Monday, December 10, 2007

Pete Best in NOLA, Day 1

As I sit back and bask in the glow of the fireplace and a New Orleans Saints blowout of their arch-rivals the Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night Football, I finally have some time and energy to report on our trip to the Big Sleazy.

We returned a week ago tonight, and as reported elsewhere, I was suffering from an outbreak of a crippling man cold. But even through the misery of that night and the next few days, I was still aglow from the utter awesomeness of the trip. We were there for Pete and Nina's wedding. They had gotten married in Germany this summer (Nina is German), but wanted to have a New Orleans wedding for all their friends who couldn't make the overseas trip. We had lots of fun wedding activities, but also plenty of time to hang with friends and tool around the city.

I lived in New Orleans from 1986 - 1995, so I was excited to show Mrs. Best around (she had a brief 2 day Mardi Gras visit in the early 90's). After I moved to Portland in '95, I had gone back for weddings in '96 (former House Levelers and Noisecandy bandmate Sterling) and '98 (former roommate Grant). So, it had been nine years since my last visit, and here I was again - for another wedding. Weird.

Mrs. Best and I left Portland on Wednesday morning. We had an unfortunate episode at LAX on the way down. When our Alaska flight arrived at LAX there was no information anywhere on how to get to our connecting Delta flight. We asked an Alaska employee how to get to the Delta terminal and she directed us to go down towards baggage claim. That seemed a little weird but we followed her directions. At the end of a long basement hallway we were basically forced to go through revolving doors and out into baggage claim and outside of the security zone. We suddenly realized with a sinking feeling that we would have to go through security again. Fuck!

We had to walk outside for about 20 minutes to get to the other terminal and have our boarding passes reprinted for some idiotic reason. Then go back through a long security line. Of course, the tube of toothpaste that I got through PDX was seized by the LAX crew and thrown away. Great. Just for the hell of it, I argued that even though it was a 6 oz tube, because it was folded over and half empty, it should fit the requirements of being no more than 3 oz. I also explained that it was clearly a paste, not a liquid - but to no avail.

So, is that really LAX's policy - make you leave the secure area and go through security again to change flights?? Other airports let you stay within the zone and will even take you in a shuttle bus from terminal to terminal without making you leave the secure area. LAX - you are fucked. Other than that, the flight was fine, though an hour late to NOLA.

We got in around 6:30 pm and caught a cab from the airport down to the French Quarter to our rental apartment/condo. It was a small place, but nicely furnished and endearingly quirky like most New Orleans apartments. We had rented the apartment through the Vacation Rentals By Owner website, for about a hundred bucks a night. Not necessarily a bargain, but pretty reasonable for the Quarter - plus we had our own place and none of that boring hotel room sterility. There was a cute little courtyard to hang out in and for the most part, no one else around. (More on that later.) While Oregon and Washington were going through a major winter storm with some serious flooding, we had great weather down there - in the 70's and sunny.

We unpacked quickly, showered and headed out to meet Grant and Sterling & his wife Elise (who flew down from NYC) for dinner at Lilette. After a great meal and some excellent wine picked out by Sterling, our personal sommelier, we took off for Carrollton Station. On the way over, Grant played us his new cd Ballroom Dance Is Dead. It's a moody instrumental record, featuring Grant's bass playing and production. Sort of a New York no-wave/post-rock/jazz/dub type of thing - I'm not sure how to describe it, but I've been playing it constantly since we got home.

Like Grant, Sterling and myself, Pete is also a musician. He's had a long-running relationship with Carrollton Station, playing gigs, running sound, booking shows, so he had the great idea of having a night of music by, and for, his friends. A bunch of people played, including Susan Cowsill, one of my favorite singers. Susan was a member of the Continental Drifters, but more famously, The Cowsills - the 60's family act that was the inspiration for the Partridge Family. Pete's been playing bass with her for a while. He also sat in later with Dash Rip Rock, one of the original cowpunk bands. Sterling was easily coaxed up to play drums for a few songs. Finally, they were joined by Nina on cowbell, as the picture at the top can attest.

Then it was my turn to do a set. Pete had been kind enough to ask me to do some songs and I leapt at the chance. Carrollton Station was where I played my first show ever. It was with the House Levelers, and we went on to play there many, many times. So I bashed through a few songs on an acoustic guitar and at the end of the set, Sterling got up on stage and we sang 2 old House Levelers songs that we hadn't done in 16 years. Hell, we hadn't even sung together in 13 years! It was a blast, and I'm thankful everyone was drunk at the time. I reconnected with a lot of old musician friends that night, it was great to catch up with them and laugh at all the old stories. Mrs. Best was suffering through her own nasty cold right then, but was a real trouper and made it through most of the night.

Finally Pete got up and did a set. I hadn't heard him do his songs acoustically before and it was a real treat. He also took the treacherous trip down memory lane when he brought up his former Of Human Bondage bandmates Matt and Eric to do some of their old songs. Nina joined him at the end of the set and sang a rousing version of 99 Luftballons in German. Then total drunkenness prevailed, and Sterling, Pete and I got on stage and ripped through a bunch of half-remembered covers by Cheap Trick, The Cars, The Kinks and the Ramones (I played the bass so hard I developed a giant blood blister.). Everyone danced and we got very silly and sweaty. More drinks at the bar and a cab ride home. First night: total success!

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