OK, nearly in the “10 days to New Orleans” window. So much to do; so little time. Yet the anticipation is building.
So, let’s do a random, stream of consciousness exercise: name 10 things I like about New Orleans that are probably not on the radar of the average tourist. In no rational order:
1) The ferry to Algiers. You can hop on a free ferry from the end of Canal Street to Algiers, part of New Orleans, but more like a quaint village on the turn of the Mississippi.
2) Friday night fish fries during Lent. They are everywhere throughout southern Louisiana. The food is often great and the opportunity to meet and talk to locals is outstanding. Best combination ever: Friday night fish fry with my friends Bruno and Ani in Algiers.
3) Jazz mass at St. Augustine’s Roman Catholic Church in Treme. Words can’t do it justice because you have to experience the sights and sounds for yourself. The sign of peace goes on the 15 minutes — and it ends too soon.
4) Grilled meat sandwiches at a second line parade. Never tried the grilled pork chop sandwich because the smell and taste of the grilled sausage sandwich is like heroin. Last year I found myself getting upset because the vendor did not make my sandwich fast enough.
5) Sunday afternoon at the Spotted Cat on Frenchmen Street. Traditional tunes by the Rites of Swing, with vocals by the lovely Yvette Voelker. The vibe is almost as good as the afternoon sunlight coming through the windows.
6) Sitting on benches people watching. Favorite spots: Jackson Square, the Moon Walk along the River, and Washington Square Park in the Marigny.
7) Abita Amber in “go cups” from Fritzel’s Jazz Pub on Bourbon Street. It is pretty much the only thing that brings me to the touristy part of Bourbon Street when I’m in the French Quarter.
8) Hole in the wall po’boy shops. Jimmy’s, a gas station near I-610, where you can get an enormous, wonderful po’boy for well under $10 bucks. This year, I’ll be staying across the street from a combination tire dealer/po’boy shop in the Lower Ninth. I expect it to be fabulous.
9) Walking the Chalmette Battlefield and National Cemetery. I don’t think my students get it, but I love walking the battlefield where a rag-tag army under Andrew Jackson defeated the British Army in January 1815. The adjacent cemetery, which mainly hosts the remains of African-American soldiers from the Civil War, is equally peaceful and moving.
10) Louis Armstrong Park. Recently reopened, it contains monuments to New Orleans cultural icons, from Buddy Bolden and Louis Armstrong to “Tootie” Montana. And then there are the ghosts of Congo Square.
I could come up with more, but it is time to go to bed. And I’m sure that in a few weeks, I’ll be able to come up with 10 more.