The day started off weird.
I’m flying Spirit Airlines, and they’re notorious for having extremely poor experiences.
I was trying to find my gate, and wasn’t able, so went to another Spirit gate and asked them. They directed me, but I couldn’t help overhearing a squabble between a man and the kiosk employee. Apparently, the man’s kids had got on the plane and the gates closed without him. How does that happen? My guess is he was taking a long shit.
But the lady kept saying “When the gates are closed, they stay closed,” and dude is like “well what are they going to do?”
“They’re going to go to LaGuardia.” Lol.
Two hour flight, not bad at all. I had a smoke outside Louis Armstrong airport before taking a shuttle to the French Quarter and had a nice, short convo with someone from NoLa. After our conversation, I found an abandoned pack of smokes and a Bourbon St. lighter. Off to a good start!
The shuttle dropped me off at Canal Street, so I did some wandering, with my first goal being to make it to Cafe du Monde.
On the way to Cafe du Monde, I saw this sign! It was a cool thing to see, because literally just yesterday I finished reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
There is, obviously, a lot of music and a lot of artwork in New Orleans – which means there’s performance art as well.
He lay there perfectly still.
This is my first solo traveling experience, so it was cool to start my day out at Cafe du Monde – a place where dozens upon dozens of people go to get beignets and coffee. I waited in line while an eccentric tuba player blew his horn and occasionally sang out at people.
I was seated – “table for one,” (I didn’t really say that) – and started reading my new book: Plato’s “Republic.”
They were delicious, and I wish that I’d ordered more than three, but ce’st la vie (pertinent, b.c. French).
Afterwards, I crossed a set of railroad tracks and sat on a bench, looking out at the Mississippi River for a moment.
A deaf woman asked me to donate and sign a petition for something, and some man asked to bum a smoke – which I did, and we had an interesting conversation. He was obviously drugged up, and we were talking about something and then all of a sudden he just totally got lost and started mumbling and then just stood still. So I said “where did you go?” And he came back to and asked me if I “get down,” to which I said no. He goes “but you used to,” “yeah,” “That’s how you know.”
It was a strange moment, that he was able to know that I know what the signs are.
I have a pretty loose itinerary, so I ended up just walking around through some parks and down streets. Saw an alley where there are a bunch of palm readings, some bars playing music, and wouldn’t luck have it I wound up on Bourbon Street. There was some jazzin’ music playing at some bar and I was really digging it, and then all of a sudden everyone started coming out of the bar and parading down the street.
I then went to Louis Armstrong park and just walked around a little. It was nice.
I had time to kill before my AirBnB checkin at 3pm, so I just kept wandering. I bumped into St. Louis Cemetery #1, which apparently you can’t go in without a tour guide or you get fined…. but as I was passing it, I saw a tour guide and his group walk in, so I just walked in after them. Wasn’t able to get far before he was like “I don’t recognize you, you’re not from my group. Did you get lost from your tour?” “Oh, I didn’t realize you needed one.”
Oh, well. I didn’t get to see Marie Laveau’s grave, but that’s okay!
Plenty of cemeteries to see here that don’t require a tour guide
Wandered some more… then got an uber to my AirBnB house – my hostess is very sweet and super accommodating!
After resting for a few hours, I went back out to explore the French Quarter some more. I went to eat at this restaurant called Meauxbar that my AirBnB hostess recommended… and damn. I ate it all.
Crispy chickpeas, a small salad, and a grilled cheese sandwich with beef. It was delicious and very filling. I hit up Frenchmen Street and wow – the musical energy everyone is putting out is so unique and fresh, to me. Everyone’s trying to let the world hear something, and they’re kind of “competing,” but at the same time they’re not and it’s just a whole bunch of musicians in New Orleans amplifying their musical energy into the universe.
I walked down to the river again, and just chilled out meditating, and watched cargo ships go by. A cool experience for me because it’s not something I see every day.
I then decided to tackle Bourbon Street – and boy what a difference it is from day to night. It was completely packed, it literally smelled like shit, and everyone’s wasted.
So many bars, so many different types of music. There was a shetland pony..? Some street performers..
Just a lot of wandering. Eventually I got tired and took an uber back to the AirBnB.
What a crazy day! I saw so much, yet saw so little of New Orleans at the same time. Glad to have a few more days here.
It’s been a long day, and it’s not even over yet.
I woke up pretty early, surprisingly, considering I had been up since 4am yesterday without a nap. First thing I did was take an uber down to the French Quarter again to get some breakfast at Cafe Beignet. I got an order of beignets and some gumbo with chicken & andouille sausage. SO. GOOD. I want to get a bigger gumbo before I leave, though, because the bowl was pretty small.
Once I’d left Cafe Beignet, I looked at my GPS and saw the Museum of Death wasn’t too far away, so I decided to go there and check it out – a friend of mine mentioned it when she had gone to New Orleans and figured I’d check it out – it was worth it. Very F’d up.
It had letters written from serial killers, paintings and pictures done by them. There were caskets, bones, taxidermy. Fetuses of baby pigs and babies, all kinds of critters (centipedes, rats, otters) and their skeletons. They had embaling tools, videos playing showing part of the embalming process. Photos of dead people, either in casket or at a crime scene. There were very graphic photos from Sharon Tate’s murder by the Manson Family. War stuff, Dr. Kavorkian’s suicide machines, the confessions of Jeffree Dahmer and Ed Gein. Shrunken heads. All very, very, very interesting. I wish I had been able to take pictures but they’re prohibited and I wanted to respect that. It was odd being in a place with all those different kinds of energy.
ABSOLUTELY worth the $15. So much to look at, you could hang there for a couple hours if you really wanted to examine everything.
After leaving the Museum of Death, I wanted to see about renting a bike for the day, so I walked through the Garden District because the cheapest one around was only $20 for 24 hours, while every other places tried to charge $20 for like 6 hours or something bogu
Before that, I wanted to check out this hotel called Pontchartrain Hotel. I had heard that they had a bar on the top floor that has a great view of the skyline, so I decided to go get my signature sprite&grenadine — I know, living life on the edge!! It was cool, though, because he made it with pomegranate grenadine instead of the usual maraschino cherry.
The bar was pretty retro, with typewriters, jukeboxes, all kinds of cool stuff. I didn’t take pictures of it though.
I headed to see about the bike rental after this… and unfortunately my dumb ass got there and then realized I didn’t even have cash on me, so I had to walk almost all the way back toe where I had just been to get to a Chase ATM. Annoying!
I got my bike, and dude was kinda warning me like “New Orleans is a dangerous city / make sure you take the seat off the bike when you park it somewhere / blah blah” – I’m like, ok, I got it, damn!
So I set off to City Park, hitting up Bayou St. John on the way.
And then the biking, and the biking, and the biking. Holy shit. 11 miles of biking today. I don’t know if that’s a lot, but it felt like it. I saw so many cool sights along the way, but I only had one water bottle on me and that goes very quickly… and then you’re sweating in the heat, and it’s just crazy. My goal was to get to Lake Pontchartrain though, and that’s what I did.
The Giving Tree
Then I made it to Lake Pontchartrain. Which is actually cool, I didn’t realize that was the name of it until today, and that’s the same name as the hotel bar that I went to in the morning.
I don’t think you can see it all that well, but at the horizon there’s a bridge – it’s the longest continuous bridge in the world.
I’ll be honest, my trek back to the AirBnB was kind of miserable. I was sweating all over, I was so dehydrated, and my legs were getting tired from biking for so long.
But PRAISE JESUS. I found this:
I literally said “Praise Jesus” aloud, and was so excited.
And guess what? No water came out.
I was devastated.
But a few blocks later I found another one and drank all I could muster.
And finally.. I made it back to the AirBnB.
I haven’t eaten since before noon, but I really needed to chill out, shower, write this, and watch an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer – so after all of that’s done I’ll probably head out to the French Quarter again for some dindin and maybe hit up a gay club tonight.
4 more miles on bike, totaling 15 miles today. Whoo!
I literally only went out to get food because I was starving. Went to Juan’s Flying Burrito and got a Jerk Chicken Burrito. So F’ing good. I finished it in 3 minutes.
Now that I’m sufficiently full, I’ve retreated back to the AirBnB and I’m calling it a night. It’s 9.00pm, but it’s been a LONG ass day. I want to stay out later tomorrow, so I figure I’ll rest tonight.
What the hell have I even been doing all day?
I woke up really early, again, surprisingly. Left the AirBnB around 9.30 with my first goal of the day being to hit up Audubon Zoo. I saw a small little crepe shop called The Boot and stopped there on the way. Lucky me, because I had been craving ice cream the night before and they had Bananas Foster there. The dude really piled up the ice cream on me too after I told him I’d had cravings the night before.
It was v. good, but maybe a little bit too much ice cream for first thing in the morning…. NOT!
I love that sign, too, and asked him about it. He told me that they’re contractually not allowed to serve water to people because when they used to, people used to put alcohol in the water cups or something..? Anyway, some people came in through the side door pissed off that they couldn’t get water, and they started coming after the employee, and they ended up calling the cops.
I continued on my journey and rode around Audubon Park before going to the zoo. It didn’t really compare to City Park, and was mostly a golf course with a couple of cool trees.
I was hesitant about the zoo, and really only wanted to go for the Butterfly Garden (which turned out to literally only be a circular patch of plants that happened to attract butterflies) but it was actually really cool. They had animals that we don’t have at Brookfield or Lincoln Park Zoo.
Greeted first thing by elephants.
Look, Mike, a v. authentic Buddha statue! Bet you can’t find this in Thailand!
This is a shitty picture, but apparently this bird is the closest living relative to the Dodo bird.
🙂 but :’(
What kinda dog is that?
It’s really neat to be able to see all these animals but having seen elephants for the first time since they were removed from Brookfield Zoo, I couldn’t help but think these animals should not be held captive. The elephant was swaying back and forth, most animals were just trying to stay out of the sun – they had no energy and they’re visibly distressed. This goes for the Aquarium that I went to later in the day as well. I feel like we should call it a good run, but call it quits and leave zoos to the history books.
These were down Magazine Street and St. Charles – on my way to drop off my rental bike 🙁
I really enjoyed having the bike, but it stressed me out to worry about someone stealing it/parts of it, so it was a bit of a relief to get it off my hands.
Dude had cool plants growing in his backyard. I particularly like this cactus.
I saw this shop yesterday when I was headed to the Pontchartrain bar. My best friend Lauren took me to a foodtruck in New York by the same name, so naturally I had to check it out in New Orleans.
Then I went to the Aquarium off Canal St.!!!
This was a cool experience for me because at Brookfield Zoo, you can’t see the penguins swimming underwater (I don’t think anyway). This chica’s name was Sassy, so of course she was the one who came for a photo op.
You can see a penguin’s beak on the top left – that poor guy was another animal who was very stressed out about captivity. He kept swimming frantically towards the glass, hitting his beak up against it (not very hard, but still). He just wanted to get out. Sad.
Ursala’s Sea Bitch
My anaconda don’t want none unless you got BUNS, HUN
I took this pic while looking at the seahorses because it took me a second to realize that all these little specs (not the vertical current, but everywhere else where there’s specs in the water) are teeny, tiny little baby seahorses.
These guys dig holes in the ocean(?)floor.
Seahorse orgy 😉
I had a nice time at the aquarium. One of the highlights was this woman who goes “Grantley Joseph, get over here.” Child runs over, and trips and falls. “See what happened? God punished you [for dawdling].” Amazing. First of all, I’ve never heard a name like that in my life. And then you go and say God’s punishing your son for taking his time? Whatev.
So… I’ve never gambled before, and after seeing they had a casino, I figured what the hell, might as well spent $5 on the possiblity. But only quarter slots, cause that’s how we old ladies do it.
I sat down at a slot machine and had no fucking clue what to do, and they don’t really give you instructions. So I just started pressing buttons, hoping I was doing the right thing.
Should I bet on 1 line, 5 lines, 9 lines, 15 lines, 30 lines? I don’t know.
Anyway, I won like $.20, $.40, $1.00, but I just ended up playing it ‘til I lost.
So whatever, I’ll leave.
And this is where it’s funny, because I realized how people can turn into gambling addicts. As I was able to leave, I was like “nah, let’s try one more time.”
It was perfect, too, because there was an Alice in Wonderland themed slot machine, and that’s what I went to.
As luck would have it, I put in $5, and came out with $14.20. So I drew even for that round, I made up for my lost round on the other machine, and I made $4.20 – which is a funny number for me to win because 420 is a universal number for smoking pot, and I’m sober.
Then I went to go check out Madame Lalaurie’s Mansion. This is a woman who held slaves captain and tortured the hell out of them. Curiously enough, the home wasn’t even cited as a landmark or anything.
Curious how that window isn’t there. Was that where the torture was done?
My feet were starting to hurt, so I went down to French Market and sat on a bench for a little while. There was a woman who was absolutely out of this orit wasted, who was walking like she was on the moon, trying to retain some sense of gravity. She was laughing to herself, then walking very slowly to the garbage can, then ended up passing out on the bench. A cop came to wake her up and he probably thought she was dead for a moment because he was poking and kicking her (lightly) and it took her a while before she showed signs of life. Story has a happy ending though because some guy came and she was ecstatic to see him and then she sobered up a little bit.
I then went to eat at Red Fish Grill, where I had some delicious Alligator Sausage gumbo and jambalaya. The jambalaya wigged me out a little because it had shrimp with their legs/tails still attached and I had to disect them.
I went down to the river and watched the fireworks after eating. It was a cool experience to be surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of people, who don’t know who I am yet we were all One in a way, coming together to enjoy something a simple as watching fireworks. And it got me thinking, it’s pretty cool that the government does this display all over the country as a morale boost despite the fact that it’s ridiculously expensive.
I tried to do a panorama but it turned out dumb.
After the fireworks had ended, I walked down Bourbon Street again, trying to find a homeless person to give a loaf of bread to – I had been given a huge loaf of bread to eat with the gumbo from dinner and figured I’d give it to someone in need. Well, it’s funny because when you’re actively seeking out homeless people, they’re nowhere to be found.
It’s a bummer though, because I found one man who said that he had eaten earlier, but looked very grateful that I stopped and looked him in the eyes and offered him something. And then there was a girl, with a dog, and she said she was okay and that she would save it but she didn’t have anywhere to put it and it would get dirty. Which, in retrospect, I had it in a paper bag so it would have been fine. But both of them were on drugs, I can see it in the eyes, and it’s just really sad. This trip has really humbled me about my life as a sober person. I have much to be grateful for.
I was going to take an uber back to the AirBnB, but as it’s 4th of July, the price was 3.2x what it normally would be, so I just ended up walking. It was a nice walk, except that when you run out of water and you’re walking in 90 degree, humid weather, you feel like you might as well be walking through the desert.
Now here I am, 12.30am. A little over 12 hours and I’ll be heading to the airport.
Day of Departure.
I hung out in my AirBnB during most of the morning, watching Buffy and waiting for my hostess to print my boarding pass for me.
With Spirit, you have to print it beforehand, or you’re screwed and you have to pay at the kiosk… I’ll touch more on that later.
My AirBnB hostess has been incredible – it was kind of an out of sight, out of mind situation, but when she greeted me the first day, I could tell she was a selfless, caring person. She saw I had started turning red the first day (I forgot to bring sunscreen) and she offered me some. So I thanked her with some Pralines (which are everywhere in New Orleans) and more sunscreen. She very graciously let me print my boarding pass at her place as well, so I sent her an email this morning and she printed it out for me.
And then just like that, I dropped off my keys, put on some sunscreen, and head out for my last day.
I took an uber down to the French Quarter one last time, and wandered around trying to decide where to get food. I know I had to get oysters, because I had told myself that I was going to have alligator (check), and oyster (not check as of that moment) before I left. Well, I had alligator gumbo the night before, so now I needed oyster.
It’s funny how you can come full circle during traveling, and wind up where you first started your journey. Yesterday I had hung out at a park by the French Market —— remember drunk lady? I actually saw her on two separate occasions today; a parting gift from the drunken facade of New Orleans —— and there was a band playing that I was really digging but then the market was closing so they stopped. As fate would allow, this is where I ended up. Gazebo Cafe, with Tammy as my server. The band was playing again (or maybe a different band?) and I kind of teared up for a moment as they played What a Wonderful World, and then Isn’t She Lovely, realizing that my trip was coming to a close. So cool to hear a jazz-influenced take on those songs.
I ordered gumbo again, because it’s been delicious every time I’ve gotten it here, and an oyster po-boy (a po-boy being another thing I wanted to have while here). I guess I kind of cheated the oyster a bit, since it was fried, but such is life.
When I say things kind of came full circle on my trip is because I ended up right by Cafe du Monde, which is where I started it. I went over to the Mississippi River and just sat on a bench with my shirt off, soaking in the sun for an hour or two with the plan of taking an uber back to the airport once that time was up. I’d done so much walking the past three days, and with a heavy backpack with all my stuff, I figure I deserve a lazy day.
So that’s what I did.
And of course someone started playing Somewhere Over the Rainbow on a boombox, which is always a tearjerker for me, so I got kind of emotional. Heat + exhaustion + somewhere over the rainbow = emotional Steven.
I had a conversation with a young guy who asked for a cig (my last one of the pack I found at the airport first day… full circle), and we ended up talking for a while. I think he might’ve been homeless, or struggling in some way or another, but we joked around and he had a lot of cool stuff to say – like stay honest with yourself and true to who you are, and when you do that, you don’t have to give a fuck what anybody else says. Which was neat to hear from a stranger, because this is certainly something I’ve been working on and coming to terms with.
We parted ways, and I got an uber to the airport. The driver was really cool and we talked about my experience gambling the night before, and gambling addiction, and he told me he gets a lotto every week (which my dad does), and I don’t know why I don’t do it. What’s $2 or whatever, for the Possibility?
And here I am at the airport.
When I heard What a Wonderful World today -and I realize it’s actually a sad song- I thought, how true. The world is beautiful and stunning and full of incredible journeys. It’s all about what you do with it. Whether you choose to see what the world has to offer or not (not just by traveling, either). I’m grateful that I’ve been given the opportunity in life to be able to travel.
New Orleans has been a great experience for me. I’ve eaten amazing food, heard great music, people watched to the max, walked around all over, biked around all over, seen beautiful trees with Spanish moss, seen the longest continuous bridge in the world, talked to strangers, etc., etc. And I did it all myself. I was able to make time for myself, thinking to myself, Be with myself. I didn’t need validation from anyone, and I didn’t feel Lonely.
Next up, Iceland!