Monday, May 5, 2008

Why do ...

... when you can overdo. That's one of Michelle's favorite expressions and it could be the official city motto of New Orleans, where it's almost impossible to say when. We've certainly had our fill here, and then some, during the excellent four-day New Orleans leg of Pie in the Sky II.

Oysters (lots of 'em), beignes (lots and lots of 'em), crawfish, music, alcohol, sightseeing, gambling, hanging out with friends, driving around looking for a parking place: We've done a lot of what this cool town has to offer, more than once. Very fun. But two weeks into the big road trip now and, honestly, we're kinda bushed.

Yesterday, Sunday, we spent another nice day at JazzFest. Totally different weather than Friday. Really hot, like 90, with huge crowds, pretty long lines and, still, people slipping around in the mud left over from the Friday and Saturday rains. We heard some good music. I especially liked the Rebirth Brass Band, the Raconteurs (Jack White's other band) and the excellent Neville Brothers set -- with a surprise guest appearance by Carlos Santana -- that closed out the festival to a beautiful sunset.

In honor of JazzFest and one of the big stages set up around the fairgrounds track, I've amended Michelle's expression to: Why do when you can fais do-do? That's funny to me, because I could never remember how to pronounce the Fais Do-Do stage (it's actually like "fay doh-doh," and named after a Cajun dance party). I've always said "fie dew dew," and Michelle teases me for being a know-nothing out-of-towner. So now I've made it official. Why do when you can fie do do.

This morning we played tennis with Freda and Sandyman (why do ...) before packing up and preparing now to hit the road for the next stop, Biloxi and Gulfport, Miss., where we hear there's good poker action.

Here are a few stray pics from the past few days.

Michelle at one of her favorite fast-food joints (this one in West Memphis, Ark.).

Entering Tennessee on Thursday morning.

We went to Beale Street, center of the Memphis blues nightlife scene, and both really liked it a lot. They had a big music festival scheduled for this past weekend and the lineup looked so good, including a lot of the acts from JazzFest, that we briefly considered putting off New Orleans and hanging out there instead. We both bought t-shirts from this Tater Reds place, and Michelle also picked up a cool painting from Mr. Red himself.

Memphis is also home to Stax Records, probably my favorite label. Instead of driving out to Graceland we made a short pilgrimage here, where Mavis Staples, Otis Redding, Al Green and many others made their classic recordings. Soulsville, USA! I loved it.

Crossing into Louisiana after a pretty drive south through Mississippi.

Michelle and her mom in the backyard of Freda's comfy home in Kenner, a New Orleans suburb. Freda's been a great host, putting us up for days and putting up with our late hours, constant eating and relentless search for neighbors' wireless connections. Also she cooked up some delicious crawfish etouffee, made her trademark Freda Salad and, just now, fried me up some post-tennis crabcakes. Hard to leave this place.

On Saturday Freda drove us out to a beautiful old plantation on the west bank of the Mississippi, Oak Alley. It was an interesting tour, full of history if a little detail-skatey about the whole slavery thing. The short version: In the early 1700s, some settler planted these 28 oak trees above in two long rows leading up to a little house. In 1836 some really rich dude bought the property, knocked down the house and had his slaves build the gorgeous mansion we toured to tempt his young party-girl wife out to the country from New Orleans. After the Civil War the place was abandoned and fell into disrepair. Some smart cat bought the whole shebang for $50,000 in the 1940s and spent another $60 thousand or so refurbishing it. When his widow died 15 years ago or so a foundation took the place over and now they maintain it by selling tours and doodads.

Also mint juleps, which I had never tried. But I figured how often am I going to be at a real Southern Plantation, with a veranda and a julep at the ready. Nice. I see why they got popular. We bought some bourbon and mint juice and made some more when we got home.

Pretty day yesterday at JazzFest. This was the Gentilly Stage, where we saw the Raconteurs.

The Neville Brothers (with Santana playing the red guitar), at the Acura Stage.

Last night we had dinner with Freda at Deanies, a seafood favorite hereabouts.

This morning's tennis group. Sandy and Freda let Michelle and me win two games before finishing us off 6 games to 2. I was shocked and proud, honestly, that we scored any points at all.

OK, time to go. See you on the Gulf Coast.


freda said...

great post, I love it. I miss you guys already, come on back now, hear?

Janice said...

Ah, looks good.

Anonymous said...

Great creative combinations of pics, leads and narritives. Told you how I look forward each day to see how my trip is going.....I had no idea I was having so much fun! You guys sure know how to get the most out of a road trip! I can't imagine that kind of stamina holding up for three months! Good luck.

The gulf coast sounds wonderful and I hope you make big-time impressions on the casinos there.

Rita said...

Woops - forgot to sign in 'Rita'

mich said...

Great post and pics! What a trip so far. You guys sure have packed a lot in. So far, you've missed two sunny days and a whole lot of rain in Seattle. Enjoy the journey.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mark, Michelle-I sure did enjoy your visit. The tennis win took it's toll - A cloud of Ben Gay hangs heavy over my cubicle. But I had a blast. Kate says I look ageless but I'm feeling pretty decrepid after 30 minutes of tennis. (Hi Kate and Val.) I hope the rest of the road trip goes great....Sandy

Jim Thomsen said...

Good stuff.

Jack White is a freaking intuitive musical genius. How he does so much with such primitivity is awesome to behold. He's like a gleefully demented kid bashing and slashing away on garage-sale instruments in his parents' basement and having a fine old time while he's at it. I especially admire his emphasis on the lost art of rhythmically perfect lyrical phrasing. I believe he's one of the all-time greats of rock music.

kateco said...

my cajun mawmaw used to send us to sleep by telling us fais do-do: make some sleep.