Merrill's Musings...New Orleans
Greetings and salutations from my favorite place to visit, New Orleans. Just a warning, this will be a lengthy post, but I'm also including links and recommendations, so if you're headed here for Booklovers Con, you might want to forge ahead. If you just want to read about my silly hijinks, read on.
My husband and I took a vacation here seven years ago, and I've been looking for a way to get back here ever since. I've jokingly told folks I'm moving here someday over the years, and after this weekend, that someday seems to be inching up to eventually or one day status. I can't say for sure what it is about the city that I love so much, because it's not one thing. It's the feeling I get when I walk through the French Quarter. It's the music pouring out of clubs and bars throughout. It's the people I talk to, both native and transplanted, who have charmed me and made me feel like I'm home. And, of course, it's the music. Never have I been in one place where I can hear so many of my favorite types. I can pick and choose where to listen based on my mood. So sit back and get ready for Merrill's Musings on this amazing city.
New Orleans greeted me with a spectacular thunderstorm on Friday evening, and it's been fantastic ever since. It's been a long time since I experienced Mother Nature in all her electric glory—not since my Iowa days—and it was exhilarating. I immediately dropped off my things at the Maison Dupuy hotel and set out to find an adventure. I figured I would check the Hard Rock Cafe off my list since that's my thing but other culinary options would need to be experienced during the trip. To my amusement, I was seated near the bar, and if you've been to an HRC before, you know they have screens everywhere showing music videos, but just after I sat down, they switched the only TV in my line of sight to the Warriors game. Which, Go Warriors, but I had a feeling the dudes at the bar were Houston fans so...
Saturday I hit the streets early and got in some shopping and exploring. I was lured into a shop by the scent of Palo Santo, which I hadn't known what it was called before, and spent a bit talking parenting and life choices with an oracle and the shop keeper. They sell a house blend of Palo Santo, Lavender and Sage which smells like inspiration to me. It was an interesting shop and they have beautiful jewelry, so if you are cruising down Royal street, be sure to stop in to Royal Street Stones and Jewelry.
In my wanders I found all kinds of goodies for my son, and wished once more that my family had been able to join me, but the kids were stressed about missing school after being sick so much this year, so we changed our plans. Which sucked, but I was determined to use my time wisely. Research, writing, and learning. One place I stopped in that was quite educational was Music Factory on Frenchman. The shopkeeper walked me around, schooling me on New Orleans funk, soul and blues, and he recommended selections my son might like. It was obvious the dude loved what he did and loved the music he was selling. That makes all the difference to me when shopping.
I wandered back through and had one of my first instant friend conversations with a server at a tiny bar on Decatur, Tahyo Tavern. Damon was a super nice guy who kept me supplied with water and Sam's Diet Cola (a superior beverage with a hint of cinnamon) while I plotted. Yes, this pantser has been experimenting with ways to plot out books in a way that doesn't feel limiting or crushes my creativity. I have so many projects I want to write for the rest of the year that it's important I attack this head on with a plan or else I won't meet my goals. But I digress. I ate a lovely plate of fruit and fried pita chips that hit the spot, and a portion of my purchases goes toward a dog rescue organization, so how's that for awesome?
Saturday evening the lovely author Diana Marie DuBois and her trusty sidekick Russ joined me for dinner. We met up at Diamond Eyez piercing, where I finally put a new stud in my lonely hole (that sounds terrible however I try to say it, so why not go the "that's what she said" route?). Diana had an appointment to check in with Carmela about her nose piercing so win-win. We ate a scrumptious dinner at the Crescent City Brewhouse and I rejoiced over my alligator sausage po boy. De-licious. Russ had fun showing me pictures of alligators on his phone and we talked and laughed over puppy hijinks. The food and company were both delicious, and everywhere we went we were complimented on our matching pink hair!
Sunday was Mother's Day and I had all kinds of plans...and after breakfast, I promptly came back to my room and crashed for a couple of hours. I deserved it, right? I went out later and explored and I booked a walking tour for the evening, and then I sat down and I did some writing in the Bourbon Heat bar where the groovy dudes were playing some classic rock 'n' roll. ZZ Top's LaGrange got me in the door and then they played Clapton and Elvis and so much good stuff. My walking tour through Haunted History tours was fun. Sarabelle (sp? Never caught it) was a hoot, a homegrown Louisiana girl who had us chuckling about Romeo spikes, anatomically interesting art, and how not to get scammed by tarot readers. Afterward, I went up a tiny walkway to The Dungeon, a bar a gentleman at my hotel said was the best metal bar in New Orleans, and I jammed out to some Pantera and Mudvayne while nursing my one alcoholic beverage of the weekend, a Jameson's. It was...not completely awful actually. I did make faces, but it was dark in there so no one saw me I'm sure.
Monday was the 13th, so when I tell you the kind of day I had, you will know it's a Ro thing. I set out on my last day in the French Quarter without a plan, and was rewarded. My feet carried me to Jackson Square and once again I was lured into a shop by the scent. Blue-haired Karen and I instantly recognized kindred spirits and lo and behold, she's a former Bay Area girl, now living happily in the Bywater.
We talked and laughed together for quite some time, and I left with her scented wax and a smile on my face. If you find yourself lured into a shop by a scent, go. It's the universe telling you you're about to make a new friend. The shop is called OMG and they aren't kidding, it smells divine.
From there, I continued towards the river and turned left to pass the mule-drawn carriages when a woman called out to me: "Love your shirt! I have a one-eyed cat." I look down and realize I'm wearing my Lovers are Lunatics Cursed black cat t-shirt, on which the cat has an x over an eye.
The lady points to her art work and says "I have one-eyed cats in my artwork." I take a closer look, because I love art, and... "Holy shit! I have your art on my walls! I bought prints from you when I visited seven years ago!" She yells "Shut up right now!" and we catch up on our lives over the last seven years. When I visited before, we found her art in a gallery on Royal, which she left shortly after. She says she loves the street vending scene much more and I can see why. It was totally something I'd love. She sits there all day talking to the fellow vendors, including a dude selling homemade burritos that sounded miraculous, and the fellow dressed in purple and driving a purple carriage. We talked for quite a while, I loaded up on more of her prints, she gave me recommendations for places to go, and we sent a selfie to my husband so he could see my find. Miz Marrus is phenomenal, guys. Check her out. You can find her on Instagram and Facebook as well. I also bought her book Lightsurfing, which is the story of her journey that led her to New Orleans. I took her up on her rec to eat at Muriel's and ate the best gumbo I've ever had. #Winning
I also spent some time talking to this gal who was fussing with her mule and she had quite a history. We discussed horse life, shows, concussions, mares, and she shared with me her love of her mule Stormy, who apparently no one else wants to work with. Those are sometimes the best ones because they'll love you forever.
I wandered through the French Market and up and down a few more streets before I realized that the headache that had started as just annoying was telling me I was becoming overheated. I sought refuge at the sight of a giant ice cream cone I'd passed several times already, and that led to another awesome experience. Newton's Hot and Cold shop on Dumaine. I won't go into detail because frankly what I saw and experienced in that shop is going in a book, with the shopkeeper's approval of course. But their gelato is delicious and the air conditioning works great!
Alas, I was melted and after putting in well over 10k steps a day, I trudged slowly back to the Maison Dupuy to fetch my bags and start off on my next adventure, Booklovers Con, which will be part two of Merrill's Musings from New Orleans next week! I hope to see many of you there, and for those who can't join us, be assured I will have giveaways in my Facebook group, Ro's Roadies of Romance, so if you're not a member, join today!
All in all, I had a fantastically magical weekend and like I said, don't be surprised if a few years from now, Ro finds a way to move to this slice of heaven. I heard all kinds of good music and ate great food and had meaningful conversations with people that felt as though they really weren't by chance, if that makes any sense. I feel like every step I take was guided by some inexplicable force that led me where I needed to be at that moment. I do write about fate, and I do feel like things happen for a reason, and maybe I'm saying that's what happened this weekend.
No trip is complete without reading local authors. I finally got to read my pal Clay Davis's exquisite tale of Pierre Poppet and the characters he's created through his art. Steve and I laughed, swooned, and cried over this fairytale for adults. I highly recommend you pick up a copy, and, if you're going to be at BLC, I'll have some of Clay's art to give away to some lucky folks who come by my booth at Jazz Fest Kickoff! Clay can usually be found in the French Market, but this week he may not be there. You can always find his art online and his book is available through his store. Pick it up! He's currently working on the next volume.
I also met a young man selling his book in the French Market called Hood Struggle and I snatched it up. His name is Kevin Guillard and I think he has an important story to tell. If tales of perseverance are your thing, be sure to pick up a copy in the French Market or on Amazon.
Last night I started reading 1 Dead in the Attic by Times-Picayune author Chris Rose and it's a gripping tale of the city hope forgot for a while after Hurricane Katrina. It's a perfect read to get a feel for local humor and how New Orleans was affected by this devastating combo of Katrina and Rita, as well as poor response from those in power.
And if you happen to be strolling through Jackson's Square, you absolutely must visit Random. He wrote me a fantastic poem on the fly about the smell of New Orleans. I loved it. I promised I would share with my subscribers, so here you are! You can find him on Instagram as well.
Stay Tuned for more adventures in New Orleans from Ro...