Friday, December 21, 2007

Pete Best in NOLA, Day 3

Read Day 2 first?

We got up on Friday feeling pretty refreshed and walked up Canal St to pick up our rental car. We then drove to Uptown and made our way to the Camellia Grill for breakfast. They had only recently re-opened after closing in the aftermath of Katrina. But, as far as I could tell, it was the same place I had loved from my Tulane days. The food may not be that great, but the wait staff are so excellent and quirky that it's always a pleasant meal.

As we walked back to the car, I heard my name being yelled from a passing car. I looked over and saw it was Robinson Mills, an old friend from my House Levelers years. He ran a studio in town called the Egyptian Room. I hadn't seem him in at least 12 years, but somehow he recognized me - which made me feel pretty good. We chatted a while and got caught up.

Then we headed off to take a walk around Audubon Park and hopefully work off some of the massive amounts of butter we had just eaten. It was a beautiful day and hot enough that I took my socks and shoes off to walk barefoot in the grass. Very nice. After circumnavigating the park we walked across the street to Gibson Hall on the Tulane campus for a bathroom break. Tulane was established in 1834 and has a beautiful campus, but we didn't really feel like walking around anymore, so we took off.

Next stop, the Tree of Life. This is a massive and ancient oak tree on the outskirts of the park, near the Zoo. There are actually several of these gigantic trees in this area. Generations of people have come down to hang out by the tree. To climb it or have a picnic or in my case, eat mushrooms and hug the hell out of it. One of my absolute favorite places in the world - I even wrote a song about it.

I had this obsession to take a picture of every house or apartment I had lived in during my nine years in the city. There were ten of them and we hit a couple of the early ones next.

My first New Orleans house was between Broadway and S Carrollton, near one of the classic above-ground graveyards. We stopped and took a few pictures, but I felt like we were trespassing and we didn't linger.

After driving around Uptown and the Garden District for a few hours we had worked up another hunger and headed back up to Carrollton to get a po-boy and crawfish at Cooter Browns, an old favorite college bar. Unfortunately, they no longer served crawfish and the catfish po-boy was just okay.

We then headed back down to the apartment in the Quarter to chill before the evening's activities. After a little nap time we walked over to the Port of Call for dinner. I love this place. Small, dark, crowded with a cheesy/seedy nautical theme, it just screams New Orleans to me.

Plus, you can't beat the Monsoon. Similar to a Hurricane, it's fruit juice and a ton of rum served in a 32 oz cup. Drinker beware. The place was packed but we managed to quickly snag 2 seats at the bar. I was in heaven. They have delicious hamburgers served with giant baked potatoes slathered in sour cream, butter chives and bacon bits. Making me drool as I type...

No trip to NOLA is complete without a stop at the Saturn Bar. It's in the 9th Ward, which is a pretty bad neighborhood. It's become famous as the classic weird dive bar, very charming in it's unique way. Many famous folks have visited and done photo shoots there (including the House Levelers for our "Sponsored by Abita Beer" poster). Famous for it's clutter and bizarre paintings it was closed for awhile after Katrina. Longtime owner and barman O'Neil survived the flood, but sadly died of a heart attack a few months after Katrina. His family members now run the bar and have cleaned it up considerably, though it still retains it's quirky charm. The have not cleaned up the bathroom, which is still one of the worst I've ever encountered.

The addition of video poker machines kind of ruined the vibe for me, but was enjoyed by Mrs. Best. I also missed the old jukebox with it's scratchy 45's. The giant turtle hanging from the ceiling with CANDY spelled out in neon letters was still there. Besides running the bar, O'Neil repaired air conditioners, so there were always old air conditioners and parts and tools scattered all over in the back room. Now it's all cleared out and a band was setting up to play back there. The paintings seemed to still be in good shape. One mysterious artist has many of his pieces up on the walls. He was a primitive artist, I guess it's called outside art now, sort of like the Rev. Howard Finster. One of my favorites has a giant raisin or something on an alien landscape, with what appears to be a key sticking out of one side of it's head(?). The raisin thing has one glaring eye and the phrase "You are being watch" is scrawled above it in black. Awesome.

We didn't stay too long, because we were off to see Dash Rip Rock play at the Rock N Bowl. Dash was a very big band for me when I was starting out in music. They sort of mentored the House Levelers when we were starting out, and took us on tour with them a few times. Plus, Bill Davis played on a few tracks of an album I did as Noisecandy in 1994 - including The Tree of Life!

They were unbelievably good and funny back in the day. Their live show was just incredible, especially when singing drummer Fred LeBlanc (now of Cowboy Mouth) was still in the group. Fred and Bill wrote some great songs on their early albums, but then over the years seemed to go down the novelty act/bar band road, which was a shame. I always wish they had stuck to their more serious cowpunk material. In any case, they are still entertaining. We bowled a few games while the band played, then hung out a bit to listen and chat with Bill and Eric Padua again. Then it was time to head back home and get a good night's sleep in preparation for Saturday's wedding.

No comments: