Rainy Days and Tuesdays Wednesday, Mar 12 2014 

For the first time in years, we had a full bore, no doubt about it rainy day. Needless to say, our group did not go back to siding Steve’s house in Backatown. Instead, we went to John’s house on Deleray Street, literally across from Jackson Barracks. The other groups were already working indoors, therefore work would not be affected — or so we thought.

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John’s house

John has been renovating this house for about a year. He has done a loving and meticulous job at bringing out its beauty and promise. However, working alone, he literally hit the wall when it came to, we’ll, the walls. Between installing awkward sheets of board, taping, mudding, sanding, etc. it is extremely time consuming and not a one person job. And that is where lowernine.org comes in.

We were able to bring a group in of largely inexperienced students to do work that takes a while but is easy to learn. While the guys installed Sheetrock, the rest of the group worked throughout the house doing multiple layers of prep work. It didn’t take long to see substantial progress made. Both John and Bob, our crew chief, seemed pleased. The other grounds continued to work at tiling and installing Sheetrock in other parts of the Lower Ninth.

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Chalmette National Battlefield

And while we worked in poured. Clearly, this would not be a levee lunch day, so I proposed we meet at the Chalmette National Battlefield. Even in the rain, we could go through exhibits and drive around the site of the Battle of New Orleans. Inauspiciously my car was parked on the side of the street in what had become a five inch deep puddle. As a result, I had to remove my shoes in order to get into the car. The battlefield, which is marshy on the best of days, was not much better. We ate lunch; some walked around in the rain and mud; but evyone got a lay of the land, at least.

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Ronald Lewis with students

Everyone returned to their respective tasks and had productive and rewarding afternoons. About four we broke for the day to make our annual pilgrimage to Ronald Lewis’ House of Dance and Feathers. And just as in our visit to Kajun’s pub, it was useful that we had just finished reading Nine Lives. So, they got to meet Ronald AND gain a better understanding of the lace where they are working and staying.

Everyone went back and cleaned up. We ate our first dinner at Camp Hope which was not bad. After dinner everyone descended on a small Baskin Robbins in Chalmette where they overwhelmed the poor young woman running the place alone. They were patient, and from what I understand, tipped generously. Some went back to Camp Hope to chill while the rest of went into the City.

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Aura Nealand and the Royal Roses

I walked about for a while before settling in for a couple of sets at the Spotted Cat. It has become so crowded I don’t get there as often as I used to, but one of my favorite New Orleans musicians, Aurora Nealand, was performing. It was crowded, but not wall-to-wall people. Her band was tight and she was her bright and exuberant self on the clarinet and soprano sax. A wonderful close to a day that some might call a washout, but to us, it was anything but.

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New Orleans Music Saturday, Mar 1 2014 

It’s that time of year again. I got excited today because the March 1st temperature in New Hampshire climbed above freezing. I eat well, actually too well, on a regular basis, but the food I normally eat is nothing like that found in New Orleans. But the magnetic pull that I feel in the week before I head to the Crescent City is not the warmth or the red beans and rice: it is the music.

John Boutte, d.b.a., March 2011.

John Boutte, d.b.a., March 2011.

This is when I WWOZ’s Livewire daily to see what will playing while I’m there. I look at Nola.com, Gambit, and sites for individual music venues to see what will be happening. Te tragedy is that it will be more than I can take in; but that is the beauty of music of New Orleans. It is an embarrassment of riches.
I hear the drums and tambourines of the Mardi Gras Indians. I hear the funky growls of the brass bands. I see the nonverbal glances that jazz musicians pass to one another as they hand off the next solo. I am swept up in the joy of locals two stepping to zydeco at the Rock n Bowl. I see people twerking on front porches and dancing on roofs. And it makes me want to be there even sooner.

Most visitors to New Orleans miss the real music. They are to busy accepting that the crap on Bourbon Street is what there is to hear. They never experience Frenchmen Street because it is three blocks outside of the French Quarter. They miss out on Rebirth at the Maple Leaf. Kermit at Bullet’s. Big Freedia at Siberia. Or John Boutte at d.b.a.

Rites of Swing, Sunday afternoon at the Spotted Cat.

Rites of Swing, Sunday afternoon at the Spotted Cat.

As tragic as it is, I will not lose any sleep over their ignorance. I know it that as they are crowding some bar on Bourbon Street, drinking a watered down drink out of a plastic green hand grenade, listening to bad classic rock; I will be somewhere somewhere else. Listening to some of the best live music America has to offer.

Rainy Monday Morning Monday, Mar 11 2013 

All Souls Episcopal Church, Lower Ninth Ward, March 2013.

All Souls Episcopal Church, Lower Ninth Ward, March 2013.

We’ve been in New Orleans about 36 hours and the weather has caught up with us. There are showers around this morning and there’s a good chance of thunderstorms in the area. It looks like our first day working at lowernine.org will be affected in some way or the other.

I’m sitting in a McDonald’s in Chalmette. The sun is not quite up. The service is friendly, but the term “fast food” is relative here. Fox is on TV; country is on the radio. One is reminded of being in Southern Louisiana when a patron crosses himself before eating his sausage biscuit.

Where to start: it has been an interesting and challenging weekend. Van number 2 got here first and settled into their accommodations at lowernine.org. I picked up my friend Kyle on the way in from the airport and got into the Lower Ninth about 6:00 pm in the evening. We went through the walk through at the All Souls Episcopal Church and Community Center just as Van number 1 arrived. The third van came in a couple of hours later.

IMG_0167The accommodations should be a challenge. Cots and air mattresses in the common areas. The problem is, we have to stow all bedding and belongings during the day because it is a community center. And more challenging: 33 volunteers (including 12 from the University of South Carolina) and two showers with spotty hot water, to say it nicely. We worked out a schedule for showers and kitchen use with the USC folks and the work week will tell how well it works.

I appropriated the privacy of the small library, which seems right. Group 1 stayed back a while to orient the incoming group, while Kyle and I headed into the City. The first agenda item was something to eat; the food court at the airport was but a distant memory. He wanted a poboy I wanted the briny taste of a muffaletta. Kyle told me he had read of a “new age” poboy place on Conti off of Bourbon. That sounded kind of like “military intelligence” of “jumbo shrimp,” so I had to bite, so to speak.

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Queen of the second line, March 2013.

It was in the back of the Erin Rose bar; the dining room as about 10 X 10 feet and the menu was intriguing to say the least. I had a “Hot Muff”, a cross between a Cuban sandwich and a muffaletta and Kyle had something that involved sucking pig, I think, but it looked as delicious as mine tasted. While we were waiting with a group Asian twenty-somethings with Texas accents, when in walked this apparition; what I can only describe as a tricked-out, professional second line dancer named Jennifer Jones. As weird as that was, I had just seen her on a repeat of Anthony Bourdain’s “Layover” a couple of nights before. Kyle ate as I tried to talk to her and eat my sandwich at the same time. I took her picture and ventured forth to find the St. Joseph”s Parade — and lost. By the time we were ready to stop and watch it, it seemed to have melted away into the quarter and the after parade dinner/dance.

Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Tipitina's, Uptown, March 2013.

Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Tipitina’s, Uptown, March 2013.

While most of my students explored the French Quarter for the first time (with the few blocks on Bourbon to find eats I had pretty much reached my quota for the trip), Kyle and I headed uptown to catch the Dirty Dozen Brass Band at Tipitina’s. And it did not disappoint. While the personnel had shifted slightly from the last time, the heart and soul remained the same. They started at 11 pm; right on time for a 10 pm show and played through to 1 am. Because of the time, I crashed on Kyle’s sofa in Broadmoor.

By the time got to the Lower Ninth, the students were slowly emerging from their sleeping bags. We went to the local Walmart to buy groceries and provisions. And things continued to move slowly. We finally headed out late morning, with two of the groups exploring Armstrong Park and Congo Square on the edge of Treme. Afterwards, we all met at the Parkway Bakery on bayou St. John. Yes, poboys again. This time we went old school. I studied the menu over and over to find something new to order. The choices were myriad, but when you’ve tasted near perfection it’s hard to waiver; I went with the shrimp, fully dressed and a Barq’s. The wait was long, but it was worth it.

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With New Orleans class veterans, Kyle Murphy (2009 & 2011) and Kendra Hanlon (2010 & 2012), second line, March 2013.

Afterwards, most of us caught the beginning of the Keep ‘n It Real second line. It was overcast, but warm. The music was hot and the growing crowd was fully engaged. The students, Kyle and I were joined by another former student, Kendra. We all went well beyond the turn onto Broad Street. The students eventually peeled off while the three veterans soldiered on to the first stop before turning back.

We took in some music on Frenchmen Street: the ceremonial first Sunday afternoon at the Spotted Cat. We sat in Washington Square Park for a while, taking in the playing children, passersby, and chatty homeless. We met the entire group at the Praline Connection where students were introduced to the Afro-Creole menu and warm service. Among the etouffee, the ribs, the fried chicken, the red beans, and jambalaya were many smiles and full bellies.

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Dinner, Praline Connection, March 2013

I dropped Kyle off and headed up to Gentilly where we had been invited to a concert by Paul Sanchez at the Gentilly Baptist Church. Sanchez, along with singer Arsene DeLay and a couple of others gave us an hour and a half of mostly his songs, including a number of tunes from his musical “Nine Lives.” The students were rocking with the message of love and renewal and I got here some of favorites like “Fine in the Lower Nine,” Rebuild, Renew” and “Foot of Canal Street.”

The students, of course, headed back downtown. I followed them only so long to take a short walk on Frenchmen. I was tired form the second line and the clapping and the people watching. But I was not hungry. I had wisely taken the key so I headed back to All Souls, took a shower that might have been a degree or two warmer than body temperature and took it easy until they returned. I have to pace myself.

Besides, today we start to work.

Warning: my posts during spring break are usually the product of short blocks of down time, combined with reduced access to the internet. Because of time limitations (and poor eyesight) I most assuredly do not catch all typos and misspellings the first time around.  I apologize and please bear with me. I do hope to get around to correcting them during a more leisurely period.

10 Things I Like About New Orleans Tuesday, Feb 26 2013 

St. Louis Cathedral from the Algiers Ferry.

St. Louis Cathedral from the Algiers Ferry.

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.

Jazz Mass at St. Augustine's Church

Jazz Mass at St. Augustine’s Church

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.

Jackson Square.

Jackson Square.

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.

Louis Armstrong statue, Louis Armstrong Park..

Louis Armstrong statue, Louis Armstrong Park..

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.

Friday Evening at the Spotted Cat Friday, May 4 2012 

Panorama Jazz Band, Spotted Cat, New Orleans, March 2009

24 Hours in New Orleans Sunday, Apr 8 2012 

One of my favorite travel columns is in the Sunday New York Times; it is called “36 Hours in…whatever.” It can include places that I never thought of going to (until I read the column), but it always fun to see what the writer includes in a visit that last barely 24 waking hours. For cities I know, I generally quibble, but I’m prone to that anyway. And then a few weeks ago, they featured New Orleans, and my antennae were out…big time.

St. Louis #3 Cemetery, March 2011

Although I’m generally in New Orleans for a week or more or at time, I was impressed y what they included. And for the most part, they included things that I consider a must. And while I eschew the highfalutin bar and restaurant scene (first, I am of Scottish descent and second, the heart of New Orleans is its working class citizenry and I much rather eat and drink with them). They did include a visit to the cemeteries (check), a visit to the Lower Ninth (check), and various musical venues (check, check and double check). The one thing they included that I had not done was the jazz mass at St. Augustine’s in Treme, and I took care of that first chance [see: Cruising from New Orleans] However, when we returned to New Orleans, I had that karmic opportunity to experience my beloved city by the hour.

I was not awake, but because we were approaching the mouth of the Mississippi at midnight when I retired, I suspect we docked about 5:00 or 6:00 o’clock a.m. Our return flight was scheduled for 6:00 a.m., so we had exactly one day in New Orleans. If left entirely up to me, it would have been a mad, maniacal rush to cram as much in as possible. Luckily, my wife has common sense.

Jazz mass at St. Augustine’s Roman Catholic Church, Treme, March 2012

We were all packed, bathed, dressed, had a full breakfast on board (seated, not the buffet), and were through customs before 8:00 a.m.

8:00 a.m.: we took a cab with our luggage to the Queen and Crescent Hotel on Camp Street. They were full, so I clearly expected to check our luggage and be put out on the street. However, they had a no show the night before and they checked us in! Luggage stowed. Bathroom. E-mail for the first time in a week. Glorious.

9:00 a.m.: we started across the French Quarter for our second trip to St. Augustine’s in as many weeks. It’s something to be in New Orleans and with a wild, hankering for a jazz mass. But it is worth it.

10:00 a.m.: the most moving, welcoming, mind blowing mass imaginable. From ushers, to alter server, to musicians, to the priest, it is perfection. Even though over half of the “participants” are guests, the mass is personal, welcoming, and an immensely spiritual experience. The sign of peace lasts for ten minutes. And hour and forty minutes, you are walking the streets of Treme so thankful for the experience you have had.

Congo Square Fest, Armstrong Park, March 2012

Noon: Louis Armstrong Park for Congo Square Fest. Food, music, crafts, and food. Food twice, because the fest is also the start of the Revolution Second Line, so you have all of the food and drink vendors that accompany such events. Fried chicken, beans and rice, and greens for lunch, $2.00 beers, Latin jazz, a shaded lawn, and a second line. What more could one want?

1:00 p.m.: Revolution Social Aid and Pleasure Club Second Line, with the To Be Continued Brass Band. OK, here is where having my wife along is a good thing. I could have been lost following this thing for miles, but we saw it off, had another beer and walked back through the French Quarter. A bright, Sunday afternoon. Royal Street resplendent with light and entertainment.

2:00 p.m.: Pat is resting comfortably. I do so for…15 minutes. We make plans to meet at the Spotted Cat at 5:00 p.m.

3:00 p.m.: OK, I left the “36 Hours in New Orleans (NY Times version)” compound. I grabbed a cigar and local brew and did some intense people watching, most of which focused on the…

Stella’s Balcony, Stella and Stanley Yelling Contest, March 2012

4:00 p.m.: Tennessee Williams Literary Festival “Stanley and Stella Yelling Contest.” I look at the videos from this every year and I wasn’t going to miss it the one time I was in town. It was hysterical from the time participants started lining up to register. Photographs don’t do it justice and as soon as I can figure out how to extract the video from my camera, I will share. Suffice it to say, how often do you see hundreds of people crowded around to hear theatrical yelling?

5:00 p.m. I got to the Cat a little early, but Pat was already there, besieged by a drunken opinionated carpenter with bad teeth. I’ve run into this guy before, so I felt bad, but once I got there, he decided to make an awkward, smelly, and argumentative exit. The wonderful Cindy, who was behind the bar, was most comforting and the music, by Yvette Voelker and the Rites of Swing was predictably enjoyable. By the time we left, I think Pat understood why I spend so much of my evening hours there.

Rites of Swing, Spotted Cat Music Club, March 2011

6:00 p.m.” Lovely evening to walk across the French Quarter. First on Chartres, then on Royal. Ended up at the Acme Oyster House, where there was a healthy wait. But we were there, it was nice, and there was a place nearby to get drinks, so why not.

7:00 p.m. After a wait, classic, modest, non New York Times dining. Shrimp po’ boy (her); fried oyster plate (me). Great food and exquisite company.

8:30 p.m.: OK, let me whisper this, very quietly, with a 3:00 a.m. wake up call, even I was willing to call it a day. We went back to our room, finished packing, and after an action packed day, made it an early night.

3:40 a.m.: Airport shuttle. And all that boring, yet frenzied stuff afterwards at the airport.

6:00 a.m.: flight home. Daylight shortly after.

24 hours in New Orleans.

Random Facts About New Orleans Sunday, Mar 4 2012 

These facts have been supplied to help my students get a snapshot of New Orleans prior to their spring break, service-learning trip. Some facts may be subject to bias (mine). Those generally appear towards the end of the list. No harm or misinformation is intended by these pronouncements.

St. Louis Cathedral, March 2010.

Distance from Durham NH to New Orleans LA: 1,586 miles

Road hours from Durham NH to New Orleans LA: one day; two hours

Average high temperature on March 10th in Durham NH: 37 degrees

Average high temperature on March 10th in New Orleans LA: 71 degrees

Population of New Orleans LA (2010): 343,829

Population of Durham NH (2010): 14,638

New Orleans founded: 1718 by French explorers and speculators

Durham founded: 1732 by English settlers

Portion of New Orleans below sea level: 49%

Top New Orleans employer: Ochsner Health System, 10,000

Second line parade, March 2010

New Orleans racial composition: African-American 60.2%; white, 33%; Hispanic, 5.3%; Asian 2.9

% of New Orleans population who are Roman Catholic: 35.9%

Rank of New Orleans in murder rate (US): 1st

Rank of New Orleans in bicycle and foot traffic (US): 8th

Best cross-dressing bounce artist: Big Freedia

Best radio station: WWOZ (90.7 FM)

Best seafood po’boy: Domilise’s

Best music club: Spotted Cat on Frenchmen Street

Best place for traditional music: Preservation Hall

Me and Kermit Ruffins, Rock and Bowl, March 2011.

Oldest regularly performing jazz artist: Lionel Ferbos (100 years old) at the Palm Court

Coolest senior citizen in America: “Uncle” Lionel Batiste (81 years old) bass drummer for the Treme Brass Band and Frenchmen Street denizen

Best New Orleans brass band: Rebirth Brass Band (OK Stu, I’ve come around)

Mr. New Orleans: Kermit Ruffins

Best city in America: Do we really have to ask?

Spotted Cat Music Club, Frenchmen Street, March 2008 Saturday, Jan 28 2012 

Yvette Voelker and Rites of Swing, Sunday afternoon performance, Spotted Cat Music Club, Frenchmen Street, New Orleans, March 2008. Photograph by Bill Ross.

A Super Week Tuesday, Mar 22 2011 

Late in the week one of my students asked me to rate this week. I have to admit, I was rather unprepared to give him a straight answer, plus I didn’t want to give him a big head. And over the last 48 hours, I’ve had a chance for it all to sink in; to reflect upon the week that was. It was my sixth spring break on the Gulf Coast since 2006 and yes, I think I am prepared to say this is the best.

Kyle and Molly, March 2011.

This bunch has been somewhat quiet in class, so I didn’t quite know what to expect, but their true colors came through over the past eight days. I believe they really “got” the experience. Add to that a group of experienced leaders who did their utmost to promote group cohesiveness. In addition, with Molly and Duncan, we had two experienced Operation Helping Hands leaders who were attentive both to the job and to the students’ potential as volunteers. Moreover, we had near perfect weather – no rain and temperatures in the high 70s. And finally, all 36 of us were able to work on two work sites less than a block apart. That in itself is a singular work experience.

So two days after the fact, I’d have to say yes: it was a super week.  But unfortunately, the thing that capped it off was something the students totally missed: Super Sunday.

Super Sunday, March 2011.

Most aficionados eschew the name “Super Sunday,” but that is how most in New Orleans refer to it. To put it correctly, let’s call it the Uptown Indian parade. But it was clearly super.

I spent the morning chilling in my air conditioned room. After walking the streets of Treme well after dark the night before, it was nice not to have morning plans or responsibilities. I ate the hotel sponsored breakfast – ok, I admit it, coffee and glazed donuts. And I organized my photos and videos.

Around noon I picked up my new friends, Jen and Brendan, who attended the blues brunch at the House of Blues. We headed Uptown where I parked near Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and Simon Bolivar. We then walked up towards Washington and LaSalle, where the parade traditionally begins.  Since they were coming from a luxurious brunch, I broke away to have a sausage on French bread, with a beer. It was exquisite. And, as I was finishing my sandwich, the Indians began converging on the parade route.

Young Indian, March 2011.

Even though I have witnessed most “Super Sundays” since 2007, it is always a unique visual and aural experience. This year, I almost ignored the second line music, even though the Hot 8 Brass Band was playing. Instead, I found myself concentrating on the costumes and the Indian music. And in that, there was no way that I could be disappointed.

Jen, Brendan and I walked down Simon Bolivar, checking out the costumes of each tribe and listening to the Afro-Caribbean rhythms of each tribe. It was a hot, sunny day, so we prized the oak shaded neutral ground before the turn onto Martin Luther King.  Several miles and beers later, it was nothing short of awesome.

Molly and Duncan, Super Sunday, March 2011.

After we made the turn, Molly and Duncan, our Operation Helping Hands leaders, caught up with us. It was great to touch base with them and for them to enjoy this unique New Orleans experience. We all stood and watched as the parade made a turn back to the beginning. We had seen pretty much everything, so we broke off at that point.

Rites of Spring, Spotted Cat, March 2011.

I dropped Jen and Brendan at their hotel and headed back to the Hotel St. Pierre. I went down to Frenchmen ad caught the Rites of Swing at the Spotted Cat. I met a local couple and we spent some time exchanging notes about the local music scene.  Afterwards, I went for a lovely dinner of a half dozen oysters, seafood gumbo, and an Abita amber. It had been a long day and a long week, so after that I headed back to the Hotel St. Pierre and a quiet evening by the pool.

And all totaled, I knew it had not only been a Super Sunday, it had been a Super Week.

Last Day on the Job Sunday, Mar 20 2011 

I headed out to my Marrero office (McDonald’s) to check my e-mail and blog while 36 students awakened, got ready, and prepared lunches. All of this likely takes place in the span of 15 minutes.  It’s like making sausage – you enjoy the finished product, but it’s only possible because you don’t witness the process.

As I drove across the bridge, it was foggy and humid. Downtown New Orleans looked like San Francisco in June. I knew it was going to be a hot and sticky one. But we couldn’t complain. The weather has been spectacular this week. And humidity and New Orleans go together like beans and rice.

Last day on Hickory Street, March 2011.

We did hit a speed bump as our brushes ended up at another site, so Molly and I went back to St. Raymond’s for some others. When we got back, the painting at both homes was in full swing. After waiting all week, I got to break into the trim paint.  It was great for the students to see the result, as the trim really enhances the color of the siding. And even though we were only able to complete the first coat, they had a chance to get an idea of what the finished home would look like. And the wooden, often hand-carved embellishments on many of these old homes make the job even more fun.

Painting trim, March 2011.

As has become customary, we planned to work through lunch and break off an hour or so early, so that we could go for sandwiches and/or snowballs to celebrate a good week’s work. And by the time we finished at 2:00pm, students and owners alike could appreciate our accomplishments. The couple who owned our home came out to admire our work. The wife, who I assume is the captain of this ship, was thrilled at how the colors looked. Her husband took one look at the yellow and fern green and quietly opined: “this is going to take some getting used to.”

We designated a couple of groups to head over to St. Ray’s to wash brushes, but prior to that we went over to the Parkway Bakery and Tavern for some of the best po-boys in New Orleans. Most of us walked a block to Bayou St. John where we enjoyed them and a Barq’s root beer – again, I have to use the beans and rice analogy. We savored everything from hotdog and a lovely Caprese po-boy to the the more traditional roast beef and fried seafood varieties.

Po-boys on Bayou St. John, March 2011.

After our late lunch we went our separate ways. Some to finish cleaning brushes, others to find a much ballyhooed thrift shop, and others to a snowball stand. I took the opportunity to head back to Marrero for the first shower of the evening.

Afterwards, I went over to Frenchmen Street to catch the first set from the Washboard Chaz Trio, a traditional favorite of mine. I met a young couple from Boston who were down to sample some of the music and sites that they had enjoyed on the HBO series “Treme.” They were headed out to the Rock and Bowl to see Kermit Ruffins, where I was to meet the three groups from my class. So the three of us headed Uptown for an evening of good, decidedly New Orleans entertainment. I had not made to the new Rock and Bowl before (I was a big fan of the original) and didn’t know what to expect, but I was not disappointed.

Nikki and Sam with Kermit, March 2011.

The space was much bigger than before, but without losing any of the atmosphere. The food was much improved. And Kermit was, well Kermit. The students ate and danced and soaked up the sounds of their last night in New Orleans. The girls were invited to dance on stage, get their pictures taken with Kermit. All in all, I think everyone had a fun and memorable time. A couple of groups left there to go back into the City. Although I didn’t have a 25+ hour drive back to New Hampshire facing me, I’m old and  I went back to Madonna Manor to get at least a few hours of sleep. And after a week of working in the sun, I wasn’t aware when the others wandered in from their last night out. But…I know it was late.