The Stooges Brass Band

The kids at Tulane are so lucky (in many different ways) – and I’m not sure they realize it fully. Can you imagine going to college in that city? Being young and having that much history, music, and soul around you all the time would be an unbelievable experience.

All I had was bad disco.

After driving to New Orleans we were able to catch some of the homecoming festivities on campus. The Stooges Brass Band was set up on the Quad in back of the student center – though most of the kids seemed more interested in lining up for some free food.

The Stooges Brass Band

The Stooges Brass Band

The Stooges Brass Band

The Stooges Brass Band

The Stooges Brass Band

The Stooges Brass Band

I really liked The Stooges and wanted to stick around for the next act, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, but Lee had to work. He has a very important job. He works the door at The Boot. He said he was scheduled to work happy hour. We asked how long that was and he said, “Six to Ten.”

Great Music, Great Food, a Great City, and a four hour long happy hour.

The Boot

Lee working the door at The Boot. You can see his face on the right of the pipe sticking up.

Happy Hour at The Boot

It was a big Friday Evening Happy Hour Homecoming crowd at The Boot. Lee says it's always like that.

Doreen’s Jazz New Orleans

It was such a nice day to be walking around the French Quarter. Not much more than a block down Royal Street from the Nola Jitterbugs was another band playing in the street. These folks were playing the real thing, the traditional New Orleans Jazz. It was Doreen Ketchens and her band, Doreen’s Jazz New Orleans. They were very good.

Jitterbugs in the French Quarter

New Orleans is Culture. New Orleans is Architecture. New Orleans is Food. But more than anything, New Orleans is Music… Live Music.

Jazz is the one true American art form. Jazz was born in New Orleans.

At any time of any day or night you can hear live music in New Orleans. You can see dancing.

Even Jitterbugs in the French Quarter.

Nola Jitterbugs

Dancers – Chance Bushman and Giselle Anguizola

Music – Loose Marbles

New Orleans Architecture – The Garden District

The Garden District in New Orleans is one place where time has ceased to exist. The ancient, worn mansions, massive greenery, and unique architecture keeps sitting there in the humid gulf air, sticking a middle finger at floods, storms, and modernity itself. The best place for a peaceful afternoon walk. It’s no wonder so many rich and famous end up there.

The Garden District is famous for its collection of giant stately mansions. But I like some of the little details the best. Look at this beautiful little curved porch off a bedroom overlooking Magazine Street. I would like to have a morning coffee on a balcony like this at every dawn for the rest of my life.

Look at the iron railings and the colors on this building. I love the lime green on the underside of the porch overhangs. All through New Orleans you see the little round punched tin lights like you see here – they are beautiful at night.

Another cool overhang. this one is painted sky blue and you can clearly see the round lights.

The trees and the porches – they seem to be growing together.

I never get tired of looking at the intricate and beautiful details on the wooden overhang bracing.

New Orleans Architecture – Fauberg Marigny and Frenchmen Street

The French Quarter has become too touristified for my taste. Filled with grimy bars, expensive antique shops, tacky trinket emporiums, and overpriced food the Vieux Carré isn’t always what it promises to be. Immediately downriver, however, is another neighborhood that is.

New Orleans is a city of neighborhoods and one of the best is the Fauberg Marigny. At the start of the 19th century, Bernard Xavier Philippe de Marigny de Mandeville (also famous for “inventing” the dice game craps) divided his plantation into residential lots, and the Fauberg Marigny was born. In the middle part of the twentieth, the neighborhood fell into decline, with the area around Jackson Square being called “Little Angola” – after the prison due to the extreme crime. In the eighties, however, commercialization in the French Quarter drove a lot of the residents downriver into Fauberg Marigny. The Marigny became what the Quarter used to be with Frenchmen street becoming ground zero for New Orlean’s essential live music scene.

The neighborhood is a good twelve inches above sea level and escaped the worst of Katrina’s ravages. There is a wide variety of classic New Orlean’s style architecture there – early Creole cottages and townhouses, American cottages, American townhouses, shotgun houses , 19th century corner store-houses, and various modern additions.

If I could live anywhere… I think I would live in Fauberg Marigny.

The Balcony Music Club isn't actually on Frenchmen Street. It's twenty feet down Decatur Street - but it's one of my favorites.

Standing outside the Balcony Music Club last Mardi Gras (I had stepped out for a second simply to catch my breath) a large group of German Tourists came down the crowded sidewalk. The man in the lead asked me in a thick accent, where to find, “Some real jazz music.” I lead them around the corner and pointed them up Frenchmen Street, telling them to stop by each club and pick the music they liked the best. He thanked me and said in very excited broken English, “Goot… Now Ve will get to see the Real New Orleans!”

Entrance to a jazz club on Frenchmen Street.

The Spotted Cat Jazz club on Frenchmen.

A row of shotgun houses in the Faubourg Marigny.

A mermaid stained glass window.

New Orleans Architecture, French Quarter

I love the wrought iron railings throughout the French Quarter. They are beautiful even when they are not crowded with Mardi Gras crowds showering topless women with cheap plastic beads. Most of the balconies are decorated – many with tacky sports stuff – but some are particularly attractive with loads of live plants.

Something you see in tropical climates is the idea of a shaded green interior plaza or atrium with a water feature. The water and plants add a coolness, making the mid day heat almost bearable and the rest of the day delightful. These are wonderful and usually hidden living spots.

A bare balcony showing off the beauty of the elaborate wrought iron.

New Orleans is the most original of all American Cities. The French Quarter has become a tourist Mecca, but in the mornings it still feels like the natural heart of the city.

Joey K’s

One of the challenges of visiting your children once they are off to school is that you have to adapt to their schedule – which is chaotic, involved, and long. It means that you never get anything done on time.

Tulane’s homecoming weekend is also parent’s weekend and there are a lot of activities and entertainments planned to occupy parents while their spawn are busy studying or whatnot. I looked these over and marked the ones that looked interesting. We didn’t do any of them.

There was a trip planned for all the parents to go to Joey K’s – a fairly well-known traditional New Orleans eatery on Magazine Street. I thought it would be fun to sit down and commiserate with some adults in the same condition as we are, but it was not to be.

Much, much later, however, Candy and I found ourselves seeking sustenance and casting about for ideas. She wanted Rice and Beans, so we decided on Joey K’s. We took the Saint Charles Streetcar down to about sixth street and walked to Magazine, passing the little cluster of shotgun houses that I like on the way. Walking in this part of New Orleans is always a treat, even in the dark.

We didn’t have to wait for a table and the food was delicious. Hearty, traditional, New Orleans style home cooking. Candy had her red beans and rice and I went with a bowl of Gumbo and the Creole Jambalaya. I have had a soft spot for Jambalaya ever since I worked a train derailment in Livingston, about twenty years ago. A large group of us were out there working for a long time and they hired a local man, Jambalaya Joe to do the cooking.

But the gumbo was the star. Gumbo isn’t really a single dish – everybody does it different.

Joey K’s does it just right.

The late night crowd gathers outside Joey K's on Magazine Street in New Orleans.

My Favorite Bit of Street

And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful
wife
And you may ask yourself-Well…How did I get here?
—-David Byrne

It’s not a street, just a strip of a few houses. They aren’t even big houses, they are classic New Orleans Shotgun Houses – these have a second floor in the back, called Camelback Houses. It’s at Sixth and Camp in the Garden District.

(click to enlarge) Sixth and Camp in New Orleans - a beautiful row of Camelback Shotgun Houses

I love the colors. I love the front porches, so close to the street. I love the floorplan. I really love the brackets supporting the roof apron over the front porch.

I first saw this street at night when Candy and I walked through the area from the Saint Charles Streetcar on the way to eat on Magazine Street. Under the streetlights the houses looked like they were made of icing – so bright and delicate. I came back during the day to see if they looked as nice under the sunlight.

They did.

Pirate Alley Fashion Shoot

In the French Quarter, in New Orleans, there is a little alley, only one block long, between the Saint Louis Cathedral and the Old Spanish Governors Mansion, the Cabildo. It runs from Chartres Street at Jackson Square to Royal Street. The alley is intersected by Cabildo Alley and it continues past the Spanish Dungeon and then The Faulkner House, where he wrote his first novel.

It’s called Pirate Alley, or Pirate’s alley – nobody really knows how it came on that name, despite many legends.

Even though now I realize it is a famous spot – I first stumbled on it by accident trying to fight my way through the French Quarter Mardi Gras crowds. It is always a quiet little lane surprisingly isolated from the hub and the bub of the tourist crowds bursting in Jackson Square or the never ending party jostling the other French Quarter Streets. Whenever I’m in the quarter, I try to walk the Pirate Alley.

The other day I was walking and riding the streetcars around the city taking some photographs. I was walking from Canal through the quarter to Frenchman Street and cut through the alley to Jackson Square. I found a photographer and his assistant setting up lights while a few feet down a model was arranging a pile of clothes. They were doing a fashion shoot.

I didn’t stop – I had miles to go before I sleep – but a while later, I looped back through Jackson Square and took a look to see if the fashion shoot was still on.

It was.

(click to enlarge)

Without the portable lights they had, Pirate Alley was a tough place for me to shoot the people doing the shoot. Though a beautiful spot it has bad, uneven light.

I popped my head in and snapped a couple shots. I didn’t take the time it takes to make a good shot – I was more than a little self-conscious – they kept looking at me – I guess my big camera makes me look like a professional photographer (lack of skill isn’t obvious from the outside). I don’t know what the rules of courtesy are when shooting someone shooting someone. Of course, there isn’t any more pubic spot than Pirate Alley – so if you choose that as your location, you get what you get.

Mercedes Benz Superdome

Tulane was playing Memphis in its homecoming game at the newly-named Mercedes Benz Superdome (complete with the world’s largest hood ornament hanging from the roof) in downtown New Orleans. The university provided a shuttle bus but we decided to drive downtown, find a parking spot and then walk over to the pre-game tailgate party. I used my phone to carefully plot a route from campus to the most promising lots but New Orleans traffic is unforgiving and a mistake in lane placement forced me onto a ramp that wound around until it set us on Interstate 10 going towards Baton Rouge. Before I could get to an exit we were farther away than when we started and in a completely unknown neighborhood.

I have no idea where we went but we eventually ended up downtown winding around one-way streets with no turns allowed, still confused and lost. Finally, we spotted a lot and after a couple near-misses managed to park.

I would have bet we were a mile from the stadium, but it was only a couple of blocks.

Candy, Lee, and Drew walking to the Superdome for Tulane's homecoming game.

Lee at the game.

The Superdome is an amazing building – it is so unlike anything else it appears surreal when you first set eyes on it. There is no reference point so you can’t really understand its massive size… or even figure out how far away it is. It is such a familiar sight you instantly recognize the shape and color, but somehow it always looks like it is something on television and could not really exist in the real world.

They have spruced up the exterior and redone the inside and it is very nice. It almost looks modern. One thing that I did notice, however, is that a lot of the interior ceiling panels that were blown off when Katrina struck are still missing. I don’t know it they were too hard to fix, too expensive, or if they were left as a sort of memorial harmless hard-to-see damage.

You can’t sit inside the Superdome without thinking about Katrina. You look at the football field and imagine it crowded with terrified refugees. You look up and imagine the wind whipping and tearing holes in the roof; imagine not knowing if it is going to hold or not.

A fun innocent college homecoming football game is haunted by the ghosts of Katrina. It will probably always be that way.

Completed pass

Don't drop the cheerleader.

Eventually, the game was out of hand.

The sun was setting when we left the game. The skin of the building glows gorgeous in the crepuscular light.