I know that I am supposed to be traveling by train whenever possible, but when a Swiss gentleman offers you a ride to New Orleans in a red Mustang, you accept.
As it turns out, he is a writer with the French magazine Jazz Hot, the oldest jazz journal in the world, and he is currently doing research for a book focusing on renowned jazz pianist Mal Waldron and the free jazz movement. His plan to drive in his fancy car from Lafayette to New Orleans coincided with mine, and I would be doing a disservice to myself, him, and the environment if I did not take advantage of a free carpooling opportunity, am I right?
We drove the scenic route, stopping in a town called Thibodaux for lunch, then driving along Bayou Lafourge to an abandoned turn-of-the-century sugar plantation called Laurel Valley. It still has a little farm and museum/antique shop, with a wooden boat building school in the back. We had no idea what to expect there, but got more than we ever could have bargained for in our brief visit. We fed chickens, goats, and a pony, and met the friendly, straw hatted old man in charge of the animals. He taught us how to crack the pecans* he had just harvested and then asked to take our photos posing on various farm equipment. That was odd, but you know I can not refuse a photo shoot sitting in a wheelbarrow, so we obliged him.
We then met the very colorful Cajun man who teaches the art of wooden boat building. He gave us a unique look into the lifestyle there, telling us about "working from cain't to cain't"** collecting Spanish moss, and boating along the bayou as opposed to using roads. He also told us some weirder*** stories about having twin 19 year old girlfriends when he was a guitarist in a band at a local saloon called Happy Aunt Tammie's at the tender age of 13, being a roughneck and fisherman on the Gulf, his current gig as a DJ, and how schizophrenia ran in his family but he ignored the voices and did just fine.
(The Blue Moon Guesthouse. Just kidding. An old building from the abandoned plantation)
Before we left, he taught me how to read Tarot cards**** and the farmer gave us some homegrown grapefruits, and copies of the pictures he had taken. Various other townspeople had shown up by then and they all waved happily at us as we drove off. The abandoned plantation itself was nothing compared to the living community we had stumbled upon by accident.
Back in the Garden District of New Orleans, in the welcoming and familiar Marquette House once again, we snuck into a party for Louisiana architects, had truffles pancetta macaroni and cheese at Capdeville, and ended the evening listening to "John Gill's Big Three" at Fritzel's. A good New Orleans night, considering the next day would be my last in the city, and the great state of Louisiana.
*This task apparently requires a certain strength and finesse that I lack, though I make up for it by being fabulous at eating them.
**From before the sun rises in the morning until after the sun sets at night.
***And by weirder I mean shocking, risqué, and often accompanied by explicit photos.
****I am a natural, apparently! Ask me if you would like a reading. I will give you a special discount if you mention the blog.