65 South takes us toward Cajun country. From Houma to Texas this land ws settled by French colonists of Acadia, part of Nova Scotia. It was also recently settled by the 6'6 300lbs Ragin Cajun Jamal who will join us in New Orleans for the next few days.
The first time I visited the French Quarter I was a poor freshman at Mizzou who quit my job at the sub shop to see the Mardi Gras celebration. I had less than thirty dollars in my pocket and a bag full of granola bars swiped with my meal ticket in the cafeteria. We had no place to stay and winded up spending the nights in a car
. The streets were full of inebriated boys in greek tagged shirts chanting for more visions of flesh. Beads flew through the air like confetti and people scurried to get them. I like the scene more this time around. Bourbon Street makes an effort to revive the Fat Tuesday spirit but the rest of New Orleans is at a normal pace of life. I pay a visit to Priestess Miriam at the Voodoo Spiritual Temple who provides me with a few prayers and a bag of mojo to help me along my travels. Just north of the temple is Louis Armstrong park, formerly Congo Square. Slaves use to gather here to bang out rhythms from their drums. The music attracted women who smelt of jasmine perfume, so the men named the music jazz. Just down Rampart St is the first of two cities of the dead we walk through. Much of NOLA is at or below see level. Flooding here caused coffins to surface so they were replaced with Spanish above ground brick and stucco vaults. Well off families purchased huge vaults to rest the bodies of ones no longer with us. The dead are adorned with beads, flowers, and bottles of wine. Next is Lafayette number one, similar to the others but lies in the garden district. The neighborhood is full of southern mansions with cast iron fences. The houses are worth millions but no one seems to ever slap a new coat of paint on these old homes. However, it adds to the charm. Later we picnic in the shade of Spanish moss swathed trees in Audubon park. We found good local ambiance and the perfect dive bars along Decatur and up Frenchman St. Strong coffee and Turkish delights were served at Khave, the perfect little cafe made into an old West Indies structure of red brick and Cyprus beams. Tourism is booming in the French Quarter but go driving to and from places and you notice dilapidated houses with boarded up windows, panels of wood rotting away, and families cooling off on the front porch. Many years post Katrina and people are still living in conditions I haven't seen anywhere else in America.
Who new the number one place in the US to gorge yourself is less than one mile from my parent's house. I don't know why but I amused myself for hours thinking about Gina and her sisters eating at Lamberts, the first of many meals we will stuff ourselves beyond full during our little US road trip.