PA to LA: Day 4
June 4, 2003
June 4: Our last day in the land of boobs, bummies, and things that go drunk in the night began innocently enough at Mother's World's Best Baked Ham Restaurant at 401 Poydras. I am beginning to feel that we're on some kind of "Eating Their Way Across America" tour and am almost looking forward to being in the car tomorrow with only Diet-Pepsi and assorted junk food. But I digress.
To ask the locals about Mother's Restaurant yields a variety of responses. Some highly recommend it. Others note that it's "not as good as it used to be." Having never experienced it, and hungry for a late breakfast we decided to check it out. Here's how it works. You enter. You are given a menu and you are then sent into a lunch queue. The queue advances at a decent rate of speed until you arrive at the counter to place your order and state your name. Once placed you advance to the cashier and pay for the order. Shortly thereafter, your name is called, announcing your food is ready. If you don't step up to the counter to claim it, don't worry; the staff walk around (the place has three separate rooms with tables and chairs) til they locate you, at which point your meal is brought to the table). Di went with gumbo and steamed cabbage. I went with the (what is fast becoming) usual--catfish po boy with fries. Far superior to yesterday's po boy--obviously these guys had a bigger boat or used a better bait or injected steroids into the ocean cause the piece 'o fish on this roll was about the size of Ahab's Great White. Mother's has a "no tipping" policy which we inquired about. The staff are paid a regular wage--not the less-than-minimum wage that most wait staff receive. Thus, the management decided to effect the no tips policy. End of story.
Looking for a camera to replace the one that was lost a day ago, we wandered into The Camera Shop on the outskirts of the French Quarter. Di attempted to purchase the exact camera she'd lost, a camera she'd purchased on e-bay for $80. There were two male employees in the shop. The one who waited on us asked how much we wanted to pay. Di explained the $80 e-bay deal but we were told the best he could do was $129 plus tax. She said no thanks and we started to walk. The second man then asked how much we wanted to pay. Di said no more than $129 including tax. He said okay. End of story. Well, not quite. There was the matter of a battery for which he wanted to charge an additional $15--a battery that should have come with the camera. Di protested and asked that the sale be voided. Her credit card was begrudgingly returned to her and the merchant referred to us as "a piece of shit" and then told us to "get the fuck out of my store." We smiled and waved, thanking him for his charm, professionalism, and salesmanship. I'm sure his store will continue to prosper for a long time, though I've no doubt there is an extra comfy chair waiting for him in Hell. End of story.
We walked into the French Quarter and found our way through the more residential areas of town where the buildings look more suited for Ocean City or even San Francisco's art district--each property is painted in lavish primary and secondary colors with often complimentary color trim. But the buildings are weathered from the Gulf storms, and the massive shutters that adorn each building are closed, their paint chipping from the wear and tear of time and nature.
We passed by several art museums including the Peligro at 305 Decatur Street. Di was swept away by the work of Mark Bercier who paints with a very simple, intentionally childlike quality, one that is alive in both its innocence and its positive outlook. While we could ill afford one of Mssr. Bercier's originals, I promised Di I'd render some work in his style. We visited several more galleries filled with refreshingly bright oils on canvas. It was quite enjoyable to visit these galleries--like going into a series of mini-museums. End of story.
We found our way to the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, final resting place of many natives including the mysterious Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau (whose tomb, incidentally, we did not find). The St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is quite unusual. The entire cemetery is surrounded by a massive, and in parts, decaying, brick wall; the entrance way consists of an iron gate. Within this fortress is a city of the dead. Each tomb looks like its own residence, and in a sense, I suppose it is. There are fat tombs, skinny tombs, tombs that climb on rocks; tough tombs, sissy tombs, even tombs with chicken pox. It felt quite relaxing, walking among the "burial ovens" of the St. Louis No. 1. Some of the ovens (above-ground tombs) were open and empty. I was tempted to climb into one--just to try it out--but my own vanity at remaining dirt-free prevented my doing so. Eventually we returned to the entrance, only to find the gate closed and chained shut. Initially thinking this to be a prank played upon us by a local, I tried opening the gate, only to find the chain secured by a Master Lock. Little did we know the cemetery "closes" at 3:00 pm (we'd arrived around 2:45). If one finds oneself locked in a cemetery in a historic city known largely for vampires and voodoo, one can choose several options--scream for help, climb into and oven and settle in for the night, climb atop the tombs and jump the fence. Fortunately, a fourth option presented us as to our undying luck a duo of city employees happened along; to our relief they unlocked the gate. Seeing as it was looking like rain we hailed a cab--actually we found a cabbie at a gas station and hopped in and headed back to the hotel. End of story.
Following a brief nap, Di headed back to Mother's Restaurant in search of a ham hock for Chad. She returned not with hock but with po boy--a roast beef po boy, which Chad, Jasper, and Austin devoured like savage carnivores. Anyway, once the pets were well fed, we headed out to the Riverwalk Marketplace that runs along the banks of the Mississippi. We stopped at Anthony's Seafood & Lobster House where much lobster was devoured. Afterward we walked to the I-Max theatre but were disappointed to find it closed.
Our final stop for the evening was the Cafe Du Monde, a New Orleans tradition. This outdoor coffee house has a limited menu--so limited, in fact, that it fits on the side of the metal paper-napkin dispensers found on each table. Basically, your choices are--coffee and beignets, coffee and beignets, or coffee and beignets. Di and I had the coffee and beignets. Beignets, to the uninitiated, are French pastries drenched in powdered sugar. Kind of like a flakier, fluffier (or as Di described--"foam pillow") donut. Two coffees, three beignets, and a ceramic, illustrated coffee mug for less than ten bucks. The beignets cost $1.37 for three--our cabbie said that he regularly purchases a dozen a night, and I'm sure I would, too, were I a resident of these parts. Store of endy.
Tomorrow we leave New Orleans and drive 500 miles west to Dallas, Texas, home of the Cowboys, line dancing, mechanical bulls, ten-gallon hats, and two of the nicest people we've ever had the pleasure of knowing...
Post script: During our respite before dinner we found the camera Di had been looking for in town--the one that so provoked the little camera-man-child earlier in the day. We found several on ebay and purchased one using "buy it now" for fifty bucks American. He shoots. He scores.