New Orleans II

by Lenny Hughes

Leaving New Orleans-November 14

We're barreling toward Houston on the I-10. Swamps, bayous, white egrets, gray Spanish moss, and nary an alligator. Too cold? It's about 50 now, but yesterday, in New Orleans it was overcast, windy as hell and cold as D.C. In November.

Lewis was freaked out: "Jesus-the weather is shit out there," he said yesterday morning. "I just walked two blocks and that was enough. Have fun-it's your town. Take an umbrella."

Hahaha....he spent the day in the hotel. But he wasn't kidding. Only a Big-Easy fanatic would set out at 11 a.m., and wander around grinning like a hebephrenic for four hours in the French Quarter on the coldest day of the year.

Before crossing Canal Street into the old section, I visited the bronze statue of Ignatious Reilly, erected a few years ago on the site of the opening scened of "A Confederacy of Dunces."

I made it down to the Cathedral (the second most sacred site in the city, next to the Dome), and up Pirate's Alley (one of the most photographed and painted settings in the town). Lafitte supposedly smuggled his booty through the passageway. I shot a little historical marker on the facade of his blacksmith shop up on Bourbon Street.

The Faulkner House is just off the alley, and I got a few things there. Just up the block is my favorite bookstore, the Arcadian Book Shop, which is so loaded with books, you really can't move around very well. That didn't stop me from hauling out another load, which I carried up to the Dauphine Street Book Shop for another pile of remarkable finds.

Everywhere you go in that place, there's something to see. The Voodoo Shop on Bourbon, the faded ads painted on buildings in an earlier time-even the graffiti is good in New Orleans, and I HATE graffiti.

I trundled back to the hotel, and we split for the Mahalia Jackson. The show was fantastic, naturally. And the crowd was too.

Before heading out this morning, I hit the new Riverwalk Outlets mall where the Bus was parked, and picked up some beignets for the boys, and drank a cup of cafe au lait at the fake Cafe du Monde (better than the stuff I got at the real one yesterday). Got some nice views of the Mississippi out on the dock, including the Creole Queen stern-wheeler.

We pulled out past Mother's on Poydras, and the Place d'Italia (where the dead body was dumped in the opening scene of "The Big Easy"), and had a nice view of the Superdome before we hit I-10.

We crossed the Mississippi at Baton Rouge, and you could see Huey Long's statehouse in the distance as we headed west.

More later from the Big T.