Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Pete Best in NOLA, Day 2

Read Day 1 first?

Wednesday was a long day and a late night, so we ended up sleeping in pretty late on Thursday. Plus, Mrs. Best was feeling cruddy with her cold, so we took it pretty easy. Eventually we got up and took a walk through the Quarter. First stop: Walgreens, for cold meds. Next stop: one of the dozens of numbingly identical t-shirt/souvenir stores to pick up a Cajun In Your Pocket toy to bring back for Marty, our housesitter. My old friend Steve Winn is the mastermind behind these products. Press one of the several buttons to get a different saying. You haven't lived until you're pressed the Cajun "Aieeee!" button hundreds and hundreds of times. Steve has a whole line of these now, including Mr T and Rocky. My top suggestion would be "Ahnold In Your Pocket". Those would be huge in Cali. Top sayings: "I'll be back!" "Ice to see you!" and of course, "I'm going to... pump... you up!" (Did he ever actually say that...?)

I made a list of all the places I needed to eat while in town. We then hit one of the first on the list, Central Grocery for a huge-ass muffuletta. One sandwich is more than enough for one person. It's basically a giant round sandwich filled with Italian cold cuts, cheese and their special olive dressing. There's always a long line that snakes through the store, which is in no way modernized. The shelves are filled with many obscure and interesting Italian delicacies. The guys who run the store have these thousand yard stares that look right through you as you order. They seem to be bored out of their fucking minds, serving the same sandwich day in/day out for 40 years. We headed back to our pad to eat the muffeletta in our courtyard. Those suckers are greasy as you can tell from the photo below - I think I got olive oil on the camera lens for that special soft-focus effect...

We chilled out after lunch. Mrs. Best took a nap while I tried in vain to find a decent WiFi connection. At 5pm we headed down to Cafe Du Monde to meet Grant for a cafe au lait and beignets. It's such a touristy thing to do, but as usual in NOLA, things are always a bit skewed. For such a popular destination, it's amazing just how filthy the place is. I noticed this at the Camellia Grill, too. I guess that's part of the New Orleans charm - you don't get funky without a little grease.

Maybe I'm just getting cranky in my old age, but the street performers outside Cafe Du Mond were so friggin' loud we had to move tables. It's one thing to have a little amplification, but this was like being inside a nightclub. Of course, back in the day, the House Levelers got chased off a few street corners in the Quarter for playing too loud...

Ok, it's Thursday night - time for the Bachelor party. Mrs. Best and Elise headed off to dinner with the bride, while Sterling and I went to meet up with Pete and his friends. We met in a little hole in the wall bar right outside the Quarter. We stayed there for 3 hours, drinking 1 dollar Pabsts and eating tray after tray of fried food. (Breaded and deep-fried brocolli? That was a new one.)

It's always hard to get a big group of people motivated, especially in New Orleans where everyone is loaded and drinking in the streets. Plus, we had a crew of Germans in tow, who had come over for the wedding. Just as the crew was heading out of the bar, ELO's Strange Magic came on the stereo. I don't know what it is with me and ELO, but it seems like almost everyone I know is also in total thrall to the Jeff Lynne godhead. I stood in a circle of friends and strangers as we watched Lee, the party organizer, tenderly emote along with the song, while the rest of us sang all the crazy falsetto backing parts. It was totally hilarious, and a great way to leave the bar. I was wishing for a giant boombox to carry on my shoulder, blasting ELO's greatest hits...

So we headed out onto Bourbon Street. I'll tell you right now, I hate Bourbon Street with a passion - especially after having worked in the Quarter for 3 years. But, hey, I was there for my boy - and as gross and repugnant as Bourbon is, it's never boring. (I did have fun in the old days when you could buy whip-its in the t-shirt stores.) But the endless stream of drunken people, frat boys, party chicks, tourists, scammers, street people, plus the blare of music and glare of neon lights - it's just a nightmare. Hey, I love my party time as much as the next guy, but being on Bourbon Street is like going to the mall 2 days before Xmas - and everybody in the place is shitfaced and ugly. No, thanks.

It was hard to keep the group together, every time we made a stop we'd start to go, then wait for someone, then someone else would order a drink and we'd be there another 15 minutes. Eventually we got down to a club where a friend of Pete's was playing guitar in a cover band. This guy was a really outstanding player, even though the scene was cheeseball city. They quickly invited Pete on the stage, and for the second time in 24 hours he sang Cheap Trick's Surrender! At that point, I was wondering if he was going to sing it at the wedding, as well... Pete is a great singer and is one of the few people I know who can handle Robin Zander's vocal parts. He then sang another Cheap Trick tune (I Want You To Want Me) and exited the stage to much applause. (I guess everyone I know worships Cheap Trick as well as ELO...)

Things started to fall apart around then. Lee, our leader, was well into his cups and disappeared on us. We weren't sure were to go next. The Germans were gung ho to hit some strip clubs. Pete wasn't really into that idea. I suggested we go down to the quieter end of Bourbon St, to one of my favorite places, Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop (which was built sometime before 1772). Pete readily agreed and we made the long trek down there. Of course, the walk wasn't so bad, since in New Orleans you can walk around anywhere with a drink in your hand. Man, I love that.

The Blacksmith Shop is small and dark with a fireplace, and occasionally a piano player. There was a guy playing that night with a bunch of people sitting around the piano. He was okay, but as Sterling said, "Dr. John called - he wants his shtick back". I requested Living Loving Maid, as I do at every piano bar. I'm obsessed with hearing someone play that sometime. I'm not sure why, but there it is.

The place was too dead and absent of chicks for most of the crew, so we took off pretty quickly and headed back to the other end of Bourbon. At that point, I took my leave. It was already 1:30 and I was doing my best to pace myself in the early stages of our trip. The last thing I wanted was a crippling hangover. Plus, we wanted to get up early and pick up our rental car and see some other parts of the city. I bid the gang adieu and walked the few blocks back to the apartment and went to bed. All in all, another very fun day.

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