October 13, 2004

New Orleans Afternoon and Evening

So at lunchtime yesterday I set out in search of an undistinguished lunch, and Bookstar. I'm not a foodie, and I'm terribly afraid that culinarily New Orleans is wasted on me. Besides, I didn't see any point in having a long, leisurely fancy meal when I could be out exploring. Bookstar, according to my Google search, was just west of the Jax Brewery Mall on Decatur, just where it joins with N. Peters. Thus, I hied myself to the Jax Brewery, had a suitably undistinguished lunch, and then went on the additional block where the counter guy at Tower Records assured me that I was not going blind, that Bookstar was not hiding from me but had been replaced by something else a year earlier.

'Net 0, New Orleans 1.

I'd already done a lot of wandering up and down the western half of the French Quarter; plus, there were two more book stores worth checking out in the eastern half--one close to my hotel, and one in the northeast corner. I didn't think I'd make it that far; I sort of planned on going just far enough east to hit the first one, and then back to the hotel. But somehow I just kept walking, and I'm glad I did.

My first stop was at the French Market, which is just off Decatur in the southeast corner of the Quarter. It's a combined farmer's market and flea market, with many more alligator heads than I'm used to seeing at your typical flea markets. I picked up a couple of Preservation Hall Jazz Band CDs.

At the end of the French Market I turned left and headed up Barracks Avenue to Kaboom books. And I have to say, that was the best part of the walk, that and the walk back along Bourbon Street to my hotel. Both stretches of road are mostly residential, with a very different flavor than the commercial streets. I was fascinated to see that although most of the houses looked pretty dingy with old battered doors, peeling paint, crumbling brick, and so forth, the cars parked outside them were all in good condition, and not inexpensive. I'd love to see inside some of the houses, because I suspect that the seediness is a bit of an act.

The other thing I noticed on the way down Bourbon Street is that a lot of the houses had what I can only call stoops...except that they were tiny. When I hear the word "stoop" I think of the wide, tall steps in front of New York brownstones. These stoops were about a yard wide, a yard deep, and a yard tall, like little cubes with stairs in the middle.

I did swing by the final bookstore, Librarie Books on Chartres Street, but by the time I got there I had a headache and a footache and I walked right on by. All told, morning and afternoon I'd been walking for four hours, and it was time for a nap.

Around 5:30 I wandered down to the conference area; the afternoon tutorials had just let out and I chatted with a number of folks I knew. And then at 6 a group of us headed off down Bourbon Street to a cajun barbecue place called ZydeQue that I'd seen that morning.

I'd not been on this half of Bourbon Street before, and the contrast with the pleasant residential area I'd walked through during the afternoon was striking. But as this is a family blog, I think I won't go into details. But we had a good dinner at ZydeQue (I had a pulled pork plate with spicy french fries and baked beans), and returned to the hotel by way of Decatur Street. After that I hobnobbed with a few folks and went to bed.

Posted by Will Duquette at October 13, 2004 05:53 PM