laissez les bons temps rouler

I know. If you’re going to keep a blog, you’ve got to take time to post. In theory that works out great. It’s the putting it into practice part that I have to work on. But as Bridget said to me last night: “Don’t worry about it. Your followers all get an email alert when you’ve posted something new, and they’re happier if you don’t post, because that’s one less thing they have to read that day; and your friends will know that if you’re not posting, you’re out having fun; and everybody else doesn’t care; so don’t worry, it’s all good.” Good advice.

And haven’t we been having just the best time ever here in New Orleans. We knew it was going to be good, but we didn’t know in what way it was going to be good. That’s the best part of being on the road: You know the next place is going to be good, you’ve been looking forward to getting here; and the only thing you know is that it’s going to be a completely new revelation. I tell you, New Orleans is a revelation.

We arrived 11 days ago, for a two-week stay. The first week was going to be all Mardi Gras – basically have as much fun as is humanly possible in the week leading up to Mardi Gras, and the second week is when we’d get our stuff done – me my research and Bridget, playing her violin.We’re well into our second week, but let me pick up just about where I left off last time.

I think when I clicked Publish last time, I was heading upstairs to put together a costume. I think Bridget might have taken a picture of me at the ball, but mine will give you a sense – thanks to the Dollar Store, I was able to dress up as the Irish Joker decked out in green and black. I was one of Tab Benoit’s New Orleans Ladies, sashaying down the street. And just like the song, Bridget and I did get to sashay on Bourbon St.

We left the house in full costume, Bridget decked out as a hippy, complete with a bag full of beads that she handed out all night. We parked in the Faubourg Marigny area, like we do most days, and headed out on foot along Frenchmen St – our gateway to le Vieux Carre. Walking along Decatur, which hugs the Mississippi in the French Quarter, we wandered over to our favorite park bench in town – it’s on the river boardwalk, and from it you can see the lights of the Crescent City Connector bridge and the lights along the shore of Algiers directly across the river on the West Bank. We had been sitting near here a couple of nights earlier to watch the fireworks celebrating the arrival of the king. It was a beautiful display, and I have a few shots of it …

Bridget got a lot of nice photos the night of the fireworks, which she’s included in one of her blog posts of New Orleans. She’s captured New Orleans well. Here’s her shot of Will Farrell, king of Bacchus, leading off their parade on the Sunday night.

But back to the story … sitting on the riverside bench, planning out our next move. We were just deciding to head up to Bourbon St, where we hadn’t been since our first night in town, just to see what kind of zoo it would be. It turns out we’d just caught the Van-Morrison Yahoo list wavelength … King Bhumi and Robbie were on there and had found a webcam that rolls 24/7/365 at the corner of Bourbon St and St. Peter’s.

Here’s a map of the French Quarter. Our route after parking the car over to the right of Esplanade, brings us onto the map in the lower right, past the French Market, where we had seen a gorgeous display of masks the day before. We’ve walked along Decatur and turned riverside to sit on a bench on the right end of the straight line of the river’s edge that corresponds to the French Quarter. If you head lakeside (or as we foreigners would say, north) on the Canalside (left) of Jackson Square and head up St Peters four blocks, you’ve made it to Bourbon.

Robbie’s got us on the phone while we walk up St Peter’s, so he can guide us to the webcam once we get to Bourbon. Robbie got a couple of shots of me, one with my back to the camera (I’m the one in black at the bottom of the picture) and one doing my Irish Joker dance for the camera. The closest I came to a proposition all night was at the end of our dancing fool bit, when an attentive member of the opposite sex come up and whispered in my ear that these were for later, when I got lucky. A green thong. The Joker runs wild! That’s when we left.

From there we headed along Bourbon and cut riverside down Dumaine to Decatur and along to where it meets Esplanade. That’s the corner that houses the BMC, which has become our home away from home for the last 10 days. Afternoons, there is always an empty table to sit at, scribble a few notes and maybe quench my thirst – and there’s always a band playing up on stage with a tip bucket out in front. But tonight, Mardi Gras, it is standing and dancing room only, with the party spilling out onto the sidewalk. The sidewalk party is a moving force, everyone dressed to the nines tonight. It was rowdy, but I tell you, I didn’t expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition.

The fuzzy wuzzy Irish Joker makes nice with Spanish

Back inside, I leave Bridget to the party – when the clock strikes at midnight, it’ll be Bridget’s birthday, and she’s decided to have her party right here. I head over to the Apple Barrel on Frenchmen St (Frenchmen is more or less represented on the map by the brown vertical line to the right of Esplanade). Bridget and I are on Frenchmen most nights, if only to walk along it on the way to the car. But most nights we’re there for music – there is always someone playing. It’s almost 11 o’clock when I get to the Apple Barrel, three hours late to hear Mark’s band. Miscommunication. I thought they were coming on at 11 and was keen to catch their set tonight after listening to their set here on Sunday. That’s the way it is in New Orleans – there is music everywhere … walk down this street and catch a marching brass band, turn down Royal and catch some bluegrass and over at the corner of St Louis someone blowing soulful sax, and then you hit Frenchmen with all its clubs, where every 10 feet there is a new sound blasting out the club doors, and you can go in if it pulls you, or you can simply linger outside, hanging around on Frenchmen, people watching, meeting friends, listening to music.

But since I’m there I stick around for the band coming on at 11. I recognize Matt DeOrazio, who was playing with his own band at the BMC earlier in the week. Tonight he’s playing with a different band, whose name I forget, but good music. Enough to get me up dancing with one of the denizens. Matt’s in a third band, Sweet Jones, with his wife, but worse for me, their next gig is when we’re long gone to Tennessee. Matt’s a working man in his prime. Chatting out on Frenchmen during a break, he invited Bridget to sit in with his band on Friday afternoon at the BMC. Play a little blues.

That reminds me that my daughter is back at the BMC, and it’s her party.

And what a party it is. The charismatic Ed Wills is up on stage and he’s got everyone up dancing, including the Joker. Mardi Gras officially ends at midnight, but that’s an entirely discretionary time – the party ends when the band stops playing. When the last note is played, it’s over and the players disperse, heading to wherever they can lay their weary heads and face tomorrow’s Lenten hangover.

Mardi Gras is a slice – a whirlwind week of perpetual motion, crammed full of music and jammed wall to wall with people descended on “the city that care forgot” to lose their troubles and grab a hold of the fun. Razzle dazzle good times. Blow your cares away. Laissez les bons temps rouler.

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