The New Orleans class and I are once again in The Crescent City for our annual service learning trip. I got in just before noon on Saturday. The three vans started arriving about 1:00 pm. For me, it is my ninth spring break in New Orleans. For most of them, it is their first time here; and that is the fun part.
I have a tendency to fall into old routines and do many of the same things over and over. However, I have vowed to get out and try new things. And so far, I think I am off to a good start.
Once I picked up my rental car (a bright red Toyota Yaris, if you care) and picked up Kyle in Treme. Instead of heading over to Domilise’s or Parkway for a po’ boy we drove out to New Orleans East for some Vietnamese food. Pyle took me to Dong Phuong Restaurant and Bakery. We had some beautiful spring rolls followed by a bowl of noodles and shrimp. Magnificent. We followed that up with a visit to one of the local Vietnamese groceries.
Afterwards, we drove in St. Bernard Parish to check into our housing at Camp Hope in Arabi, LA. We received a lowdown on the rules and go the lay of the land. By the time we left to head back into the City, two groups had arrived and were settling into the accommodations.
We kicked around the Marigny and French Quarter before heading out to a pot luck at Kyle’s house in Treme. Kyle and his roommate Matt are renting half of a 1830s Creole cottage just off of Claiborne. Great evening with friends, family and food. The latter Kyle’s jambalaya, Matt’s homegrown collards, grilled fish, kale salad, mashed cauliflower, and too much more.
Afterwards, Kyle and I waddled over to Siberia for a late night of bounce music. Another first for me. It was a major disappointment. Katey Red was there, but by 1:30 am had not dressed. Big Freedia, who was central to all advertising for the event, was performing in Minneapolis. Given the onset of daylight savings time, we muttered under our breath and went back to his place.
The next morning, I walked the few blocks over to meet the students at St. Louis #1 Cemetery. I started off the tour, much to irritation of some of the tour guides. In time, a personable guide cooped part of class and the rest of us soon joined in. For the next hour we were entertained and educated (I think) by our guide. With the looks we got from the some of the other guides, I’m not sure he an official guide, but what we might have missed in veracity, he made up for with humor. On mayor “Dutch” Morial, who died while visiting his mistress: “he literally came and went.” He also removed a brick from on of the vaults and one by one carefully inserted our cameras to take pictures of the contents. Ghoulish fun that I’m pretty sure is not authorized.
After parting ways, I took the students over to Armstrong Park before turning them loose in the Quarter. I got some coffee and some lunch and walked around myself. A beautiful day, reflected by both the weather and the crowds. At 3:00 pm, I met up with the students at Kajun’s Pub — another first. It was not for alcohol, but to drink in the stories and wisdom of owner Joann Guidos, who was colorfully portrayed in Dan Baum’s wonderful Nine Lives. For hour she regaled us with stories of her colorful life, struggles to stay open during Katrina, and insights into the diversity of New Orleans.<
As if that was enough, we all raced out to Orleans Avenue to catch the end of an enormous second line parade. Three brass bands, several social aid and pleasure clubs — although we only caught the end, it gave the students a flavor of what happens here. We then turned around and went back to Treme, where we were treated to a fabulous buffet dinner at L’il Dizzy’s Cafe on Esplanade. We had fried chicken, fried catfish, collards, macaroni, and some wonderful bread pudding. And, oh yes, sweet tea.
The students walked out of the restaurant into a beautiful evening, but the past 48 hours had been too much. 1600 miles, a day running around in the sun, topped off by a heavy meal. Predictably, everyone was back at Camp Hope to shower, rest, and prepare for work.