Saturday, December 7, 2013

NOLA, Day Four

Saturday was a totally free day.  I woke up to a chilly morning, but the delicious coffee and the satisfying breakfast at the guesthouse was a good way to start.  It felt too cold to walk around much, and the city guides suggested that the World War II Museum might be a pleasant way to spend an inclement day.  My ambivalence to museums runs deep.  On one hand, I have visited a few that have been excellent and worthwhile.  The Uffizi in Florence pops to mind.  On the other hand, I find many more museums dull, noisy, crowded and sleep inducing.  This list runs much longer.

Today happened to be the "Day of Infamy", so with relatively low expectations, I trudged over to see the WWII artifacts.  To my slight surprise, I found it quite worthwhile.  As expected, there were armaments spilling out of the ceilings, walls, and floors.  As a kid, I had built many model airplanes, tanks, and battleships.  Seeing the real deal brought back memories of the imaginary battles I had fought (and of course won), as I pushed my models back and forth (making the appropriate engine noises) on my bed or in the shrapnel filled skies of my bedroom.

As a history buff, the descriptions of the various strategies, such as D-Day, the nuclear option, and the Pacific battles held my attention and educated me.  I also found the section on propaganda, including some of the misguided racist campaigns by the United States, to be frank and even handed.  Too many young Americans have no idea that our government imprisoned over 100,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry in prison camps, and the museum’s treatment of this period was equally balanced.  Along this line, I found the period’s Army "manual" on ways to distinguish Japs from Chinks, umm, quite enlightening.

Heading back from the museum, I unexpectedly ran into the city’s Christmas parade.  I had no idea this was in the works.  The kids seemed pretty cold and not particularly enjoying themselves.  By contrast, the crowd was enthusiastic, maybe since Santa was throwing out the traditional New Orleans beads to the onlookers.  Unlike Mardis Gras, no one had to lift up their T-shirt to get one, which was good given the freezing temperature.  I debated trying to get some beads, but then thought better of it.

New Orleans is famous for their Po' Boys sandwiches, and Johnny’s shop is one of the most popular.  I stopped by for a quick lunch.  Their pastrami special was OK, but didn’t meet my high expectations.  Any cheese steak lunch truck in Philly or the scrumptious Sloppy Joes in NJ would blow these away.

I walked around the Quarter for a while before deciding it was too cold.  I spent the rest of the afternoon just catching up on emails.

For dinner, I booked EAT Nola.  The restaurant was nearby, with good reviews and a very apropos name.  Because the large convention was still in town, reservations in all of these restaurants were a must, as once again, many walk-ins were turned away at the door.  Perhaps due to the mediocre lunch, I decided to order two entrees (there went my diet!).  I ordered the BBQ shrimp and the fish filet.  I also ordered a bottle of the red Conundrum, which I had never tried.  I always enjoy their whites, so wanted to give this a whirl.  The dinner was tres bien! And I was overstuffed with no room for dessert.

Afterwards, I meandered over to the Quarter again, and had a cocktail at the Maison Bourbon.  For whatever reason, this place felt like what I imagined a jazz joint in the Quarter should be like, complete with a gravely voiced trumpeter.

I'm not sure how long I sat there, but checking my watch, I noticed it was bed time.  I replayed the music back in my head as I walked back towards my guesthouse.  Buffa’s, where I had listened to the fantastic all woman trio the night before, was on the way.  I couldn’t resist peaking in.  This night, the band was composed of all older guys.  They looked like they should be playing in someone’s bar mitzvah, not in a New Orleans music venue.  Whatever their appearance, boy, they sure could swing.  I stayed longer than I intended.  Then again, I was in the Big Easy.  I was just learning to go with the flow.

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