Since I’ve been back in the US, I’ve been traveling with my friend Jayson and his sideshow gig, Ming Donkey’s One Man Band. Spent Saturday and Sunday in New Orleans, that fantastic hobo city of pirates and saints. Everyone has a story there, and all the stories are the same: “hopped a train, had a plan, landed here (that wasn’t the plan)”
I’ve loved this city forever, spent my life escaping three hours south, along the world’s most crooked straight line. Nothing like chasing tattooed clowns. Anyhow, the story starts here:
Donk was playing a farewell party at Saturn Bar, a classy little dive on St. Claude. Our friend John is leaving for Afghanistan. He’s already been dispatched twice to Iraq, and he has a lifelong fear of cannolis, which it’s better not to get into. But his girlfriend, Tami, brought a whole table of cannolis, muffalettas and mac & cheese from the Italian restaurant her family owns. So I ate a cannoli and washed it down with whiskey. This plan could have backfired. Luckily, it didn’t.
After Donk, there was Nick Name & The Valmonts. They do these garage covers in a really crazy, almost swingy way. They’re like a punk rock wedding band. The singer wore a Hawaiian shirt that was nearly as loud as he was. Entirely danceable. This is Seth Valmont:
This is Guitar Lightening Lee:
He’s known around town as a deft blues guitarist, but I loved that he played the Cramps. Our friend Paul plays drums in Lightening’s band (the Thunders, I think they’re called), and also sometimes plays drums in punk bands, and watches the Saints (who doesn’t, here?) and co-owns this restaurant called the Green Goddess. It’s in the Quarter and has fancy vegetarian dishes, like a Cuban sandwich with collard greens, pineapple and banana peppers, and pomegranate walnut dip with braised carrots. They also have fun drinks, such as The Black and Gold, made with a black pepper simple syrup, in honor of, you know, the Saints.
The next morning we met some nifty kids at this coffeehouse. Their mom works there, and the one in glasses brought her spelling words on flashcards, but really she wants to be a singer. She was spot on with Lady Gaga, who doesn’t scare her at all. But Lady Gaga scares the flower power girl. She told me this as she was playing a Lady Gaga dress up game on her PED.
Donk and I spent the day wandering around town, meeting up with folks in their apartments/studios/restaurants/coffeehouses. Found an anarchist bookstore and zine library called Iron Will where they offered us cupcakes, and a girl tried to hand off an old portable record player that just might work if we tinkered. This picture is unrelated to Iron Will, but I like it:
Then a girl at Flora’s gave us a box of praline pecans, talked to us about the Stephen King novel she was reading and asked about The New Great Game, which I am reading even though it’s outdated. And then we talked about how she landed here from upstate New York (accidentally, of course) and about conspiracy theories. Then her girlfriend showed up and they biked off to a picnic.
Incidentally, somebody’s been going around the hobo city tagging about dead artists. I saw Ratfink and Cy Twombly, and Robin said he’s seen Egon Shiele. Maybe it will foster curiosity and send people googling. This is my favorite, mainly because it’s day glow:
We landed at a 300 year old French Quarter hovel where Charles Bukowski wrote Crucifix in a Deathhand, or at least that’s Robin’s version. An elderly woman owns the place, and she lets artists live there for free. Robin’s friend was lucky enough to snag the Bukowski room, and since he’s out of town, Robin gets to stay there. At 4pm everyday, Robin’s friend watches the same street magician from one of the three tiered windows. On Sunday there was big brass out one window, private bar drama out another, wind chimes, easy traffic, a (happily, temporary) sans-mufflers bike crew, NPR roots on an old tube radio and perfect bruised twilight.