bayou on a lark you don’t bring bug spray. And when you don’t bring bug spray, you spend your whole hike flailing your arms wildly and screaming “ALL BUGS FUCK OFF!”
…at least, you do if you’re me.
And with this crucial bit of touristing done, it was time for us to bid New Orleans farewell and head off to the world’s greatest tourist attraction, the white trash Mecca, Graceland.