Back in April, I mentioned how I have always been unusually taken with St. Bernard Parish. I neglected to say that I've also been unusually taken with the 9th Ward and have been for my entire life, or as Bunny Matthews writes, "before it was hip." You should also know that unless I am forced to, I refuse to call any area in the 9th Ward "Bywater" or "Marigny" because that sounds very post-Katrina-I'm-not-from-here-I-just-came-here-to-be-cool-and-follow-my-dreams-I-also-have-a-guitar-and-I-can-play-a-chord-on-it-would-you-like-to-hear-about-all-of-the-volunteer-work-I-do to me and that infuriates me. Hearing and seeing these neighborhoods referred to as "The Bywater" and "The Marigny" infuriates me even more. That is definitely post-Katrina-I'm-not-from-here-I-just-came-here-to-be-cool-and-follow-my-dreams-I-also-have-a-guitar-and-I-can-play-a-chord-on-it-would-you-like-to-hear-about-all-of-the-volunteer-work-I-do.
Of course, not every new 9th Ward resident is like that. I'm sure many came to New Orleans and found the post-Katrina 9th Ward to be a place abuzz with art, music, food and American entrepreneurship...
The greatest thing about this bus is that it seems to always be empty. It was empty when I rode it and Amy Knoll of Bon Castor and Lost Love Lounge says,"It's like a unicorn — a mythical beast that will take you through the neighborhood. My mom and I caught it when she was in town last week and we were the only peeps on it. It dropped us off right in front of the bar [Lost Love Lounge] and she said, 'It's like magic.'"
This was a far cry from the Tulane bus I rode to Canal and Decatur which smelled like a low-budget strip club and had one rider who, after rudely shaking his wet dreads on me, said, "Miss Brenda told me to call my P.O. I keeps a gun on me, so I can't fuck with the saggin' [pants]."
Another thing that's great about this bus is that once it gets to the 9th Ward, the rest of the route is short and walkable. You'll find much more walking the 9th Ward part of the route than you would riding, since the bus spends much time going down Chartres which, for the most part, only has shops on one side of the street.
(I am just now realizing that the bus goes down Royal on its return to N. Peters and Canal. Oops. I'm sorry about that.)
When I got off the bus at Poland, I came across Lickety Split's Sweet Shop and wanted to go, but they were closed. For some reason I didn't see their hours on their Facebook page and when I called, there was no recording of their hours on the answering machine message. I now see that they are closed on Tuesdays. So is Piety Street Snowballs.
Updated 7/16/2012: Lickety Split's is open daily from 12 p.m.-8 p.m. and will change the voicemail message to include hours.
Another thing that I noticed about the post-Katrina 9th Ward is that there's art — though I'm sure many would argue my definition of art — everywhere.
There are also many bumper stickers — not on bumpers — and graffiti tags that are unusually thought-provoking...
The 9th Ward's architecture is so New Orleans with its box steps, camelbacks, louvered shutters and shotgun houses, and I'm glad that, save those Jetsons-esque Brad Pitt houses, it didn't wash away after Katrina.
While exploring on foot, I smelled meat smoking and traced the scent to The Joint, where I stopped for a bite. The pulled pork, macaroni & cheese and baked beans were tasty and the BBQ Bloody Mary was zesty, but there is a secret menu that's only available at lunch. What's on it? Oh just very attractive business men. There were only two women in a restaurant full of men in crisply ironed dress shirts, ties loosened and briefcases in hand. Anyone who's on the prowl for a hot, young businessman should consider stopping by for "lunch."
Also discovered on foot: Dr. Bob's Art Studio and drive-in art gallery!
I walked back to St. Claude Avenue to stop at Conrad's Shop, a store that caught my eye earlier. It's what you would expect at a thrift store but there's a lot more of it. While there I bought a paper bag from K & B and a beer stein. If I would've had time to look more and if they weren't cash only, I probably would've bought more. I did, however, stay long enough to hear a lady fussing at the owner. I don't know exactly what was going on, but I can infer that the lady was told to never come back and that she wanted to know why:
"There's no words, nobody can tell me anything? I have no idea!"
"Tell me why, man!"
"He yelled at me!"
"I'm not having sex with anybody!"
She then bummed a cigarette and a lighter before leaving.
(back on the bus)
While on the bus, I passed by the old St. Roch Market and thought about one of the things that quelled but sometimes exacerbated my homesickness while I was in Baton Rouge after Katrina. When I didn't have "Do you Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans?" on repeat, I would watch this video and sob.
My final stop was to Gene's Daiquiris (1040 Elysian Fields Ave., 943-3861), one of thee most colorful daiquiri shops in town. I can't stand the po-boys they sell next door that so many people rave about, but I love the daiquiris, mostly because of the risque names. Today I ordered a Passion Mark (tropical, peach and pina colada) and sampled Good Joog (tropical, Hypnotic, peach and Blue Hawaiian) and Messy Mya (Hypnotic, tropical and peach).
Thanks again for checking out this bus adventure! Outtakes are below!