Today I had to fix my car or die trying. It was a long, arduous day, and it was pouring rain. I rode back to the motel in the rain and pushed my car out of the lot. A tough girl from Boston showed up and gave me a hand. She said she used to have to push start her car every morning to get to work. I thought she might be exaggerating, but then I remembered when I had to use the emergency brake for braking because the brake lines would regularly fall off my 1964 Volkswagen Beetle.
After multiple pushing attempts and no luck, I parked the car next to an abandoned building outside the motel and called AAA for a tow. I’d just signed up for AAA the night before. They drove me to the nearest auto repair shop and dropped me off. I explained to them what I thought the issue was and that I’d bought a new starter for the car. Two hours later, they’d installed the starter ($150 in labor costs), but they still couldn’t start the car. They said there was an electrical issue, which I thought I had already fixed. They did some kind of MacGyver-style wiring technique(I believe a stick of chewing gum was involved) so I could drive the 10 miles to see an electrical specialist. The specialist fixed the issue quickly, for another $140 in labor.
The situation reminded me of “Into the Wild” by John Krakauer, a story about an idealistic kid from an upper-middle class family, who suddenly decided to be a frontiersman. He died of starvation in the process. I read that Krakauer got some flak for romanticizing the story, since the reason he died was basic ignorance and inexperience. I’m not that extreme, but I admit I can be a bit too idealistic for my own good.
After the repairs were complete, I felt like a great weight had lifted and I could get back to actually enjoying the city. It was already past 6pm, and my introduction to New Orleans food at that point had been stale chicken nuggets from a dive bar and a Baby Ruth from a bodega.
My old roommate from Brooklyn gave me a long, comprehensive list of restaurants, bars, venues and other things to see in New Orleans. I suffer from a bit of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) so I took this list as a challenge. Unfortunately, my stomach couldn’t handle every food place on the list in three days, but I decided to try Mother’s, a soul food restaurant with all the traditional cajun dishes: Po Boys, Jambalaya, crawfish, ettouie, everything a New Orleans newbie could ever want. I went with the catfish Po Boy and it was damn tasty. I should just throw caution to the wind and gain a bunch of weight on this trip. There’s too much good food in the world that I have yet to try.
I thought I had room to stuff one more item down my gullet, and decided to try Bacchanal. It was at the end of a neighborhood called Bywater. If I ever moved here, this is the neighborhood I would want to live in. Artsy folks, great restaurants, unique tiny houses, right next to the Mississippi River. At Bacchanal I ordered a raw seafood medley. It was so fresh and flavorful. Bacchanal is an outdoor garden space with tables randomly spaced around the garden and a balcony bar overlooking it. They had great music and a mellow atmosphere. I hung out on the balcony overlooking the outdoor space and soaked it in.
I’ve been taking my huge DSLR camera everywhere on this trip, but only during the day. I didn’t want to look like a tourist sticking a camera in people’s faces at bars and restaurants, but Bywater looked so cool and mysterious that night. New Orleans in general is kind of spooky at night, but I guess my desire to shoot anything and everything won over the spooky. I came close to eating shit a couple of times from riding and shooting simultaneously, and gave up and biked to the Frenchman district bar called Mimi’s in the Marginy.
I hung out there for a while talking to a couple of girls sitting next to me. Everybody was smoking, so I asked one of the girls for a smoke. I smoked mostly so I could fit in, but I suppose it was also my “in” to the conversation. It’s hard to start an interesting conversation with a stranger in a bar. I went to the standard topics, “Where are you from?” “You live around here?” “I love this neighborhood,” “The weather sucks today eh?” I was embarrassed right away as I heard these questions escape my mouth.
Girls at the end of the bar
One girl was from Dallas, so I asked her if she knew a guy named Daniel Perez, a cool fella I took a lot of classes with in college, and she actually did. We were Facebook friends, but I hadn’t seen him for about 8 years. Small world. Facebook tends to create that “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” scenario pretty often. At least then I had something interesting to talk about and the girls weren’t rolling their eyes anymore. A little after 3am and six Red Stripes, I was done for the night. I felt fairly satisfied that I’d hit a decent portion of my roommate’s list and met some interesting folks along the way.