Monday, July 5, 2010

The Experiment: 24 Hours in New Orleans

No luggage.  No lodging.  Just livin'...24 hours straight in the Big Easy Essence Fest weekend.

7:58 am Friday July 2, 2010 Land at Louis Armstrong International Airport, the only airport named after a jazz musician. Might be the only one named after a musician period. I’ve been napping upright off and on since this journey began before dawn 3 ½ hours ago. I’ve got a slight headache and probably need a mint. But I’m rested.

 8:45 am The world’s friendliest cab driver (his name is Luis) has been telling us stories about his family and the city since we left the airport. I love the stories. I ask him to drop me and Candice off in the Marigny, an area I had not explored in my previous three trips to New Orleans. I’d heard, read, watched, and listened to so many wonderful things about the French Quarter adjacent neighborhood that I had to get a taste.

We’re standing in front of La Peniche, anticipating some Cajun breakfast. Sign on the door, “It’s vacation time! Closed until July 15.” Goodness…these folks know how to break! No worries. We stroll on.

8:59 am At the Marigny Brasserie. Corner of Royal and Frenchmen. I place an order for the Bayou omelet (crawfish, green onions, havarti cheese). Many of the dishes feature crawfish on this menu…crawfish quesadilla, crawfish cakes, crawfish dressing…

10:44 am I just spent the last ten minutes speaking to a vendor at the French Market (outdoor flea market). He was selling homemade coasters with pictures of local eccentricities and telling me wonderful stories about Ernie K-Doe, and how he (the vendor) had his bachelor party at the Mother-in-Laws. The guy has a great accent. And I did buy two coasters from him. Really appreciated listening to him.

11:04 am Still in the French Market. Just bought some magnetized hematite jewelry. Also bought another bracelet, all for $10. Told Candice that we have to not look at anything else because the money spending has been happening too close together.

11:09 am Sippin’ on a hurricane from the Gazebo Café near the French Market.

11:42 am Buy $4.89 worth of Mississippi Mud from Laura’s Candy Factory, established 1913. The black woman working in the shop said she is not Laura, she is Laura’s helper. She’s also wearing a platinum blonde wig.

11:48 am Tossed out half of the hurricane. It’s 90-something degrees out here. Heat and alcohol don’t mix.

12:01 pm Walk past Keith Sweat in the Hilton. Looking a lot better than when we saw him at Essence 2007.

12:04 pm Sitting outside the bathroom inside of the Hilton Riverside waiting for Candice. It’s been about four hours since we’ve been in New Orleans. And so far it’s been good. If there was anything that I would complain about—or not even to really complain about but—it’s muggy and it’s warm and it’s hot out. But then again, it’s July, so what was I expecting? So, but it’s good. We’re not miserable at all. We just gotta balance walking around outside with walking through the casino or the hotel or a restaurant where it’s nice and air conditioned.

We’re about to head over to the Riverside Mall. Catch up on some beignets and then we’ll probably walk on down to the convention center. Taking our time getting down there. No big rush. That’s how it is here. Take your time.

12:30 pm Beignets and milk at Café du Monde in Riverside Marketplace.

12:55 pm First “Who dat” reference.

1:05 pm Jumped by makeup promotional team in the Marketplace. Girl did one eyebrow. Said she’d do the other for $7. We left.

1:15 pm Arrive at the convention center for free Essence activities.

1:23 pm Cupid is on one of the stages, leading folks through a live performance of “Cupid Shuffle.”

1:25 pm Dancing to a brass band onstage across from Cupid.

1:38 pm Second “who dat” reference, this time from the brass band’s version of “Saints.”

2:45 pm Keith Sweat is on one of the many stages inside the convention center, giving one heck of a show. He looks good with meat on him.

4:11 pm Essence seminar about love and relationships. Panelists include Hill Harper, Lamman Rucker…and Mr. Marcus. Yes, Mr, Marcus. And he did have his hat and some sneakers on…

5:53 pm Savoring bread pudding at Mulate’s with my eyes closed. Decadence on a plate.

6:40 pm Hanging out on Bourbon Street—sippin’, dancin’, people watchin’.

8:25 pm Some acquaintances are having a get together “off the strip” on Barracks. I know where Barracks is, so we decide to walk there. We’re strolling along, not realizing we’ve wandered out of the Quarter and into Treme, which was cool, just didn’t realize that’s where we were…till we hit Treme Street. Buddy said they were right off the strip…what strip?

8:27 pm “Y’all walkin’? Oh I thought y’all would’ve taken a cab. That’s too far to walk,” my contact says over the cell phone. “Well you said it was right off the strip.” “I meant, off-off the strip.”

8:33 pm Trying to find a cab in Treme is not an easy task.

8:40 pm We’ve been sitting on somebody’s stoop for the last several minutes. No cab. Decide to walk up a few blocks to where this seems more feasible.

8:55 pm Finally catch a cab off Claiborne. Funny, I recognize this overpass from the Treme HBO series.

8:56 pm The cab driver doesn’t know where Barracks is. I, the visitor, the one who liveth not here, has to direct him.

9:05 pm “So you’re gonna knock a couple dollars off this cab fare, right? All these U-turns…”

9:15 pm Finally find our destination. Tell the cabbie to pick us up at 10 to take us to the Superdome for the Janet Jackson concert.

9:30 pm Chillin’ with some very hospitable folks.

10:00 pm No cabbie.

10:05 pm No cabbie.

10:10 pm Hop in the car with one of the folks, who will drop us at the Superdome.

10:33 pm Arrive at Superdome.

10:55 pm Finally in our $200 floor seats. Not as close as I thought.

11:39 pm Janet takes the stage.

12:20 am Saturday July 3, 2010 No Michael Jackson tribute yet, and my $200 seats in the mid back of the orchestra ain’t feelin’ worth the money. Not because of her performance but because I still have to rely on a Jumbotron…with $200 seats!

12:31 am Okay…for me, a good concert is when I can get something that I can’t get from the CD or a video. And so far, I ain’t gettin’ that from Janet.

1:05 am Some wild, orgy mess is going down onstage.

1:23 am “Rhythm Nation.” Is she gonna do every song she’s got? (Okay, so I’m not the biggest JJ fan in the world…just wanted the superstar concert experience...)

1:30 am “Together Again” performance featuring pics of Janet and Michael together. Nice, subtle tribute. Not what I was expecting, but appropriate nonetheless.

1:38 am Show over.

2:08 am Walk past street fest on Loyola on Poydras. I’d really like to hit up Snug Harbor and Frenchmen Street and hear some jazz but it’s late and my companion is rapidly losing her will to keep  her eyes open. In other words, now ain’t the time to try new-to-me spots. Need a sure-thing for the next couple hours. Back to Bourbon Street.

3:24 am Dancing to the live band inside Sing Sing… ”Stir it Up,” “I’ll Take You There.” The little blonde sistah’s band is here again. Love them.

3:45 am “Purple Rain.” I’m officially happy. Again.

5:28 am Eating pancakes and mozzarella sticks inside a packed IHOP on Canal.

5:53 am Leaving IHOP. The sun is coming up.

6:15 am Catch a cab to the airport.

8:30 am Fly out of New Orleans.

My thoughts on the staying awake for 24-hours, guerilla traveling with nothing but a tote bag adventure? Overall, it was cool. The day was rich and dense without being rushed, which is what I was going for. An Essence Fest/New Orleans sampler.

I actually didn’t get sleepy. However, if I get the itch for an abbreviated Essence Music Fest trip again, I would do it a little differently. The day would start later, not with me flying out of Orlando at 5:30 am. More like noon. Hit the ground about 2 pm and basically keep the schedule the same from there. Since I envision many extended trips to N.O. in my future, a quickie here and there ain’t bad.

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