The first rule of daiquiri club is: watch ...

Trip Start Jun 29, 1999
Trip End Dec 04, 1999

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Flag of United States  , Louisiana
Friday, November 26, 1999

The first rule of Daiquiri Club is: Watch out for the Braino. The second rule of Daiquiri club is: Watch out for the Braino.

Yes, the toughest part about slurping down a 32 ounce Hurricane Daiquiri (for $9) is avoiding the Braino (some call it the Milkshake Headache). But enough of my drinking prowess I must take you back a couple of days.

Monday, November 22
I took off from Houston early listening to the sounds of KLOL radio, one of the better hard rock stations I've come across in my various car trips. How do I know it's a good radio station? First off, they managed to play both an AC/DC song (Thunderstruck) and a Led Zeppelin song (Ramble On) within the first 10 minutes of me dialing in. Then they played Van Halen's version of "Pretty Woman" complete with the 3 minutes of guitar skronk that appears before the actual song kicks in. Finally, they still think Guns 'n' Roses is a kick ass band. That's all the proof I need.

I headed along I-10 to Beaumont where I then curved southward to Port Arthur. Everywhere along the Gulf coast of Texas above Corpus Christi you cannot forget that this is a state knee-deep in oil. The oil business isn't so great right now and the boarded up downtown of Port Arthur attests to that. I continued onward towards Sea Rim State Park. Texas Hwy #87 goes straight through the middle of an oil refinery and all the way along the river here you can see giant aging ocean-going drilling rigs. It's like driving through an alien city as this architecture is so foreign to what I'm used to. Sea Rim State Park is very nice with a great beach. I only dropped by to see what it was like and didn't stay long. It's tough to enjoy a beach when you can look out into the ocean and see those big drilling rigs. I came back towards Port Arthur and then turned eastward along Texas Hwy #82 which soon crosses over the state line into Louisiana. On this side of the stateline things are quite a bit more pristine. The road flattens out as you cross the continent's biggest swamp. The fall season had come to the swamp which made it even prettier. Soon you find yourself driving right along the coast where the turbulent water lifts up so much silt that the surf appears to be liquid chocolate. This is Acadia and I was really interested in seeing some of the Catholic churches in the area since my visit to Canadian Acadia in July. Unfortunately, since the Catholic religion was somewhat repressed in the 1800's during and after the Southern Reconstruction not many of the churches achieved the same simple grandeur as the ones that dotted eastern Quebec and the Atlantic provinces. The highwat cuts inward and the marsh grass gives way to large oaks and magnolia trees. It was a fantastic drive that ended in the town of New Iberia just in time for sundown. I found a decent campground for $12 and had some dinner down at Duffy's Diner and went to bed.

Tuesday, November 23
New Iberia is home to a wonderful antebellum mansion built in 1834. Shadows-On-The-Teche remained in the hands of the Weeks family from construction until the final generation to live in it willed in to the National Trust in 1958. What's amazing about this home is that 90% of the furniture is authentic - it actually belonged to the family - and whatever they didn't have they could reproduce as the family kept all its records, 17000 documents including grocery receipts, from the time the house was built. The tour of the home and the grounds were well worth the $6 fee. The last resident of the house was Weeks Hall an art professor at Tulane University. He ran in some weird crowds. Instead of a guestbook he had house guests sign a large white door in the attic. The collection of signatures are amazing: Henry Miller, Francis Biddle, Cecil B DeMille, Arleigh Burke, Tex Ritter, Walt Disney, Elia Kazan, Kate Chopin.

After the tour I then found out the easiest way to turn your car into a steamroom. I suggest leaving it out in the hot Louisiana sun for two hours with a wet towel in the back seat.

I stuck to State Hwy #182 until it hooked up with Route 90 and followed it through the deep swamp into New Orleans. I quickly found a hostel which is located only a block from the Garden District. My first move was to head up to the University of New Orleans in hopes of running into Professor Douglas Brinkley. In 1992, Brinkley initiated a university course where students would ride a bus across the US for 6 weeks visiting historic sites and reading seminal works of American fiction. His account of this first trip, "Majic Bus: An American Odyssey," helped push me toward this adventure I'm currently undertaking. As luck would have it I just happened to show up on campus during Brinkley's only course of this term. I staked out his office but unfortunately he must have left straight from class (probably running out to get ready for Thanksgiving). I think I'm going to drop by and shove the website address for this travelogue under his office door on the way out of town tomorrow.

In the evening I headed down to the French Quarter for some dinner and drinks. I stopped at The Country Flame restaurant on Iberville for cheap beer ($1.50 per glass) and cheap food ($4 for a Cuban sandwich and free chips and salsa). Then I was ready for Bourbon Street. New Orleans is home to a rich musical tradition with jazz, blues and Cajun being very popular in the area. I stopped in at Maison Bourbon for some traditional Dixieland jazz. The band was very good but I couldn't stop giggling to myself as the bandleader and trumpter was a dead-ringer for G. Gordon Liddy. Just the notion of Liddy as a jazz man kept me tittering all evening. I took in a couple of sets and then headed back to the hostel for bed.

Wednesday, November 24
I spent most of the day wandering around the French Quarter admiring the old buildings and sampling pecan pralines. The Quarter needs at least a full day of wandering to be able to appreciate it all. The prettiest streets are Royal and Chartes. Jackson Square and the St. Louis Cathedral are the highlight of the quarter. For lunch I slipped into Johnny Po'Boys. A Po'Boy is a huge sandwich made with French stick bread. I had the Johnny Special - hot beef and ham with Swiss and Cheddar cheese. Ladies and gentlemen, shake hands with beef. By the end of my meal I had sandwich running down my arms to my elbows. It was great. I took the St.Charles Streetcar back to the hostel for a little nap and then headed back out to Bourbon Street. My first stop was to an "alcohol to go" type place where I picked up the aforementioned daiquiri. After a 30 minute braino I snuck into Patout's Cajun Cabin for some jambalaya, beer and music. Visitors to the quarter be forewarned that a beer while sitting in a bar will cost you at least $5 while getting on to go will only run you $2. Any bars with live bands will enforce a one drink per set minimum. I then moved over to the R&B Club to watch for some up-tempo blues music and a couple more beers. The R&B Club has music until 8am. I didn't even come close to making it. As I mentioned earlier, New Orleans has a rich musical tradition but the most popular bar on Bourbon Street is Cat's Meow - a karoake bar. You should only go there if you enjoy big fat German guys singing "Livin La Vida Loca."

Thursday, November 25
This was Day #150 of the trip. It was also the first time I had encountered rain in 50 days. It was also American Thanksgiving. It was really a crappy day weather wise and due to a mix up my cemetary tour got post-poned. I got to check out the Voodoo Museum and it was very good and very informative. I'll talk more about this later.

Igor's, a bar around the corner from the hostel, was offering a free Thanksgiving dinner and I took advantage. It was excellent - turkey, ham, stuffing, sweet potato, pumpkin pie, lemon loaf, and some strange spicy green bean and onion dish. I enjoyed a couple of beers and watched the football games (Yea Cowboys!!!). I took a short walk around the Garden District in the rain and then called it a day. I chose not to head out for the evening.

Friday, November 26
Remeber these three words that will revolutionize breakfast as we know it: Cajun Chicken McBiscuit. In a town full of awesome restaurants even I think it's a shame I went to McDonald's but I admit that I'm addicted to McBiscuits. I headed back to the Voodoo Museum to do my cemetary tour. The tour starts with a guided look at the Museum which focuses on specific terminology like gris-gris, juju, and vey-vey as well as the repression of the religion and Creole society by the American government after the Reconstruction. Then we moved on to the quarter where we learned about the history of how the city tried to bury its dead with little success. Bodies still turn up everytime someone does some serious digging in the quarter. Finally we reached the oldest existing cemetary in the city St.Louis #1 which was started in 1789. By this time the above ground tomb was now in vogue which was perfect for New Orleans since it is several feet below sea level. It's a creepy place even in the daylight and our guide was great. She held my attention the whole time. If you're looking to do a tour like this in New Orleans look up Bloody Mary. We got to visit the graves of several famous voodoo doctors and queens including that of Marie Laveau. There are also a couple of tombs so degraded that you can actually look inside of them at the bones. In this cemetary, which is only the size of a city block, there are about half a million people buried. There was one tomb that had the bones of 14 people in a single shelf. We were then lead out of the cemetary to the House of the Rising Sun for the finale... voodoo, cemetary and a brothel all in one tour! I heade back to the Garden District where I did my own self-guided tour (I have a tour guidebook that I'm willing to lend) for most of the afternoon. This is the old ritzy part of town that's now home to Peyton Manning, Ann Rice, and Trent Reznor. I was hoping to catch Trent by surprise as he mowed his lawn in his boxer shorts while slurping from a can of Bud but I was disappointed. At the local bookstore you can actually ask for these people's addresses but since I had done enough stalking on my trip I decided against it. The homes in the area are a great mishmash of architectural styles and the sheer size of some of them are overwhelming in themselves. The area is definitely worth a look. If you stop by Commander's Palace restaurant you can taste from the menu of the restaurant ranked #1 in the world for the last 5 years in a row. It was a bit beyond my budget. I came back to the quarter for some dinner at Mama Rosa's on Rampart Street. People Magazine named it one of the Top 10 pizzarias in America. I took this knowledge with a grain of salt as I cannot trust the taste of a magazine that consistently overlooks me as the Sexiest Man Alive year after year. This year I lost to Richard Gere?!? Next year I'm due! The pizza at Mama Rosa's is even better than advertised. Super duper pie. I can't believe I ate the whole thing. Bourbon Street is buzzing already as the Bayou Classic Football game is tomorrow so the town is filled with tourists. Time for Daiquiri club!
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