Day Three, we awoke in New Orleans before 7 a.m., excited and peppy and ready to go. Sadly, most of the French Quarter was still asleep, but we found a place to hang out while we waited for them to catch up with us. No matter where you go, Mondays are Mondays.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
This year’s trip began as a simple idea: visit ostensibly scenic New Orleans. Indianapolis to New Orleans is a fourteen-hour drive. Between our workplace demands and other assorted personal needs, we negotiated a narrow seven-day time frame to travel there and back again. We researched numerous possible routes, cities, and towns to visit along the way in Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi. We came up with a long, deep list of potential stops, but tried to leave room for improvisation…
As we walked out the front door of our hotel, we realized we nearly had the streets to yourself. Our first guess was all the hangovers. Then we waited five seconds for the heat and humidity to hit us. Five seconds after that came the pungent stench of industrial-grade Pine-Sol and used alcohol, fighting for asphalt-coating supremacy as an armada of street sweepers hosed down the bricks and asphalt from block to block. If every morning felt and smelled like this, I think I’d sleep in daily till noon myself.
The humidity was pervasive enough to fog up my camera lens for the next half-hour or more. I took several shots that look as though they were taken from the inside of a cloud. Complete evaporation took a full hour or more as we walked over to Bourbon Street.
Here and there we saw minimal signs of life — construction/road-repair crews, restaurant folks cleaning up the previous night’s bacchanalia, a handful of other eager tourists like us. South of the French Quarter I’m sure life was busier in the Central Business District, where they keep all their modest skyscrapers and fiduciary companies and such. We had business in that direction later, but not just yet.
Fortunately we found a place open for breakfast called Cafe Beignet, nearby and outdoors. You’ll note their sign hiding in the background of the lead photo. Their foyer is a small collection of statues billed as Musical Legends Park. There’s no admission fee or animals or rangers. It’s just statues of jazz legends — three up front, a few more in the back. Also, plants.
Beyond the statues, the cafe sells a number of breakfast options. Anne had pecan waffles; I had an andouille sausage omelet. No fancy presentation in either case, just solid grub. Andouille sausage is an uncommon treat for me, though for all I know, in New Orleans they probably sell it by the pound in every major grocery and gas station.
We relaxed, we ate, we enjoyed the ambiance.
Our feature presentation: live jazz! Yes, at 8 a.m.! Yep breakfast and a show!
Even before we arrived in New Orleans I’d been feeling slight pings of jazz curiosity. Once upon a time, jazz was one of those things that was an instant “no” for me without explanation. Over the past year or so, repeated exposure in small doses had slowly started to bend my ear. Considerable credit goes to sources such as Birdman and Whiplash, but they weren’t my sole input. So when we looked up Cafe Beignet and learned they offer live jazz every morning, I had to see and hear for myself.
No, they weren’t Grammy Award winners, or household names, or ambitious hopefuls dreaming of life on the Branson circuit. This jazz ensemble — drums, trumpet, keyboards/vocals — was just a trio of working stiffs who play for a living, pretty much like any other jazz musician at any upscale club or seedy dive. It just so happens this trio specializes in plying their craft shortly after cockcrow, hours before the brains of most residents are awake enough to perceive music as a concept.
They took requests, though in our ignorance we didn’t have any. I was briefly tempted to ask if they could play “Whiplash” or even “Caravan”, but I stifled myself because I was afraid to learn in person what actual jazz musicians thought of the film. We were happy to let them choose whatever felt right. Who were we to tell New Orleans what to do?
(Besides, if we could tell New Orleans what to do, order #1 would be to do something about that citywide sun-baked autopsy-cleanser stink. It did not make eating easy.)
To be continued!
[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for previous and future chapters, and for our complete road trip history to date. Thanks for reading!]