Saturday, 19 February 2011

Who Dat? Oh, Hey Baby!

After the trauma of a bus journey so long and so tedious and hair raising that it should have it's own blog post we needed somewhere to relax and Tulsa was just the ticket. Gorging on delicious food and drinking micro brewed beer from across the states really recharged the batteries and a big thank you must go out to Sam and family for putting us up and making us feel like part of the family. Much needed.

We arrived in N'Orleans after a 13 hour drive from Oklahoma in a comfortable and air conditioned car which made the whole journey seem like a pleasent dream. Especially when we arrived and noticed a positive swing of 40C compared to Tulsa's -20C the previous evening. We found ourselves basking in a positively balmy 18C in the positive which we hadn't felt since the height of the UK summer.

The first night was taken up adjusting to what can only be described as a debauched atmosphere prevelant throughout the city. Drinking in the street is encouraged and a ubiquotous Daiquiri called the 'hurricane' a bright red icey concoction so strong it actually hurt to drink, was a nice way to ease the 13 hours of stiffness from our weary limbs.

The music in New Orleans is unlike anything I've ever experienced. Every bar had a hugely talented band comprising of, at least, a trumpet, a guitar, a saxaphone and drums and the music drifts out and mingles together with the smell of Jumbalaya and Gumbo to create an absolutely unbelievable atmosphere. How an entire city can be so laid back I have no idea, particularly after the still raw and visible effects of Katrina a mere six years ago.

The next day, a saturday and our first full day in what was rapidly becoming our favourite leg of the trip so far, we decided to throw caution to the winds and follow the advice given to Judge and Pat, our travelling companions, on their flight to meet us in the Big Easy.
"If you aren't completely drunk the whole time you're in New Orleans, then you have completely missed the point".
Words we took to heart and the saturday turned, in predictable fashion, to flash memories of a fantastic time had along Bourbon and Frenchman Streets listening to Jazz, Blues and an assortment of Brass Bands, that piss from a great height onto the twitching, talentless corpses of 99% of the dross that infects the UK and American charts. I honestly can't find the words to impress on you how good New Orleans is, and if you ever get the chance I urge you in the strongest possible terms to visit.

The next day, our last, began with a chorus of what sounded like screeching drills, hammering and angle grinding. I thought it may have been coming from inside my own head and was a new side effect of a hangover so intense that it hurt to look at the inside of my eyelids, but no, it was the soothing tone of the hostel building some new rooms to accomodate the influx of guests for Mardi Gras. It turned out to be heaven sent because it made sleep impossible and we were forced out of our beds to get some breakfast and it was here that we met Phillip a young canadian who as it turns out has a knack for finding the craziness.

"Yeah I got the route down here but I was just wondering how safe it was going to be?" I started listening as Phillip quizzed one of the hostel workers regarding something called the 'Second Line Parade' which happens every sunday in different areas of New Orleans. On this particular Sunday it was happening in the Lower Ninth Ward, an area you might recognise as being the one completely devastated by Katrina. Phillip it turned out, needed people to go with, as the area itself is one of the poorest and therefore one of the less salubrious and more problematic, shall we say, that N'Orleans has to offer and a 5ft 5 white Canadian would have been a curiosity to say the least. It sounded like it was a little edgy, a little off the beaten track and alot of amzing fun. The only thing was that the route was not published as it was strictly a local tradition and one that few tourists ever got to hear about. Phillip had got the information from a local guy who was returning to rebuild his mothers house, long since devastated by the Levees collapse. We were on board.

We got the number 84 bus with more than a little apprehension and rode around the devastated lower Ninth Ward faces pressed against the glass in awe at the still prominent devastation. Houses still with furniture in them and eery messages spray painted on them. "NO DOGS SEEN"- "GAS OFF"- "1 SMALL DOG" and the strange crosses and code devised to let the clean up crews know which houses contained dead bodies and where they were located. These sat side by side with houses that had been completely renovated. It truly was an extremely strange feeling. We got off on one of the main roads before the bus returned back over the canal to New Orleans city centre and started trying to locate the parade.

We eventually saw flashing lights in the distance and followed the atmosphere. We walked past the NOPD vehicles that had been blocking the roads and found ourselves faced with a truly sureal scene. Row upon row of souped up cars lined the central reservations, 24 inch rims glinted in the sunlight as powerful stereos blasted out Hip Hop at ear bleeding levels and the smell of BBQ permeated the exhaust fumes of the high powered motorcycles openly doing wheelies past the yawning police officers with locals on horseback following behind. Absolutely. Fucking. Mental.
We looked around at each other, LITERALLY the only 6 white faces as far as the eye could see.

We carried on walking and tried to find the parade, it had recently passed and we caught up with it outside 'The House of Dance and Feathers' where the band had stopped and were playing in the middle of about 2000 dancing and singing bodies. I don't know what any of the music was or who it was by but what I can tell you is that it was exactly of the right and pertinent for that moment. The smell of weed was pungent and the police seemed to be mingling freely and shaking hands with guys who looked like extras from an episode of the wire. Gold teeth glinting and everyone in their finery out to impress and party away the warm sunday afternoon. A mobility scooter pulling a huge cooler passed and we walked alongside it and got a couple of beers to walk along with. Emma nipped over to a van with a guy in the back cooking BBQ Sausage, Burgers and 'Poke Chops' and the parade continued for another hour or so until it reached it's conclusion and eventually the crowd accepted the fact that the show was over. We walked to the bus stop and waited for the traffic to clear with huge smiles splitting our faces. We had all experienced something that we would never forget and this goes down as one of the standout experiences of our lives so far. I say that in all seriousness as I am not one for hyperbole.

In a way I was glad we left the next day as it would have been extremely difficult indeed to top the previous days shenannigans so it was tinged with sadness but fully satisfied that we picked up the hire car and set off with Judge and Pat on the next leg.

Next stop, loads of different places. Road trip from N'Orleans to Vegas.


  1. Brilliant mates...what a read - you totally transported me from the shitty cold of a Sheffield morning. Keep them coming.

  2. (this is Jude on my work gmail)