Thursday, June 10, 2010

Who Dat?

I had an overnight layover in New Orleans Tuesday, as I switched trains en route from Atlanta to Tucson, and Weekend 5 of my cross country odyssey. That gave me a chance to stroll the streets (always a good change of pace when you’re facing three straight sedentary days on the choo-choo) to see how the BP disaster was affecting oyster offerings in the Crescent City.

The answer: bivalves are still plentiful, if a bit smaller and not as firm as those succulent R-month darlings I remember lovingly from prior trips. My testing ground is the Acme Oyster House on Iberville in the French Quarter (which is surely where Wiley Coyote would have frequented if he’d gone for oysters with anything like the determination he displayed for road runners). I was impressed that there was a waiting line on the sidewalk (backed up by a New Orleans policeman) even at 9 pm on a Tuesday night in June. Talk about a solid reputation.
As I sandwiched myself onto a stool at the raw bar, I watched the Celtics claw back from a 12-point halftime deficit in Game 3 of the NBA Finals on their own parquet floor. I sucked down two glasses of Abita’s seasonal offering on tap, a bowl of chicken & andouille gumbo, two dozen raw oysters, and then topped it all off with a third dozen charbroiled and sprinkled with parmesan. Yum! I was feeling pretty good about my gustatory prowess until I glanced at the wall and noticed that you have to consume at least 30 dozen in one sitting to get your name mentioned, and the king of the hill was some dude from nearby Hammond who managed to slurp down 42-1/2 dozen (and still walk). Ufda. I wasn’t even within an order of magnitude of honorable mention!
Suitably humbled, I nevertheless enjoyed a hand-rolled maduro-wrapped torpedo from the cigar storefront on Bourbon St where you can watch the guy roll while you watch, and walked the streets on a muggy summer night that threatened to rain any minute but never quite did.
According to my informal poll of French Quarter bars, Celtic fans outnumber Laker fans by 9:1. Who knew?
I love taking my time with a good cigar just walking the streets and absorbing the sights, sounds, and smells of a city thrumming with night life. My favorite moment has passing the office of a dentist named Supa Jolly, just off Canal St. I had images of a guy with big bushy eyebrows and a clown nose pulling wisdom teeth. What a name!
In the morning I had time to send off an email blast, stroll down to a delicatessen for a muffaletta and a latte to go, and get back to my room for a shower before schlepping my gear down to Union Station to catch train #1, the westbound Sunset Limited, which departed on time, just before noon.

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