I’d like to start this by letting you all know that Homeboy always seems to be ordering pink drinks, he is perpetually sunburnt, he does not take himself or anyone else seriously and he reads out loud every sign that he sees. He is also the only real friend I made when I was living out in Los Angeles. The only person who truly cared about me there, during a time when I had no one. So needless to say, he holds a special place in my heart. I had only seen Homeboy once since I left California, (3.5 years ago) and it was while I was on tour, so that doesn’t count because trying to see people while on tour is a nightmare and if you can make it happen at all, it generally consists of meeting for coffee for thirty minutes and apologizing for your hygiene. So Homeboy and I decided to get serious, and meet up in New Orleans to hang out and catch up on some friend time. He was the absolute perfect person to go to the Big Easy with. We definitely kicked NOLA’s ass. Cut to the shitshow.
The most important things that happened on the first day was that I possibly gave Monterey staph infection, and Homeboy and I found our bar. Monterey is a good friend of mine who was a fellow roadie on the ballet tours. I spoke about him in Adventures of Touring Christmas Edition, and beautifully enough, he now lives in New Orleans. He picked us up from the airport, showed us a bunch of shit and made me the best gin gimlet of my life at the swanky restaurant/bar he works at in the Quarter. I knew it would be fancy because they spell Revolution, R’evolution in the name. Monterey just got surgery on his clavicle, so when he picked us up, he was sitting shirtless in his fucking yellow car that he stole from his Dad, and attempting to bandage up the wound with one arm, his seatbelt still on and simultaneously taking hits from his apple pipe and subjecting tourists to his loud easy listening alt-rock blaring from the car.
That pathetic little scene was oddly cute and endearing, so my empathy which usually stays dormant in the base of my cold heart, became active and rose to the surface. I sat on the center console and gently bandaged Monterey up as he told us about the sink holes on Canal Street that had sparked a renegade “Sink Hole de Mayo” party on May 5th. I think that Homeboy is probably STILL laughing at that. He always laughs so hard at the most rudimentary of jokes. Monterey did ask me if I had washed my hands recently, to which I said yes, but then realized that in between washing my hands thirty minutes ago and now, I had touched countless items which would be considered a germaphobe’s nightmare, including hotel remote controls, which is a rule straight from the fucking bible I feel like… to sanitize after coming in contact with hotel television remotes. Whatever. To my knowledge, his shoulder hasn’t disintegrated yet, so I consider my temporary nursing career a success.
That night Homeboy and I attempted to go to this bar/jazz lounge called Maple Leaf, which seems to be a well known establishment. There was a line, and he and I are both way too pretentious for that, so we immediately said, “Nope,” and walked into the bar next door, which only had five people in it. Much more my style. At this point, even though we had only been in the city for approximately five hours, we had probably already had ten drinks each, and homeboy had STILL not figured out that New Orlean’s traditional cocktails are mostly not good. He probably ordered something with SoCo in it. I tried to steer him away, but he didn’t learn until the third day that I am always right when it comes to decisions involving liquor. I know everyone feels like they have to have a Hurricane while in the Big Easy, but why? Gross, sweet, syrupy drinks do not geographically discriminate.
By the end of the night we were feeling gangster, so we were sipping on gin and juice’s once we rolled into what would become “our bar.” It was superbly sketchy, located on the controversial Lee Circle, and seemed like it was an old house that someone decided to chuck a bar into and the city just doesn’t give a shit. Actually, New Orleans seems to have zero laws or permits when it comes to alcohol. Love. I call NOLA the Wild West. You can basically do whatever you want. From what I’ve observed, there is minimal infrastructure, laws are nominal, sewage is still something that civilians have to deal with, no one gives a shit about liabilities, the colors and architecture are unlike anywhere else and people sing and dance when they want to and it’s not weird. Basically, in a lot of ways, New Orleans functions like a Second or Third World country. People complain that it’s dirty… which it is, literally and metaphorically, but I thrive on filth. The city seems to open its’ arms to all eccentricities, making it such a beautiful freak show.
Anyway, the only reason why we knew that our bar was a bar and not a house, was because there was a sign outside that simply said BAR. That’s it. I was immediately in love. Then when I saw that they had Old Overholt Rye whiskey, and that they were heavy handed with it, I knew I was home sweet home.
The next day, Homeboy was having a rough time. Too much gin. I love gin, but I know to be cautious with it because gin is a terrible hangover, only second to wine. I wasn’t exactly bright eyed and bushy tailed, but I chugged half of a warm beer in the morning and was ready to take the day head-on. Homeboy high-fived me and said, “I’m impressed,” while he probably threw-up in his mouth a little bit just at the thought of drinking a beer for breakfast. Monterey brought us to breakfast at a joint called Elizabeth’s, which I highly recommend, then we rolled up to a drive-thru daiquiri shop, and enjoyed taking a scenic route around town with alcoholic beverages and an apple pipe. Wild West. Then Homeboy and I went on a cemetery tour where we met Shiela, who was one of my favorite frumpy middle aged white women. Maybe Homeboy and I were just drunk, but we were cracking up at a lot of what she was saying, while all of the other chumps stayed silent and smoked electronic cigarettes. Other than the cemeteries being above ground, the other interesting thing is that multiple people are in the mausoleums, and not necessarily all family. As Shiela put it, “you can shop around” for a tomb you like. When a new casket goes in, the old one is taken out, the bones removed, and then thrown back in there, along with the new casket and all of the other bones. It’s a damn party in those things!
That night we found a 24 hour gem called St. Charles Tavern. A fair amount of bars are open 24 hours there, and what is also great is a lot of them seem to serve food and all of them have liquor because as I said, I don’t think a liquor license is a thing there. I went full blown NOLA and got fried catfish and red beans and rice. It was beautiful. I don’t even remember what Homeboy got because I was busy having a love affair with my plate. The next place we stumble upon was called Lucky’s Bar. Honestly, I didn’t remember the name of it at first, but I just did a google map search and found “Lucky’s Bar: saloon with live music and laundromat.” Yes! I totally forgot that they had a full blown laundromat in the back! Homeboy and I didn’t really understand what this meant, but we just chalked it up to “hashtag, NOLA” when we saw some early twenty-something year-old’s emerging from the back with laundry baskets and basketball shorts on. The best hashtag NOLA thing we came across was a car parked literally in the middle of the road, just not giving a fuck. Back to Lucky’s, we just thought we were sitting and having a drink at some random bar, but immediately after our drinks were poured, someone came to the mic and announced that it was stand-up comedy open mic night. Homeboy and I looked at each other and started cracking up. He does stand-up in Los Angeles, so of course, of all of the bars that we could have walked into, we go into that one. Without words, it became crystal clear that he would HAVE to sign up. So we stuck around there and he drank his weight in Hendrick’s gin and went up and did the best stand-up of the night. Of course, we ended the night at our bar and then stumbling back into the hotel room where I forced him to listen to Jack White songs until we passed out.
The third day, and again, Homeboy was sucking at being a pro drinker. He was not feeling great, but we still got up and went to Cafe Du Monde to get beignets and figure out our game plan. We decided to walk for years, to go to the garden district. I drank a beer on the walk and Homeboy got more sunburnt on the walk and then fell in love with a fucking cuban sandwich that he purchased at a corner store. I swear that sandwich was his favorite part of the trip. I just had another beer. After a few more miles down the road, we ran into a Whole Foods and Homeboy made the executive decision that I needed to eat. I like when guys kind of take control like that. I wasn’t drunk or anything, but we had just walked six miles and I had only consumed a piece of friend dough, a beer for breakfast and a beer for lunch, so he basically made me get some vegetables into my world. He was very right. I immediately felt better. He got Kombucha like such a white person. This is in no way relevant to anything, but I just have to mention that there was an entire cooler for all of the different Kombucha’s. There must have been at least 40 different flavors, and Homeboy picked the very last flavor I would have chosen. It was some green bullshit with the word algae and living in the name.
Later that night we finally made it to Bourbon O. so that Homeboy would shut the fuck up about meeting this guy named Eric. One of Homeboy’s friends from Los Angeles is from New Orleans, and she told us that we should go visit her brother who works in the Quarter at a bar called Bourbon O. Well, this was Homeboy’s number one mission. I was down because whatever, it’s not like it was cramping my style or anything. I just thought it was a potentially awkward confrontation. Actually, I hoped that it would be awkward. I pictured Homeboy walking in and saying to Eric, “I’m Punchy’s friend!” and Eric just being like, “cool, man” and then we just sit there looking at him like assholes. That’s what I wanted to happen just because he had been talking this meeting up so much! However, Eric turned out to be a cool motherfucker, and the bar turned into one of our favorite spots. So, if you’re ever in New Orleans, give Eric at Bourbon O. a high five, drink one of their moscow mules (they make their own ginger beer and it’s the best I have ever had) and stick around and listen to the band because they had some of the best live jazz that we came across.
The next morning was when I turned into New Orlean’s bitch for over an hour. I had passed out in my dress, and woke up needing to take a shower and wash my hair so I could begin functioning like a human again. I needed stuff from a Walgreens or wherever to make that happen, so I just threw some sunglasses on (because I didn’t feel like taking the time to remove the eye crust and smeared eyeliner) and some ridiculous boot/sandal shoes and walked out the door, leaving Homeboy alone with his continental breakfast. According to google maps, there was a CVS 0.2 miles away. Perfect. SOMEHOW this turned into an hour walk at 8:00 in the god damn morning while wearing a tiny dumb dress and my hair piled on my head like a friggen gypsy whore. Once I realized how lost I was, I didn’t even care about the shower anymore, and just wanted to find a Daiquiri shop. Turns out, I was in the only part of New Orlean’s that doen’t have a bar every fourteen feet. I’m sure I was quite a spectacle for the construction workers that I kept passing due to my temporary inability to decipher North, South, East and West.
After I got my life together, we walked out to Bywater, which is a neighborhood of New Orleans. There, in essence, we bar hopped from dive bar to dive bar, but it was a great time. Everyone we met was prime. Other people might say, “everyone was so nice!” To which… sure, everyone was nice, but normal nice can be kind of boring. I mean, most people can be described as “nice” in one way or another, so that word is such a useless description, in my book. People are much friendlier in the South, that’s a more effective description. They want to talk to you and it’s not just an act or a means to get something they want from you. The people in New Orleans are real and genuine and make visiting there such a good experience.
That night we went to Frenchman Street, which is a congregated area of lots of bars with live music. My Heaven. I love jazz, but I love real Blues even more. Like every big city, there is a lot of music, so you have to sift through the garbage to find the gems. This is my field. Live music shows is when I am in my element. I took the reigns and found us a hole in the wall that had two men city in the corner with a slide guitar, a three piece drum kit and a microphone. That’s it. With just the combination of those three sounds, these guys pulled at my heart strings and stole me away. I was good after that. I let Homeboy make every decision from that point on because I felt completed in my New Orleans adventure after listening to twenty minutes of blues from two men in a moldy corner.
The next morning, Monterey took me to breakfast again, and showed me the part of the city that had been hit the worst by the Katrina flooding. Where full neighborhoods once were, there is a sporadic, obviously new house with solar panels. In between those, there are rows and rows of empty lots with overgrown grass and the occasional stack of a few bricks from what was once a base for someone’s home. The people and the city is still deeply effected by the disaster. You see it everywhere. Every local we spoke with, mentioned something about Katrina at least once in casual conversation. Pre Katrina and Post Katrina are two very different periods to those who live in New Orleans.
It’s a remarkable city with a lot of history and if you have never been, definitely get your ass down to Louisiana.