Louis Armstrong at the New Orleans airport that bears his name
In the Louisiana Museum, at the Katrina exhibit
Bloody Mary's grave, St. Louis Cemetery #1
The Mahalia Jackson Center for the Performing Arts
Inside the 1850 House on St. Ann and Decatur
Louis Armstrong park
Hello all, and welcome to my blog from the Big Easy! It was a crazy and busy week, but it was great! Now, on to the nitty gritty!
The cast and crew arrived in New Orleans from Austin, TX on Monday around 3 PM. After settling in a bit and unpacking, a big group of us headed further into the French Quarter, just off Bourbon Street for our introduction to the Big Easy...a Haunted History tour. After walking through the streets and grabbing a couple of frozen drinks (you can carry them through the streets....crazy....) we took the tour. It wasn't exactly what some people expected, in that we didn't go in any "haunted houses"; it was really more about the history of New Orleans as a whole, and the buildings that are known to have had sightings and hauntings. I have to say, the stories were quite amazing, but the best part of it for me was getting a very detailed and vast tour of The French Quarter and getting me acclimated to the city. One of the stops along the way was Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop; one of the oldest existing buildings in New Orleans, that has now become a bar. Following our tour, we walked around a bit and had worked up an appetite. So, we headed to a place closeby to get some grub, Café Pontalba. I jumped right in and got a crawfish po boy. It was pretty good, but I knew that there were many more good meals ahead. I walked back to the hotel to get some rest for the big day ahead on Tuesday.
I woke up the next day bright and early and headed to the airport to pick up Amy. She flew in about 11 AM, which was a perfect time; not too early, and in enough time so that we had almost all day to walk around. After dropping her bags at the hotel, we walked around the French Quarter a bit, making my obligatory stop at the Hard Rock Café (pictured above). We wandered for quite a while and ended up eating at Landry's Seafood House. It may be a chain, but it had some great Louisiana seafood. I got crawfish etoufee for the first time, and Amy got her first po boy. We also got a free order of seafood stuffed jalapeno poppers...for free. One of the many reasons I check in everywhere on Foursquare. That, and it helps me when I sit down to write my blog after a long week....like right now. From there, we headed next door to an independent record store, Peaches, and after walking around a bit more, headed home to chill before opening night.
I had the pleasure of opening the show in New Orleans as Johnny Cash, and the local press was quite kind to me with the review that followed. Not only that, but the crowd in New Orleans was great! Amy was there, as was an old friend of mine, Pete Roze who did two of the productions of Ring Of Fire I did a few years ago. He's toured a bunch, and is a great guitar player. It was awesome to be able to catch up a bit. It's always nice to go on and get a reception like that. Following our successful opening night, a group of us headed to a bar called Coop's Place on Decatur, and I sampled the duck quesadillas....mmmm.....duck.....
Wednesday morning came very early, as me and the boys headed out for a long morning of press; tv, radio, and an interview. All of the above went quite well, and along the way we stopped for a breakfast break at The Ruby Slipper; I have to say, for a "popular" place that is always busy, I wasn't very impressed. My breakfast was...."ok". Certainly not a highlight of the meals I had in NOLA. Following the few hours of press, Amy and I wandered around some more before stopping in to get some lunch at Desire Oyster Bar. For the second time in as many days, I had alligator. And, I'll tell ya, I could get very used to it. I had had some fried and blackened alligator on our first night in town, and I was acquiring a taste for it. This time, I got sliders....one beef, one pulled pork, one gator. It was quite tasty. We stopped in a place for Amy to get a reading from a medium, but it turned out to not be exactly what she was looking for. So, we headed home so I could rest a bit before going on that night as Johnny Cash again. This time, our writer Colin Escott, and our producers and general management team were in attendance at the show....ya know....no pressure. The show went extremely well, and afterward they invited us to Chartres House for some food and drinks. It turned out to be a really fun night. Though, it started to sink in even more that we are nearing the end of tour. Pretty crazy.....
The next morning, Amy and I woke up bright and early to head to Café du Monde for their legendary beignets. Though we had to wait a bit, I assure you they were worth it. The place has been there for almost 100 years, and locals and tourists alike agree that there is NO other place to get beignets. Once we filled up a bit, we headed down Decatur St to a little coffee shop to meet our tour guide for a cemetery tour. Like the haunted tour, we got a very nice walking tour of the French Quarter, as well as a lot of history about New Orleans, specifically, WHY NOLA cemeteries are as they are....above ground tombs....(see pictures above). There are many factors that I won't bore you with, but essentially it's because of the fact that NOLA is below sea level, and things buried in the ground tend to float to the surface....nice mental image, isn't it? I encourage you to look up the gruesome history of their burial habits, and the yellow fever, etc. that led to so many deaths in that region in it's early history. Along the way, we also stopped at the Basin Street Visitor's Center. It used to be a train station, and thus it had a lot of artifacts from the early days of railroad in that area. After a quick break, we headed off to our final destination (ooooohh. Creepy.....), St. Louis Cemetery #1. Known mostly because of the fact that it houses the famed Voodoo priestess Bloody Mary, and (unfortunately) the ridiculous pyramid that will one day house the remains of Nicholas Cage. The architecture of each tomb was pretty fascinating. More than that, the idea that each structure holds WHOLE FAMILIES was really interesting. If you are ever in the Big Easy, I highly suggest you tour this cemetery. After we got back from our tour, we met Kelly, Billy, Rosie, Corey and Jenn (Corey's wife) to get some boiled crawfish at the famed Acme Oyster House. I had had crawfish before, but not out of the shell. It freaked some of our party out, but really it's no different from lobster; just smaller and not as flavorful. It was great though, and certainly an experience. For a little desert, Billy, Rosie, Amy and I headed for some gelato. It was the perfect thing to top off the evening. And thankfully I didn't have TOO much to eat, because shortly before the show I got the news that I would be on again as Johnny Cash. The show went extremely well again, but I was pretty damn tired. So, we went home. As we walked home, we found that the main drag, Canal St., near our hotel was blocked off because of a suspected bomb.....not the kind of thing you want to come home to.
Friday morning started with a visit to May Bailey's Place. Now a bar attached to a hotel, it used to be a bordello, and is notoriously haunted. I can't say we say any spirits, but I certainly felt a bit uneasy in there.....after a coffee at what had become my go to place, Royal Blend Coffee, we headed to Jackson Square, and the Louisiana State Museum. Housed in the Cabildo, a centuries old building founded by the Spanish colonists in that area, it is a comprehensive look at NOLA's history from slavery to disease to music to the Battle of New Orleans and the Civil War. One exhibit in particular, a surgeon's kit from the Civil War is supposed to be haunted....and from the picture that Amy took with an unexplainable apparition in it....I would tend to agree. They also had a very out of place but great exhibit about the history of Rock n' Roll in Louisiana; even questioning it's true origins. Also a part of the museum was a Katrina exhibit (picture above), and one on Mardi Gras, and down the street the 1850's house. We didn't have enough time to hit all of that, so we decided to get some food at Café Pontalba again. This time I had jambalya and more blackened gator....
That evening during the show, Amy and Jenn were planning on going on a haunted history tour, and the temperature had dropped quite a bit. So after resting for a bit, we went out in search of a sweatshirt for her. Along the way I got to stop into another independent record store, Skully'z. A great little shop, and I found a couple of gems. One, a DVD documentary I gave to Billy featuring Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Charles and Fats Domino. I made my way to the show that evening, and afterward, Corey and I met our ladies following their psychic readings and had a drink.
With two shows the next day, and Amy leaving in between, we headed out early to go to the Katrina exhibit that we had missed the day before, and the 1850's House (pictures above). Both were quite interesting...but the Katrina exhibit was pretty eye opening. It's quite amazing that they have rebounded as well as they have. It's a tribute to the people of that city. Following our adventure, I headed off for the matinee, and when I got back, Amy left for the airport. Sigh. So, shortly after she left, I headed to ANOTHER indy record store to celebrate Record Store Day. I found (strangely) a Johnny Cash box set I didn't have, and a few other things, including a documentary about the resurgence of record stores, and a book about the Louisiana Hayride. Then, after a quick bite it was off to the theatre.
That night marked our Jerry Lee Lewis' (Ben Goddard) #$^%*( th Birthday.....so, a group of us went out to help him celebrate. Following that, I took an adventure when Ben E and Robby V to an all night diner, where we seemed to be there for hours...and not on purpose. The walk home on Bourbon Street at 3 AM was enough to let me know it was about time for me to leave NOLA.
That Sunday marked our last day in town. There was an Iron Man (not the super hero, the run/swim/bike competition) event that was going on in Armstrong Park that housed the theatre, so it was pretty difficult to get around. Cody and I stopped at a hot dog place called the Dreamie Weenie. It was a hell of a long wait, but well worth it. You know I'm a sucker for a great hot dog. Austin and Jam went on for both shows that day, and the matinee marked our last day of collecting for BC/EFA, which I'm proud to say capped off a fundraising endeavor that yielded over $95,000 for these past few weeks! Just amazing. I'm proud to be a part of that.
So, the next morning it was off to St. Louis, where I am writing you from now. I've been there before, but I haven't seen all that much of it. Something I will change this time around. This trip means it is our next to last city....and in one week, we will be saying goodbye to Cody....which is pretty crazy to think about. We were the first people to meet on that first day of rehearsal on September 11, 2011, and I am going to miss him dearly.
So, I hope you have enjoyed this week's action packed blog, and that you will stay tuned next week for the next to last one. Crazy. Take care everyone, and keep reading!