Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Dooky Chase and my artistic impulse

One of the highlights of my trip to New Orleans was when the columnists from NSNC and I stepped in from the steamy rain for a lunch at Dooky Chase, a famous old restaurant renowned for the Creole cuisine of 85 year old owner Leah Chase. Ms. Chase, in fact, visited us in her trademark fuschia chef's coat and thanked us for supporting the city with our visit. The restaurant had been flooded out and closed for a couple of years. She apparently lived in a FEMA trailer next door during the rehab. Ms. Chase has long been a supporter of African-American artists, and their art is what you see on the walls in the picture below. A couple of local Habitat For Humanity leaders stopped in as well, to update us on their rebuilding efforts in the area.

We feasted on crawfish etouffee over rice, greens, barbecue chicken, and the best taste I had all weekend—gumbo. Shrimp and sausage in a dark, spicy roux. My wife will laugh at this, because I am not even remotely an adventurous eater, nor much of a seafood fan, but this had about as much to do with seafood as the Lakers have to do with the ability to close. This was culinary witchcraft. My only complaint was the conservative size of the bowl.

With my belly full of Creole inspiration, and the rain past, I set out in the French Quarter with my camera to capture some of New Orleans' unsung beauties.

These hitching posts still adorn many sidewalks in New Orleans, although whether they truly go back to when horses and carriages ruled the streets, or are just for show, I don't know. Most of them are black, but a few had a nice, historied patina like this. Click to enlarge the picture.

The poster below was one of hundreds stuck to a bulletin board on Decatur St., the touristy strip along the riverfront. I like the way the yellow and black contrasts with the green of the wood, and I love the generations of rusted staples from concerts long ago forgotten.

I like to picture a guy hitting on a girl somewhere on Bourbon St.: "Ooh," the girl says. "You're in a band? Which one?" "I play bass for 'Frightened Rabbit,'" the guy says, followed by the girl's raucous laughter and a hair-flip dismissal.