Friday, April 13, 2012

walk with me

What would cause a group of otherwise  sane people on a French Quarter street to look as if they had gone celebrity-crazy?

A surprise spotting of Lady Gaga?  Zack Efron on his balcony?  A Princess Diana impersonator?

Nope.  Even better.  It was an outrageously self-promoting parade led by the board of directors of the French Quarter Festival.

Well, they were second in line.  This guy was leading it with high kicks and splits.  And the cameras loved him.

That bit of excitement was what greeted me on my way to the waterfront this morning.  Yesterday I spent more time taking photographs than enjoying the music.  I decided that would change today.

I sat for about an hour at the Cajun stage.  And was well rewarded for it.  Too often at these festivals bands play music that everyone knows and could hum in their sleep.  Not the Cajun bands. 

They played a lot of their own music.  And often with self-deprecating humor: "I wrote this whole thing while driving across that bridge back there.  That gives you an idea how complex it is."
Dixieland is not my favorite music, but I sat for another hour listening to a rather traditional group play some very traditional music. 

"Just a Closer Walk With You" must be one of America's favorite hymns.  This group gave it -- and several others -- the full Dixieland treatment. 

And the crowd loved them.  With a couple of extra tambourines, we could have recreated Sundays in my little Pentecostal church.

Yesterday I did not indulge in any of the local food sold at the food stalls.  That was not going to happen again.  There were plenty of choices.  I opted for the Louisiana crawfish étouffée.  Crawfish is one of my favorite proteins and no one can prepare it the way they do in Louisiana.

I sat down to enjoy it while I listened to a young rock band play James Brown classics.  Neither experience was very good. 

I did not expect much from the étouffée.  And it met my expectations.  After all, the food has to be prepared in advance, and is then served in less than ideal circumstances. 

It was better than a hot dog.  But I suspect the roux owed more to food coloring than browning, and the crawfish must have spent a bit of time in a freezer.

But I did get a kick out of the antics of these children.  There was a large group of them on the perimeter of the rock band audience.  Their teachers were valiantly fighting a losing battle to get the kids away from this sculpture. 

There was no need.  They were having a great time pretending they were part of the artist's concept.  I suspect the sculptor would have smiled.

Before I headed back to my hotel, I took a detour through the federal area of New Orleans.  That may sound odd until you understand a bit about my past.

Somewhere in the mid-1960s, I became a big Kennedy assassination buff.  I never did sign on to any specific conspiracy theorist, but the Warren Report was not very satisfying to me.

I bought the books.  Watched the Zapruder outtakes.  And almost bought a primitive video recorder to capture some of the material that was available on television.

I was not going to leave New Orleans until I had seen what is undoubtedly one of the most famous corners in the conspiracy litany: Camp and Lafayette.  This is the spot where the fevered mind of District Attorney Jim Garrison linked Lee Harvey Oswald with the federal government.

544 Camp was the address stamped on some of the pro-Castro literature Lee Harvey Oswald distributed.  531 Lafayette was the office of Guy Banister, a private investigator and former FBI agent with anti-Communist leanings.  Garrison believed the two addresses led to the same offices, and it was proof positive that a conspiracy, with links to the federal government, planned the president's death.

For me, it would have been up there with a visit to the holy grail.  I say "would have" because the building has been torn down and replaced with a federal building and courthouse. 

If Garrison were still alive, I am certain he would call it a coverup.  A concrete coverup.

But Lafayette Park is still there.  A lot of its charm and beauty was restored in the 1980s. 

And is another reminder of Louisiana's French heritage.  Lafayette, one of the foreign heroes of the Revolution, was offered the first governorship of Louisiana.  He turned it down.  If he had known what the Long-Edwards tradition offered him, he night have taken the job.

Having scratched that itch, I wandered back to the hotel room.  But there are three vignettes I wold like to share with you.

First, a dog. 

Photographs of dogs are always popular.  And photographs of golden retrievers are popular with me.  A young girl with a neurological disorder was sitting in front of the supreme court building with her family.  Based on their shirts, they appear to have been there through the Make a Wish Foundation.

This was her service dog.  I really like the mardi gras beads.

Second, I keep forgetting how many small residences still exist in the French Quarter.  All of them a photographer's dream.  But I particularly liked this one.

I have several works by Igor Medvedev.  He specializes in painting architecture of small buildings that are facing destruction.  Especially, in the Mediterranean.  He is all about color, angles, and shadows.  This would be a great model for one of his works.

Third, I sometimes believe that the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce must hire people as humor actors. 

Words fail me on this one.  (And before anyone gets on a high horse, this couple had asked a promoter to take their photograph under his sign.  Of course, they were being shot from the other side.)

And that was my day -- so far.  I am changing for dinner at Iris tonight. 

Dinner is not until 9:00.  But I will get spiffed up and head down to the waterfront for more music until my table is ready.

I have a feeling my étouffée experience earlier today will soon be forgotten.


Babsofsanmiguel said...

So LOVE that city.  GREAT memories and stories - most of which I could never repeat........unless I had had a few Hurricanes, ha.  Don't forget to buy a few pralines for snacks on the ship......oh yes, a few beignets......oh and some red beans and rice - the food of the masses that I grew up on.
Darn, I think I'm going to have to make a side trip to NOLA when I head up in May.  Always stay at the Lamothe House on Esplanade...incredible architecture.  Great food, super people and a place where "cares are forgot".  to put it mildly.......

Steve Cotton said...

I have always enjoyed my stays here. It is one city where it is impossible to stop smiling and laughing. At least, for me. And it is certainly not for people who take themselves seriously.

Croft said...

We had a ball in New Orleans last year! What a city!

BUT! Steve, you must pay more than $7 if you want a good crawfish étouffée. Try a $12 - $14 version and wash it down with a nice, soft beignet at the Cafe du Monde! 

Steve Cotton said...

I went to Iris tonight and had lamb meatballs as a starter and pork loin as my main course. It was delicious -- and a bit more than $7.

Mcotton said...

What great pictures.  Wow, what high kicks from the gentelman.  What expression of love from the kids hugging the statue.  Of course, the Jiggs impersonator was precious.

Steve Cotton said...

 I guess that "Jiggs moment" was rather transparent, wasn't it?

Andean said...

It sounds like a wonderful place to relax and enjoy.Glad you are taking advantage of it all in the short time frame. Music always touches my soul. The pictures are great!
Good to hear everything is well in OR. and NO.

Laurie Matherne said...

I am sorry the crawfish dish was a dud. Barreca's used to be a good, old school, Italian restaurant in the heart of Old Metairie.  They closed after Katrina, and they now only arrange special, closed parties. 

Felipe Zapata said...

I went to a party of Jim Garrison's once back in the early 1970s. In his French Quarter apartment. He was a real piece of work.

John Calypso said...

Interesting city - not my cup of tea - but a fine place to hear some music and eat some shell fish ;-) 

Absolutely love the BIG A$$ Beers sign photo - can I use it?

Steve Cotton said...

It did not get in the way of the day, though.  This has been a great visit.  Dinner at Iris last night was superb.

Steve Cotton said...

 As a young expatriate, Tom Bethell worked in Garrison's office on the assassination investigation.  He has some interesting tales to tell.

Steve Cotton said...

 You are free to use the photograph.  It was one of those moments that rewards the constant camera packer.

After dinner last night, I walked back to the hotel by joining the throngs on Bourbon Street.  It is not the most pleasant face of humanity.

Steve Cotton said...

I am now ready to board the cruise ship in a couple of hours.

Babsofsanmiguel said...

 The great thing about NOLA is no one judges what goes on or how one acts in that city.  A great feeling, I think.

Steve Cotton said...

There is a good reason Southern Decadence is celebrated here.