A stop by Mimi’s in the Marigny, a dark smokey tapas bar, was decided upon. In trusting the recommendation of a friend we’d order something I never would have thought to, the lamb chops. We’d split the meager portion of two, arriving on a plate of swirled spicy tomato chili sauce and a balsamic reduction and cheers our unsuspectingly divine lollichops. I’d savor every delicious bite of this perfectly seared tender piece of meat, gnaw at the bone. Rather than be left wanting more, I’d begin to imagine the next unexpected mystery we’d encounter.
Shifting the evening’s paradigm from the last night was imperative; different from the overwhelmingly popular tourist destination of Bourbon St. we’d seek out the local dive bar Vaughns. Live music was sought after and upon entering the bar, colorful prayer flags hung from the ceiling, a stage was definitely set, but stirring strangely behind a purple velvet curtain. Feeling of local New Orleans community was instantly tangible along with an anxiousness about whatever spectacle was about to begin. Overhearing excited women’s chatter I’d catch the word, drag. Outrageous acts to heavy metal themed Rock n’ Roll performed by queens with wigs, gaudy jewelry, high arched brows painted on and long fake lashes. Dressed in ever-changing elaborate costumes singing Billy Idol’s White Wedding, Queen’s Fat Bottomed Girls, etc… Hilarious, entertaining and riotous, even, with lap dances being performed and dollar tips being thrown.
There are such moments of masquerade around many dimly lit corners of New Orleans. It sometimes seems contiguous of Carnival, although milder I’m sure, it’s perpetually Mardi Gras; before the abstinence of Lent or life, New Orleans is a place of indulgence, meat, spirits and sex.
Earlier on this night, we’d retreat to our “shack in back” where’d it’d be safe to leave the door open throughout the night, allowing only the cool air in. We’d climb into our bunk beds to sleep and hear the rustling sound of trains passing throughout the night. New Orleans is a place of inception; it enters your dreams. I’d have a dream of falling from which I’d be woken from, but remember feeling unafraid. Despite a forecast of five days rain, we’d wake on the third day to find the morning sun streaming down through the banana trees, soon to be fragrant and blooming plumeria? and see anoles skittering about.
We’d grab Muffuletta sandwiches at Steins Market. Layers of Mortadella, Molinari Sopressata, Tuscan Ham, Aged Provolone, Olive Tapenade on a Ciabatta with Garlic Vinaigrette. While waiting, I’d learn Sicilian immigrants would order the ingredients separately, balancing them all precariously on their knees while sitting upon crates and barrels on their lunch hour and thus the Muffuletta was born. It was delicious as a $12 dollar sandwich better be.
Stomachs filled, we’d venture beyond the winding waterways of the bayou to Grand Isle State Park to greet the Gulf Coast.
I’ll use any opportunity to see the ocean. It’s a barrier island with an ever-changing shape due to water, wind and the Mississippi River. Inland there are Oaks and Oleanders and marshes which transition into grassy dunes as you near the beach. I’d noisily roll out onto the long board walk and we’d stare out at the vast expanse of the sunlit sea and the white whispy clouded sky. Our ride returning to New Orleans would entail listening to Salt-n-Pepa loudly, windows down, wind-swept hair, singing and smiles stretched across our faces.