Sunday, July 18, 2010

Day One

It’s an early morning wake-up, with a bit of a lagniappe, that gets me out of bed today. Today really has been about Lagniappe, though I would expect this on any New Orleans morning. It is difficult really to get headed out the door to New Orleans without my love and my boy, but we’ve been planning on this for months. It doesn’t make the drive down the road any easier. Once the car is packed, Susan emerges from our room to help out with the little things. It’s like a checklist of all the things I really need for New Orleans—Rum, check. Camera, check. Hat, check. Artwork, check. Laptop, check. I am ready for the road, and I head into Devin’s room to get him out of his bed and place him in what was my space in my bed. He is willingly lifted out of bed, and I smother him with kisses and tell him what little things I will buy for him on this trip—a Saints shirt, some other small toys, and hopefully some new shoes for school  As I place him in my bed, he rolls over, still acknowledging how sleepy he is but also telling me he loves me and will miss me. Hours later I find out on the road that he won’t remember a thing....

I give Susan one last kiss and hug and let her know how much I’m going to miss her. She and I know how much we will miss each other, but we also know how much I’m looking forward to spending two weeks with my daughter Cece who I have not spent long periods of time with. This is going to be a great trip for many reasons. Susan waves goodbye to me as I pull out of the driveway. I am going to miss them both very much.

Three hours later, I’m in Houston picking Cece up. The drive to New Orleans is quicker than I remember, perhaps due to anxiety. Cece and I are able to spend good conversation with each other on this drive, and I am very happy about how this trip starts off.

As we head into New Orleans to see my friend Simon, after a side-trip to drop off things to Caitlin she forgot on her move back home, I am once again deeply happy to see the skyline of the city emerge as we leave the I-10/610 split. I am home.

Simon is happy to see us, but he has a patron there who is a tea-bagger. As I grab my ceremonial Heinecken from Simon’s frig, I am confronted by Mr. Teabagger about Government authority. This takes me aback, but I stand my ground when it comes to what I feel are the appropriate levels of government service and action in today’s society. Arguments ensue, and I must have struck some sort of responsive chord since Teabag Man shakes my hand and tells me he respects me. I find out later that Mr. Teabag doesn’t shake “anybody’s” hand. I am not sure if this makes me special or a fool.

We move on to see Rhonda on Magazine Street, and Cece is in heaven with all the great shops that seem to be thriving here. I learn how business is down this summer, more than in previous years after the storm. I will hear this story again when I travel down to the Quarter later in the day.

Funrockin’ Uptown (Bootsie’s) has “expanded” to a certain extent—one side is apparel “ala” Popcity—and the other side is the old Funrockin’, with it’s wide selection of crazy toys and “stuff.” I love this place. I had to pick up a great yellow giabra (spell). Cece was eyeing dresses, but she’ll have to wait until Saturday to pick one up.

As we walked to the car, we went into a sweets shop called “Sucre”. If you haven’t been there yet, you must visit. They’ve got some incredible chocolates and truffles, pedifores, and other delicacies. Cece and I bought four little chocolates, and of course one of mine was the “Absinthe” chocolate. The woman who helped us, though, was the actress in Treme who plays the waitress in Jenelle’s restaurant. We talked about the show and how she ended up in New Orleans to take the role. She’s not been signed up for the second season yet, but that doesn’t mean she won’t be in the series again.

Once we leave Magazine and drop our bags off in the Marigny, we head to the French Quarter, via the Convention Center (???). Well, I mixed my dates up for a Rotary Downs gig at Lucy’s. I thought it was this Saturday, but it’s really next Saturday. So after wasting our time in an area I rarely venture to, we found ourselves in the Quarter.

The Quarter is like my second home, really. It’s the bars, shops, restaurants, and street people that I am most familiar with. It’s not too long that I’ve seen one of my favorite solo artists, Dominick sitting with two lovely ladies at the Balcony Music Club. We say hello, catch up a bit, and then I head down the street to catch up with Cece. There’s a beautiful white carriage strolling down Decatur Street with a wedding couple, and the beauty is somewhat interrupted by a fire truck blaring it’s sirens to get to an emergency. People on the street, though, are still in a bit of awe at the beautiful carriage. I hear the sarcastic statement “You don’t know what you’re in for” on the street—typical. A woman on the street asks me why I’m smiling so much and wonders aloud if I find her attractive! I tell her that I’m always smiling when I’m in New Orleans and that I find everyone looking good in New Orleans. She smiles, asks me for some cigarettes, of which I miraculously have, and wishes me a pleasant visit. I tell her that I’m a local and I’m home, which brings a bigger smile to her face as she divulges a story of how bad and ugly tourists can be to folks on the street. I know—I’ve seen it first hand before.

When I finally catch up with Cece, she’s at my friend John’s shop “Road Kill” on Decatur Street. John and I discuss more of the slow summer, and how it’s a combination of many things this summer that adds to the slow business. It’s not just the oil spill, though that has added to the total discomfort of the region. The economy is beginning to finally catch up with New Orleans, and people in general are not traveling here as much as before. If they are in town, they aren’t spending as much. And there is a plethora of “boutique” shops opening up all over the Quarter and the competition is tight. It seems that entrepreneurial immigrants from Asia are buying up buildings and businesses in the Quarter, and they are bringing their capital to invest here. Their direct connections with manufacturers in Asia allows for the easy delivery of goods to the Quarter, at a price much lower than what John could get. They are also bringing in cheap co-ethnic labor, keeping production costs down. I studied this very phenomena as Enclave Economies began to emerge in Atlanta in the late 1980’s. I suspect this is taking place in New Orleans now.

Though John is doing well, even with a slower economy, he concedes that it is difficult to compete against the low-end boutiques and current consumer trends of purchasing goods over the internet. The essence of small business here in New Orleans, and indeed all over the country, is based on the shared interactions of community members. If we no longer patronize our local businesses, they will cease to exist. I don’t think it’s something to immediately panic about, but I am not happy to hear the various observations today of challenges to small business survival in New Orleans. I intend to investigate this more as I visit with friends over the next two weeks.

Cece eyes some shoes, and then she bats her beautiful eyes at me, and before you know it I’ve purchased some new (and I must say really cool) two-tone shoes. I am catching up with lost time with her—and we are both enjoying it 

We leave Road Kill and head to Frenchman Street to see John Boutte at dba. We hope to meet up with my friends Leigh, John, and Shay there. I didn’t anticipate how “packed” dba would be—but I guess John’s success is fully in blossom after Treme. I know that Cece and I won’t be able to get in, but we are hoping to hear the music. Unfortunately, the band is in a break, so we venture to get some dinner.

We actually have a pretty good meal at Tomatilla’s. I had the steak, which I always like there, and Cece had tacos made-to-order. I notice as we walk down there how many people are actually in the Quarter and on Frenchman tonight. There are actually lines at most of the restaurants—and with all the talk about a slow summer I am still impressed with the number of people in town. We also notice that most of them look like they’re part of a Baptist Convention, so I am sure they will not be going to the bars later in the evening. Too bad—perhaps the experience would open up their eyes ;)

As we head back up to dba, I run into another Treme actor—the “bad” cop in the series. He makes a few appearances in the series, first at Lil Dizzy’s when he confronts Tony about the fact that she has sued him for police brutality the year previous, and then later when he confronts and busts the young Delmond Lambreaux outside of dba (ironically) for smoking pot. He finally shows up in the last episode as the cop who confronts Big Chief Lambreux on St. Joe’s night.

I tell the actor that he had a really tough role and he did a great job with it. He thanks me, and says that he got good advice on how to play the character from his police friends in the city. He invites us in to the club he’s doing stand-up comedy in that night, but I beg off due to the fact that I am sure Cece will not be allowed in. I’ll have to catch his act later, though.

We finally make it back to dba where we catch up with Leigh, John, and Shay. It’s nice to see them, and Shay has just moved “back” to New Orleans for a job at Tulane. I am familiar with her job and her new responsibilities, and I wish her the best of luck in that part of academic affairs. She is in a very tenuous job, but I am sure she will do the best while she’s in the position.

I’ve now been up for almost 21 hours, and I can tell I’m ready to crash. Cece and I say our goodbye’s, and we head back to our house.

It’s nice to be back home. It’s a raniny morning today, but the sun is making attempts to come out. Today, Cece and I will go back to the Quarter to visit the Gallery of Fine Photography, among other things. I’m finding that I cannot find a reliable internet connection right now, so I may have to sit down and work a bit more today than I wanted to once I find a good connection. But no matter what, it is good to be back home. And though I miss Susan and Devin very much right now, I am sure I will have a productive visit here in New Orleans.


Lisa said...

You made me ache for New Orleans. Glad your enjoying your visit, can't wait to read more...

S.S. said...

Okay, I gotta ask. What's a "giabra" ?? A cross between a Giraffe and a Zebra?

S.S. said...

Okay, I gotta ask. What's a "giabra?" A cross between a giraffe and a zebra?