Day four was great. Same dry weather, a little bit warmer. After breakfast we headed over to Treme and did some walking around. There are lots of cool little slightly run down churches and homes in around Treme, so I snapped some pictures. In the heart of Treme is Louis Armstrong Park, home to Congo Square – widely to be the very place where jazz was born. Can you imagine how excited we were to explore this big beautiful park – and how disappointed we were to discover, after walking around the entire perimeter of it, that it was completely closed to the public?! Oh man, what a bummer.
After walking all morning we decided to head up Magazine Street again for lunch at an Indian place we snuffed about called Nirvana. They had a lunch buffet with lots of vegetarian- and vegan-friendly dishes to choose from – all you can eat for 10 bucks a head! Perfect! The food was really awesome, too. We stuffed ourselves and sat outside in the open air with a lovely view of the public park there and its beautiful expansive magnolia trees.
With lunch in our bellies, we headed back to the Treme neighborhood to tour the first of the famous St. Louis Cemeteries. It was a very cool place to get a little lost in – so many tombs, crypts and headstones (all above ground, remember – you can’t dig barely a foot in New Orleans without hitting water) in various states of decay. Some were brand sparkling new, white granite slabs with family names engraved (no dates yet – guess they paid in advance) and some graves that were so crumbled and degraded that no discernable name was apparent. Other crypts towered overhead while others still were humble, barely above ground. It’s interesting to note how one’s personality (and income bracket) likely often follows one beyond the end of life. There are two graves in this particular cemetery marked with triple-Xs and in great disrepair. One of these is believed to be the resting place of the woman who originally brought voodoo to New Orleans. Spooky wooky!
Feeling a bit weary in our legs and feet (we’ve walked SO MUCH this week!) we took in another street car ride, this time on the Canal Street car. I can’t describe how hypnotic and relaxing it is to ride the street car. With its rhythms and sounds, it can very easily lull one to sleep, and both of us nearly nodded off several times on the ride. We rode all the way to the end of Canal, where we discovered huge cemeteries not unlike the one we had just explored. These were much more expansive, though, and more ornate – not nearly as interesting and as captivating to the imagination as the one we walked through.
We rode the car back to downtown and then went back to the French Quarter to go hear Tina’s friend Jan play at Sing Sing on Bourbon. She plays keys with E.J. Phillips and the Electric Blues Band. She and Tina were roommates in New Orleans many years ago. When we got to Sing Sing, they hadn’t really started up yet, so at her suggestion we went down to Old Opera House to hear some cajun music. The band was a trio – drummer, keys and accordion. We got to hear an accordion played through a wah-wah pedal. Awesome! After a few songs, we headed back up to Sing Sing to see and hear Jan. On their first set break, she came over to hang out and talk with us and schooled us on the scene. She said that it’s a really tough scene, a tough way of life – scarce money, fierce competition – but also said that all the musicians are like family to one another. She spoke a lot about the effects of the hurricanes and how the city and its inhabitants are still recovering and how some folks will never ever be the same after losing everything they had. She shared some very personal heartbreaks with us. I really liked her – liked her honesty and her forthrightness. I gave her a copy of Make It Mine as we left. It was a nice connection that we made, I think.
We left Sing Sing and headed over to St. Peter to get in line for the 8:00 show at Preservation Hall, our favorite place in all of New Orleans. While in line, we spoke with an older gentleman from the area who asked us about New England and talked a lot about his love for New Orleans. The doors open, we paid our cover and sat in the very front row on cushions – just as we planned. When we sat down, some young kid was sitting at the drum set while his friends took photos. Shawn said, “You should go over and play the piano.” My heart immediately started to beat a little faster. “Really?” I asked? After a little while of fidgeting, I finally summoned the nerve to get up and approach the piano. Shawn grabbed my camera and started snapping pictures. I got about halfway through “Honeysuckle Rose” when a man who works there approached me on my right and said, “You play really well but I have to ask you to stop.” I was so mortified and embarrassed that I couldn’t even look up at him. I said, “I’m so sorry, I couldn’t help myself.” As I was sitting down, Shawn said, “It’s my fault, I dared her to do it.” Shawn told me that people were digging it. Heh. Now, as he also said, my “skin cells are on that piano now. You’re a part of the place now!” I felt like an ass, very self-conscious and regretful. I thought I’d done something disrespectful. My discomfort only lasted moments, however. The band came out and the set from Leroy Jones and the Preservation Hall All Stars was fantastic. Their version of “Saint James Infirmary” nearly brought me to tears. “They All Ask’d For You” was a nice little surprise. They closed the set with “What A Wonderful World” and of course a rousing rendition of “The Saints”. The venue is the best in the city. Period. Later, Shawn said, “That place is amazing. Think of all the great music that’s been played there. It’s soaked into the walls.” Now I’m a part of that wall-soaking, and however minute, that feels pretty damn awesome.
After the set, we were hungry, so we headed over to The Camellia Grill on Chartres St. for some diner fare. I got a tomato salad and some onion rings, and Shawn got what he described as “the best bacon and egg sandwich I’ve ever had in my life!”. We got back to the hotel and slept like the dead.
Today, the weather looks amazing once again and we’re headed to Jazz Fest today! We’ll meet up with Tina’s sister Kathy and her family and take in more music, more food, more sun, and more fun! We never want to leave this amazing place!