Ever have a day where your mind is clouded with memories, one triggering another? That's the kind of day I was having when I was on my St. Claude bus adventure for the final Public Transit Tuesday, before I take my new position as a general assignment reporter for The Times-Picayune.

The only way I could transcribe the memories in my mind that day would be to use stream of consciousness, which would end up looking about as messy as the legal pad I took on my adventure, where I jotted down notes including "The Mack, Charles, PTSD about Mom," "New Kids on the Box lunchbox from Eckerd's" and "Te-Te's cocaine and Cuban sandwiches?"

Since the St. Claude bus was pretty full, as is usually the case, I was able to keep from reminiscing so much by paying closer attention to the people on the bus with me.

When I made it to the end of the line in Arabi, I was tempted to catch my favorite bus, the St. Bernard Parish bus, but was too busy trying to listen to the boys freestyling and beatboxing in the back — not that they were good.

My hearing isn't the best so here are what I think are some excerpts from their verses:

"I met her on crack, f*ck the n*gga head up
Driver off the bus, went and had a heart attack."

"Make a n*gga feel the way my Uncle Terry feel."

"Dat boy said, dat boy said, dat boy said, 'MAMACITA!'"

"I think Wayne garbage though — and THAT'S that sh*t I don't like."

"Dat boy said, 'I'ont want no HIV, yes Lawd!"

"She sent me nekkid pictures — I LIKEDED DAT!"

It was a pretty day so I decided to walk down St. Claude, but not before stopping at a restaurant that's — get this — actually run by native New Orleanians...

Glad my bus only caught the bridge and not the train, too!
  • Glad my bus only caught the bridge and not the train, too!

Bearing a sign featuring the slogan "It's like eatin' at home," I knew I had to try Eatin' at Holmes' (5340 St Claude Ave., 309-8560). Since it was Monday and the first cool day in October, actually the first day in October period, you already know what time it was — red bean time. As their slogan suggested, it was like eating at home, but not just because the food was good and the employees were charming, but because of the family pictures at nearly every table, the radio playing with the TV on mute, the AstroTurf adorned entryways and the small decor accents like silk plants.

Eatin at Holmes decor
  • Eatin' at Holmes' decor

"Hello ma'am, how ya doin'?

"I'm good, thank you. And you?"

"Ma'am, I'm blessed."

Anthony Lewis, Alvin Clavo
  • Anthony Lewis, Alvin Clavo

Since there's no menu, I had to ask what drinks they had, which frustrated me just a little. I didn't want to ask if the tea or lemonade was homemade because I didn't want to seem stuck up, so I ordered a Ghetto Punch, which was, of course, ridiculously sweet red Kool-Aid.

"Oh my Lawd, what's that big meat?!" I asked aloud once my plate arrived. I knew I was getting red beans and rice, hot sausage and cornbread, but I was unaware of the ham hock.

Red beans, rice, hot sausage, cornbread and a ham hock for only $6.99!
  • Red beans, rice, hot sausage, cornbread and a ham hock for only $6.99!

After I left Eatin' at Holmes', I decided to just walk down St. Claude, minus catching the bus across the canal. More memories came to mind, these involving marching in the Martin Luther King Day parade as a cheerleader at McDonogh #39 Elementary School. Just like with my 8th grade Spirit Squad dance routine from Lusher, I can still do all of these cheers and dance routines.

Being a cheerleader at McDonogh #39 was good because we placed first in competitions and got to be out of the school uniform on game days, but it sucked for me because I was left out of the loop with little things like taking group pictures and knowing what uniform to wear. One thing I will say is that because our coach, Ms. Hamilton, worked us like high school or college cheerleaders, we were among the best in New Orleans. Of course, at the time, I hated Ms. Hamilton for making us run laps for every mistake, rehearse the same routines for hours and practice poses until our limbs grew tingly — I think they call that child abuse now.

Here's the song that the Dance Team played at every game; with the right motivation, I think I can perform their routines as well.

At the St. Claude bus stop right before the bridge, I overheard a woman with a baby talking about her abusive relationship:

He run up on me like a man, so I gotta fight him. I pitched a cellphone at his mouth and knocked out two of his teeth. I'm scared to go to the doctor because I don't want him to go to jail. We been together 15 years but he wanna be a dumb ass n*gga. If he wasn't a good f*ck, I would be drove behind what he got me going through.

This is a Mans World billboard for New Israel Baptist Church
  • "This is a Man's World" billboard for New Israel Baptist Church

Once I crossed the canal, I stopped by New Orleans native- and fellow Lusher/Franklin kid-owned Lickety Split's Sweet Shop (1043 Poland Ave., 304-7080; www.facebook.com/licketysplitsnola), since they were closed the last time I tried to go. As luck would have it, they were closed again his time. But since the stand is open all year, I'll try again soon.

Schoolboys buying Skittles afterschool at Nikkis
  • Schoolboys buying Skittles afterschool at Nikki's

I decided to take a few pictures of Holy Angels, giggling to myself about the nekkid party I was invited to by one of the senior apartment complex's residents.

St. Joseph watches over baby Jesus and Holy Angels.
  • St. Joseph and baby Jesus watch over Holy Angels.

Aside from snapping a few pictures, I didn't plan on stopping anywhere until after I crossed Elysian Fields and got away from the majority of the hipsters, "artists," "travelers," gutter punks, their dogs and every other element of the post-Katrina 9th Ward that enrages me and others like me.

No loitering, no crack selling, no cat selling sign.
  • No loitering, no crack selling, no cat selling sign.

Not exactly sure why, but something told me to go take a look in M-V Thrift Shop. Like a few other thrift stores in the area, M-V's inventory consisted of a bunch of piles of dirty junk, with the exception of very few items. I didn't take any pictures in the store because it was a hot mess, but I thought maybe someone could benefit from knowing they existed, so I took some pictures of the storefront.

M-V Thrift Shop on St. Claude
  • M-V Thrift Shop on St. Claude

While walking away, I heard someone yelling, "Excuse me? Turn around!" I didn't think the person was talking to me, but I turned around anyway. The lady was black African with dreadlocks and the lady I saw inside of M-V Thrift Shop was a middle-aged woman with greasy blonde hair.

"Why were yuh takin' pictures of the store? Yuh cannot do that!" she yelled with a Jamaican an accent.

"I'm a journalist and I'm outside — I'm allowed to. I didn't even take any pictures inside!"

"But why were yuh takin' pictures?"

"So people can know the store exists."

"What is exists? What do that mean?"

Now the lady who owns was inside of the store comes outside looking scared, of course, because she foolishly sicced her black enforcement on another black person, and now it's getting heated. The unwritten rule of having black enforcement, enforcement that's hired only because they are black, is that you never sic them on another black person because they will see it coming.

I wanted to stay and engage in more neck rolling and finger waving, but I wasn't trying to look like a crazy person on St. Claude.

Following rage-triggered research, I found this Facebook status and Foursquare check-in from an M-V Thrift Shop employee.

my employer M-V Thrift Shop (in New Orleans) was caught operating without a business license a month ago, tomorrow is their court date. They still haven't gotten one so I'm presuming their defense is gonna be "we don't need no stinkin' biz license"...My question is will they just be fined, or is the judge gonna shut them down?

Giving M-V Thrift legal advice, they (she) has a court date re sellin' a stolen bicycle, *and* not operating with a city (New Orleans) license

I'm not including the employee's name because, to the best of my knowledge, he had nothing to do with my M-V experience. Even though he's from Maryland, says "the Bywater" and seems to be a little braggadocious about being an Americorps volunteer, he seems to be a decent guy. I could understand him better if I knew when he moved to New Orleans, but like most transplants, that information is conveniently absent. Bless his lil transplant heart. However, in the words of Ms. Benita from In Living Color, "I ain't one to gossip, so you ain't heard it from me. No you haven't."

Gonna make it a point to take pictures outside of M-V Thrift Shop every chance I get.
  • Gonna make it a point to take pictures outside of M-V Thrift Shop every chance I get.

UPDATE: My main 9th Ward connect spilled some tea with me about M-V Thrift Shop via Facebook.

9th Ward connect: The african lady who chased you owns it and the white lady inside is equally as crazy. Unfortunately they both like me and bitch about each other to me. I swear I wear crazy perfume.

Me: What?!?!? OMG! That is nuts. So the white lady owns it too?

9WC: Nope

Me: So, the white lady inside...what does she do? Is she just there randomly?

9WC: She's a crazy lady from Arabi who puts her stuff in there for sale. She likes to wander by and tell me about how awful everyone in the neighborhood is. She used to have stuff at Conrad too - I think she's the white, female Sanford. The african lady doesn't let them keep the lights on while no one is in the shop.

Hungry again and on the other side of Elysian Fields, I went to Rampart Food Store (1700 North Rampart St., 944-7777), known by Roneagles and other locals as The Ernge Sto' or The Orange Store. I hadn't been since I was at 35, back in 2003. My order back then was a cheeseburger po' boy, fries with the "Kill Me" sauce and a strawberry Slice. Once, while waiting on Claiborne afterschool for the St. Bernard bus, I dropped my po' boy open-faced onto the ground. I picked it up, blessed it and ate it.

The Orange Store
  • The Orange Store

I felt awkward going to The Orange Store after so many years and I even found myself trying to sound cool by saying, "Daaang, I haven't been here in so long. I hope y'all still have the fries with the sauce." Everyone could tell I didn't fit in. In retrospect, I probably didn't fit in back when I was in high school, but my uniform allowed me a pass. When my order of fries with Kill Me sauce (I later overheard a boy call it teriyaki, which made me feel really dumb) was up, a young lady in a satin cap joked as her friends chimed in with chuckles, "Dat's fa da inspecta!"

Fries with Kill Me sauce and a Big Shot from The Orange Store
  • Fries with Kill Me sauce and a Big Shot from The Orange Store

My final trip was to Bar Tonique (820 N. Rampart St.), a bar that serves "handcrafted cocktails without the pretense." I'd been wanting to go for a long time, but I was always afraid the drinks would be expensive. However, I downloaded a Drink Deck — on sale in October for $20 — which included a Bar Tonique $10 discount card, so I figured I'd give it a shot.

Mixologist at Bar Tonique
  • Mixologist at Bar Tonique

Bar Tonique's drink menu is comparable to other craft cocktail bars in terms of price and selection, but the bar itself is pet-friendly and has no dress code, making it a fine place to get a quality drink if you don't feel like getting fancy or schmoozing.

I ordered two Moscow Mules at $5 each during Happy Hour and was delighted to learn that with my Drink Deck card, they'd be free (minus the tip, of course)! I'm positive that my Drink Deck will have paid for itself by next week.

Moscow Mules are $5 during Happy Hour at Bar Tonique!
  • Moscow Mules are $5 during Happy Hour at Bar Tonique!

I hope you enjoyed the final installment of Public Transit Tuesdays. It's been so much fun to engage with y'all and I appreciate the support you've given me. Even though I'll be moving to The Times-Picayune, I'll still be around to answer all of your questions in the comments section here at Gambit, on Facebook and on Twitter. More pictures (some) are below and in this Facebook album (all).

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