I woke up early this morning to start hunting down auto repair shops. I had to find a good shop before my 11am checkout time, but it was Sunday so they were all closed. I was in a sketchy part of town and didn’t want to roll the car out of the hotel parking lot and leave it on the side of the road with all my possessions in the back seat for a whole day. Fortunately, the hotel clerk allowed me to leave the car in their gated parking lot. I grabbed the essentials from my car and rode off on my bike to check into the AirBnB room I’d reserved for the next few days.
The space was a full apartment with a kitchen, two bedrooms, laundry room and bathroom for $45 a night. The hostess was a sweet little lady and she took the time to tell me everything about New Orleans and how to navigate it. On her suggestion, I decided to head out to the Algiers Fest. Algiers is a quiet neighborhood on the other side of the Mississippi river. It’s accessible by ferry, and easy to explore on foot or bike. I biked over to the festival, got an alligator burger, a large lemonade, and some fried chicken and sat down to listen to live jazz from the main stage. A deep, throaty singer was belting out soul music from the early sixties.
After a while, I got antsy and rode around to explore. I found a dilapidated old neighborhood bar with a band playing inside. It was a great place, really fun, I just wanted to hang out there all day. It was crowded at 3pm and folks were already getting rowdy. I sat down and chatted with the locals about the neighborhood, the Saints game, and food. After getting tipsy on a few beers, I went out to the patio to take in some air.
A few days ago in Tennessee, I found out that it is still legal to smoke indoors at most bars in the south. At the first bar I went to in Knoxville, I thought “Oh hey, its one of those unique places that lets you to smoke indoors”. I hadn’t experienced that since 2000, when California made it illegal to smoke in bars. I kind of like the vibe of a smoky bar, I don’t mind being around it.
I was dead tired by the time I got back to my room at 8, probably from all the midday beers. I tried to talk myself into falling asleep, but I knew I’d have this aching feeling I was missing something and would never see it again if I didn’t go back out. So, I rode into the French Quarter and started bar-hopping like crazy.
Bourbon Street had a rancid alcohol/vomit smell to it that reminded me of my teenage trips to Tijuana. There was a long strip of nightclubs in Tijuana where underage kids went to get plastered when they couldn’t get into bars in San Diego or LA. I suppose that’s what Bourbon street is there for too; a designated spot in the city to partake in drunken debauchery and not get judged too harshly for it.
I wandered into a neighborhood called the Frenchman district outside the French Quarter. It had a brightly lit craft fair and a live brass band playing outside. I chatted with someone promoting his film about spending 5 months hopping train cars across the nation and thought, damn, I’m just using a crappy old car. This guy’s extreme.
I visited as many spots as I could, but it’s impossible to hit all the bars in New Orleans. After about one drink at each of 5 bars, I stumbled into an old rockabilly bar with a band playing Johnny Cash tunes.
I love the rockabilly style and am always envious of their cool tattoos. Yeah, I guess no tattoos = uncool these days, but whatever, I’ve accepted my uncoolness. The girls were decked out in poodle skirts, scarves, and perfectly applied bright red lipstick. I didn’t dare talk to them. I didn’t think they’d be interested in a plain old t-shirt and jeans kinda guy with no tattoos.
I rode home after the bar closed, happily full of today’s dose of stimulus. I have never regretted pushing myself to stay out later than expected on this trip. Something interesting, amazing, or weird always happens that makes me want to be out a little longer and experience just a little more.