Monday, May 10, 2010

New Orleans, City of Dreams

The title of this blog might rhyme, depending on your pronunciation of New Orleans. We Midwesterners typically pronounce "New Or-leens" (although I've adopted the less nasal "New Or'lins" pronunciation"). I've heard Southerners pronounce "New O-lee-ans" or "New'awlins" and les Français l'appel: "La Nouvelle Orléans". However you say it, NOLA really is a fantastical dream city to be in.

Speaking of dreams, New Orleans seems to have more than her fair share of nightmares. From violent weather (Hurricane Katrina ring a bell?) to the recent oil rig explosion and subsequent oil spill surging out hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil PER DAY threatening the livelihood of fishermen and nationally protected wetlands and wildlife along the gulf. Right now, no end is in sight. It's an environmental catastrophe and devastating situation for all the people who live and work nearby. The outcome is going to hit the seafood economy hard and will affect millions in terms of seafood production. Not to mention the water quality in the gulf and beyond. With prospective solutions dubbed "top hat" and "junk shot", they just don't sound very reassuring. In fact, the "junk shot" is literally shooting garbage into the holes in hopes the clog up the broken pipes. On top of that, there are jets dropping chemicals over the spill to disperse the oil. Call me crazy, but that just sounds like adding to the pollution to me. Let's hope the corporations and political parties responsible for this disaster fix the problem and as a nation we rethink our dependency on oil and how drill for it. Drill, baby, drill? More like spill, baby, spill.

Another month+ has gone by since our last post. I believe Chris is finished posting for now. He will jump back on the bandwagon once we hit the road again someday. We recently had a pool party and barbecue with our Lanata House neighbors and someone sparked the idea of taking an Amtrak tour across Canada. I adore the idea since the train is my favorite form of transportation (second to kerouaking in the Dod, of course!) There's also the entire East coast of the US left to travel, and there's always backpacking in Europe... We shall see.

I am proud to announce I've been accepted to Tulane University's School of Continuing Education. As you may know, Chris and I share a lifelong dream to open a bookstore. Achieving a degree in small business development will be a step in the right direction to learn how to write a business proposal, plan financially, manage a business, etc. Our likelihood of being approved for a bank loan to open up a store will increase largely with this degree. Taking courses in accounting and commercial law are going to be worlds different from the feminist theory and English literature classes I am used to. I can honestly say I'm geeked to go back to school and challenge my intellect beyond crossword puzzles and KenKen.

Chris is still working at the Marigny Brasserie and I'm still at the Lamothe House Hotel. Chris has been banking at the restaurant because he's an excellent server and NOLA has been busy-busy with all the festivals and conventions lately. Tourism will slow down between June and September when it's really hot, save for a few festival weekends though.

I have plenty of pictures to post so keep an eye out for that within the next week.

Chris and I are really looking forward to Josh and Kaylan's wedding on May 22! We'll see many of your Graylinganders, er, Graylinginians? there!

Au revoir!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

3 Weeks and 3 Days Living in NOLA

The vacation home in front of our permanent home. Or is it the other way around?

It's been 24 mostly sunny days in our new city New Orleans. Apologies for the delay on kerouaking updates. We promise to not make you wait so long next time!

Chris has been playing the traditional breadwinner role at Marigny Brasserie while I've been nursing another flare-up of what my best friend likes to call "Reindeer Eye" (See: Iritis. No it's not made up. I know it sounds like it, but it's real and it sucks).

Nevertheless, I'm proud to announce that I was hired by a hotel as a front desk clerk today! It's not my dream job by any means, but it'll give me some income. I start training on Saturday and the hotel is even closer to home than Chris's restaurant is.

In other big news, Chris and I signed for a 2009 black Ford Focus. How nice it will be to have a compact car to zip around in and not have to worry about parallel parking the voluptuous Dod in the quarter.
Voila, le chat noir.

We've been lucky to have had two sets of visitors in the three weekends we've lived here so far! Mike and Amber came for a night and we tried an Italian restaurant on Decatur. Service was very slow but Amber ate the best chicken alfredo she's ever had.
Mike tired himself out having way too much fun with Chris's GI Joe cards. Which makes me think, how do we not have a couch yet but somehow have a deck of GI Joe cards? Something isn't right here…

Jenny and Mykle came out the following weekend and we painted the french quarter red. Jenny and I didn't make it home until 4:30 on either night. We ate some delicious food, sauntered around Bourbon Street, went dancing and we also played pick-up-sticks. The weekend flew by!

Here are some things I've learned from living in New Orleans the past three weeks:
1) When it rains, it pours. Nighttime thunderstorms are common and LOUD. This will certainly take some getting used to.
2) Sometimes food that looks like dog food tastes like heaven. When you come visit I'll show you what I'm talking about. (I won't make you eat Kibbles and Bits, I promise).
3) Open container laws are the best laws. Sure, you can smuggle a coffee thermos of your favorite alcoholic beverage in pretty much any US city. Well, maybe not Salt Lake City since caffeine is frowned upon as well. But in NOLA, you can take your tall boy of Bud Light out on the streets without a second glance from NOPD. With all the "TO GO cup" signs, you'd think they even promote it...
4) EnVie, the cafe around the corner, will make you forget everything you ever loved about Starbucks. They serve coffee for your pep, cocktails for your edge and big ass cookies for... your ass of course. If your not convinced yet, they also offer free wi-fi, they play excellent music and there are even a couple slot machines in the back room if you're in the gambling mood.
5) Bourbon Street should be avoided during the daylight hours like a vampire avoids sunlight. Don't get me wrong, it's a one-of-a-kind awesome time on any given Friday night but you just feel dirty and, well, outright sinful walking along the street during the day. Remnants of last night's shenanigans are cleared by daybreak by the honorable street cleaners, but there's just something in the air (or maybe in the gutter) that makes you feel like you should cut over a block.
6) Never, and I repeat, NEVER wear flip flops on Bourbon Street.
7) Cajun food is not diet food.
8) Po'boys are insanely crave-able for being mere sandwiches. French bread, main ingredient (you name it: shrimp, oyster, alligator sausage, roast beef, ham, turkey, even french fries!), mayo, pickles, lettuce, tomato... who'd a thunk they'd be so spectacular?!
9) Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie live around the corner. I'm being serious, they have an apartment down the street. Do you know how many people have told me this when I tell them where I live?
10) Lizards like to sneak their way into apartments around here. The lady in apt. 10 told me she had to put aluminum foil around her ac unit to keep them out in the summer. And I thought pets weren't allowed here…
11) Abita Strawberry Lager is excellent. It's the newest addition to my top 5 favorite beer list.
12) Crawfish are delicious and vicious.

Well, that's all for now. Kudos to Jenny Thornsbury on her new job and a shout out to beautiful mother-to-be Chellsea Wilson and her engagement to the handsome Nick Heiden!
The view. Sometimes I feel like I'm on vacation...

PS: Sorry about the vampire reference in #5.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Living (it up) in the Big Easy

Of all the grand and glorious places Chris and I have traversed over the past five and a half months, nothing can compare to New Orleans. With it's rich history, french architecture, cajun food, warm people, street musicians, cajun dialect, and all-around interesting folks it's unbeatable. (Not to mention the daiquiri shops, Bourbon Street and open container law.) It's a little like Chicago, but without all the snow and frigid temperatures. New Orleans is certainly one-of-a-kind and different from anywhere I've ever been.
One of the "interesting folk" that occupy the streets in the French Quarter. Notice the ladder ends right near the top of the picture. Who knows how long he held that position.

So, about a week ago Chris was browsing and came across some apartments in the French Quarter for a very reasonable monthly rate. We decided, what they heck!, we might as well check a few out. The first apartment we looked it was no bigger than the Dod but it didn't even have an engine! Over the next two days we checked out an apartment with a balcony overlooking Bourbon Street. We looked at a huge apartment with a fireplace in the middle of the kitchen. We saw a tiny furnished apartment with a hot tub and murphy bed.

After looking at about a dozen apartments, we eventually came across a clean little apartment smack dab between Bourbon Street and the French Market. It was far enough away from all the noise to be peaceful at night. It had three entry doors and a courtyard with barbecues, tables with umbrellas and a POOL! Best of all, the rent was cheaper than most of the places we looked at - and none of them had a pool.

So, we put in our application but didn't let our hopes get up. Because, really, it seemed too good to be true. But wouldn't you know, as Chris was filling out an application at a restaurant he got a call from the landlord to tell us he approved our application. As we skipped around in Cathedral Square all the fortune tellers and street artists stared as I laughed hysterically and repeatedly yelled "REALLY?! NO! Really?! REALLY?!". After a quick call to Deo and Bob & Jan, we signed the lease and that cute little apartment with the pool we can now call our home!
Right here.

A shot of our building from Chartres Street.

Therefore, kerouaking is on a one-year hiatus. However, we will continue to update the blog with our adventures in the Big Easy and our upcoming trips. The Dod will most likely make her way back to Michigan soon - she's just too big to be parking on these narrow streets. We're thinking about getting a smaller car and/or maybe a scooter.
Our Walmart nights are over... for now.

After only a few days of applying to jobs and passing out resumes, Chris got a job at Marigny Brasserie! It's a restaurant with an impressive menu of po'boys, soup, and seafood. It's just four blocks away so Chris can walk to and from work in under five minutes. He brought home a soft-shell crab po'boy and portabella mushroom bisque last night and it was delish!

Since Chris is working in a restaurant, he trimmed his epic beard and cut his hair. Here's a before and active photo:
Friggin' hippie...

He cleans up good!

I am actively searching for work. I've been applying to hotels in the quarter and I have a second interview as a swim instructor uptown next week. I'm really hoping for a position with AmeriCorps, so keep your fingers crossed.

We can't wait to have visitors so come see us soon! Until you see it in person, here are some photos of the apartment and courtyard to tide you over.
This is the view from the end of our floor, looking out into the courtyard. Michael, our landlord, really keeps up on all the flora and greenery.
This is our view from the balcony. That is the pool at the hotel next door.
Here's a nice shot of our courtyard and pool.
Here's one of the patio tables. There's two barbecues in the courtyard for tenants to use and the landlord provides the propane. There's only about a dozen apartments within the Lanata House so we won't have to worry about waiting in line to go swimming or grill food.
The outside view of our apartment. All the shutters are closed, but they open to a second door with a window. The first door leads into the living room. The second door is the main door and leads into the hallway. The third door leads into the bedroom.
Our bed-less bedroom. Somebody please send us a mattress!
Our living room right after we got done bringing everything up from the Dod.
The living room as it is now. The only furniture we have is two folding chairs and my old wine-tasting table from when I worked at Union Beverage.

Aunt Kiki said we HAD to try some deep fried peanuts and, boy, was she right! They're fantastic. You eat the shell and all! This stand is in the French Market, two blocks southeasterly from our apartment. It's open every day and there are fruit and veggie stands, live bands, jewelry and art tables, tee-shirts, daiquiris and coffee stands, etc.

Love, your favorite kerouakers and newbie Lousianians.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


We've had some beautiful weather here in Picayune, MS. We've been staying with my old friend and high school wrestling teammate Mike Gassman. You may remember his sister Laura and soon-to-be brother-in-law Wes who hosted us during our stay in Colorado Springs.

Friday we barbecued and played outside most of the day.
Oh, the heat.
Nate, another of our hosts, had his daughter Adyson on Saturday, and we played outside some more. Oh yeah, and we barbecued again. Life is good.
That night we got ready to head into New Orleans for our first real Bourbon Street experience.
We all loaded into the Dod and made our way back into Louisiana.
We didn't have to search very hard for parking and in not too long we joined the party. Little did we know, however, that beers on Bourbon cost about as much as they do at a ball game. so we bought our first, and last, $6 beers of the night. Even though the mechanical whale was quite entertaining, we decided to hit the street and do a little people watching.

Even with Mardi Gras over the streets were fairly packed, which is pretty standard for a weekend, I hear.

Tip #1: Don't buy beers in the bars. You can buy them on the street for $3. Since everyone gives them to you in plastic cups (cups are allowed on the street, but bottles are not) you can walk into most bars with it.

However, some bars are very strict about buying a drink before you can use their bathroom. One woman offered to call the cops to explain the rule for us. Instead, we decided to leave and find somewhere else to pee. Fortunately for us we "found" three Coronas on our way out. So, you win some you lose some.

Tip #2: The restrooms at pizza places are the easiest to sneak into. The staff either doesn't care who's using their bathrooms, even though the signs on the wall say they do, or they are too busy to notice.

You can find all types and all ages ate Bourbon street. There's live music coming out of every other bar, but standing on the street and people watching is just as fun. Crowds form beneath the balconies that line the street as revelers toss their beads. Tip #3: Don't pick beads up off the ground. In fact, don't pick anything up off the ground. It's gross, and you don't need the beads that bad. If you don't catch it in the air consider it gone.

Nikki smoochin' the Bourbon cowboy.

You'll also notice the same bars, trinket shops, and margarita/pizza places appear over and over along the street. This makes it easy to get lost since many of the blocks look exactly the same.

Around two we decided to head back to the Dod and ride home. On our way we noticed that, in lieu of beads, one gentleman was throwing Po'boys off his balcony. (Tip #4: Po'boys are delicious, eat one)

As I watched him toss one down to a screaming partygoer, mesmerized by the sight of a flying sub, I see Rick, another of our hosts here in Mississippi, with his arms raised. Then, like mana from heaven, a Po'boy floats down into his arms from on high.
It was awesome.

Well wouldn't you know it, that night we hear a grinding noise coming from the rear of the vehicle. Guess what, it was the brakes.
After stopping at three other auto-care places we finally found one that would look at our vehicle. And to shorten yet another long car-care story, the Dod is back on her feet and the work was covered under warranty. Tip #4: Be prepared to do a lot of looking if you have a vehicle from up north and you need to get some work done in the South. Mechanics are appalled by the amount of rust on our vehicles.

It's been nice having such nice weather and getting to spend so much time outside. Hopefully it holds up.

Rick and our new friend Mike put on a pretty good show for us.
Nothing beats a good, old-fashioned book burning.

So tomorrow we make one more trip into New Orleans and then begin our trip north into Tennessee.

BRaak! says Beatrice.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Mardi Gras

We got the Dod back on Monday with the brakes finally in working order. We spent the last day walking around the Woodlands and catching a flick. Don't go see "Wolfman", it's a terrible movie.
That night we loaded up and set our alarms for 5AM so we could head out and make it to New Orleans for the last day of the Mardi Gras celebration. However, the Dod stalled out before we even left Jenny's neighborhood.

Jenny drove around the corner to give us a jump, and we made it to the gas station where again the Dod wouldn't start. We got another jump but el Dodo stalled out again as we waited to pull out from the gas station.

A call to AAA got a tow truck and a truck driver named Bubba dispatched. As we were hauling the Dod back to the shop Bubba made it very clear to us his stance on homosexuals. We had told him we had spent some days in Austin and the only thing he could tell us about Austin is "that's where all them gays at. Me and them gays just don't get along. My brother brought me down to sixth street one time and I had to tell him to take me home. All them gays..."
After the awkward ride in the tow truck, Jenny picked us up from the shop because we needed to have all three belts replaced and it was going to take some time. By the time we got the Dod back it was almost 4 in the afternoon, which meant we wouldn't have made it to New Orleans till almost midnight. We'd heard that Galveston parties it up pretty good for Mardi Gras so we made the executive decision to make the 2-hour drive south to the Gulf of Mexico to celebrate Fat Tuesday there.

We bid farewell to Houston and made it to Texas' paradise island just in time for the last parade.
After the parade finished, folks of all ages clogged the streets, screaming for beads tossed from balconies that lined the streets. Live blues blared from one bar so Chris and I stopped in to listen.
Even the puppies joined the festivities.

As we walked around the street collecting beads we were stopped by a group of fellow Michiganders, Tahd, Marie, and Matt. It's pretty strange how Michiganders can always recognize one another. We're drawn together like magnets. Or perhaps it was Tahd and Chris' beard magnetism.
Marie and Tahd from Traverse City.

Matt, friend and Chris.

We joined our new friends at an outdoor bar to dance the night away listening to another live band play classic rock covers all night. One woman was especially appreciative of the music and the booze and showed her gratitude to the band and bartenders (and everyone else, for that matter) by flashing her boobs.

(Photo unavailable)

A Jimi Hendrix cover, no doubt.

One drawback about the Galveston Mardi Gras, however, is that the whole shebang shuts down about 11:00PM. So we picked up some beers and followed our Michigan friends back to their campground to continue the party. Chris and Tahd entertained us with some acoustic guitar.

By 3:00AM we made our way to the nearby Walmart to crash for the night. Because it was a holiday we allowed ourselves to sleep in and treated ourselves to breakfast at the Waffle House. I recommend you order the hash browns covered, diced and topped (that's covered with cheese, mixed with diced tomatoes and chili for those of you Non-WaHos.) And a word of advice to my fellow soup enthusiasts: don't even try to order their "famous" chicken noodle soup. I don't think it exists. :(
We drove back through Galveston to see the town in the daylight. We coasted up and down Seawall Boulevard and admired the sunny coast. Then, we headed to the end of the island to hop on a free ferry.

We traced the coast North and East, through swamp and marshland, and hopped on another ferry. Some of the bridges spanned the swamp for miles and miles. Other times, we drove right next to the swamp offering us an up-close view of all it's beauty. There were dozens of white cranes perched on tree branches and pelicans soaring overhead. We even saw an alligator hanging out in the swamp! Her name was Gertrude.

That's some back yard...
Some houses were on stilts as high as 20'.

Front row seat on ferry #2!

After an eventless night in a Walmart in Crowley, Louisiana we drove to New Orleans. We faisons une promenade in the French Quarter and down Canal Street.

Hm, something must have hitched a ride from Roswell.
Voodoo dolls.
Window display on Bourbon Street.

We stumbled upon an eight-member band playing in the street. There was an accordion, trumpet, trombone, banjo, steel guitar, tuba, washboardist and chanteuse. We stayed for a few songs. I wish now we had bought one of their $10 CDs.

This guy was awesome!
A la Gumbo Shop.
Our delicious Creole sampler and cup of gumbo. Undoubtedly the best gumbo I've ever had.
In front of Cathedral Square.
Some boney guy tickling the ivories.
Entryway to the Hard Rock Cafe. Great happy hour.
Chris face on Bourbon St.
BOOGIE WOOGIE!!! :) Dedicated to my bff Chelsea Rysztak.
Having a grand ol' time on Bourbon St.
J'aime New Orleans.
We met Mike and Dialis at the Hard Rock Cafe. Mike is in a band called The 54. Check out their band at They have a tour coming up and the dates and locations can be found there. Dialis is a travel writer and has done an impressive amount of traveling herself.

Laissez les bon temps roulez!