I took a road trip a couple of weekends ago with some friends. Well, they weren't friends, exactly, when we started. In fact, I'd never even met two of them, and the other one I'd only met a couple of times. But, shit, if you want to get to know someone, go on a road trip with them. And this one was such little work, for me, anyway, since someone else did all the planning.
It was a road trip to Louisiana to listen to Cajun music and zydeco, feast on food (especially seafood) and have a good time. You can tell we're all pretty hardy, adventurous souls, if we're willing to spend four days in a car with people we don't know, albeit, a very, very big car, a Suburban, in fact, owned and driven by Steve, the person I know. The other couple, Duke and Carol, apparently only had one question for Steve about me before we started: "Does she like to laugh?" That's a good question to ask about people you're traveling with.
We started late in the evening and drove from Austin to Eunice, which is the nearest place to Mamou, LA, where there's a reasonably priced hotel. We got in at 3 am and were up at 7:30 so we could make it to Fred's Lounge by 9 am. We didn't want to miss a minute of the broadcast, not that we understood a word of it since it's in, ummm, French-ish.
We had a great time dancing. An actually amazing time, since, frankly, I can't dance with other people, but I guess I can now. Who knew? All that dancing makes you hungry, so Steve and I had a bowl of hen and sausage gumbo at a little restaurant across the street. I wish I remembered the name of it, because it was the best gumbo of the trip.
From Mamou, we went to Floyd's Records and had more gumbo. Then we drove down to Lafayette to check into the Blue Moon Guesthouse, which is a glorified hostel. We stayed in that room upstairs on the left. (Beware, they empty the dumpster across the street at 4:30 am on Monday morning!) Sitting on the front porch to check in, we met up with Two Hoots and a Holler, an Austin band, who were playing at the saloon that evening. Across the street from the Blue Moon is an old Borden's Ice Cream Shop. Carol and I sat on the porch and an ice cream angel brought us cones (coffee dipped in chocolate is yummy) without us even asking!
We headed back to Eunice, to the Liberty Theater, to hear DL Menard, at the Rendezvous Des Cajuns, which is broadcast from there every Saturday night. Then we hit the Palace Cafe in Opelousas for dinner, and headed back to the Blue Moon.
We did a swamp trip (Henderson Swamp) on Sunday. It was misting and gorgeous and we saw birds: egrets, herons, bald-head eagles, wood ducks, owls, and alligators and turtles, and a beautiful cypress forest.
We ate at Randol's, which is kind of a touristy place, but they had a great zydeco band and a bunch of kids dancing who were fabulous dancers! It was fun watching them, although I think we danced at least one number.
Monday we headed down to New Orleans the lazy way. We hit a museum and a looked at a couple of plantations. Now the guys had no intention of actually going into one, but I really wanted to see Laurel Plantation, since it was run by women, and they kept memoirs and record books of it, and ya'll know how into those things I am. It was highly interesting. These were cold-hearted business women, buying rafts of young female slaves - the cheapest slaves - and breeding their own workforce, instead of paying for it outright.
We ate at the wonderful Luke Brasserie on St Charles, which had ohmigoodness wonderful raw oysters. I had the white bean and duck cassoulet which was too delicious for me to describe. I'm running out of adjectives here. I had it with a couple shots of Basil Hayden, (rocks, water back, please) which was just perfect with it. We headed over to Canal Street to Chickie Wah Wah to hear the stupendous Evan Christopher accompanied by Shannon Powell, who is too delicious for words. The whole trip was an education in drumming, really. If the drummer is dragging or not in the pocket, the music doesn't swing and you can't dance to it. But when the drummer's on and smokin' well you damn near have to dance to it!
Late, late, late we headed over to Abbeville. It's a three hour drive and we got into the most ridiculous discussion of sex, spirituality, nuns and frogs. It kept the driver awake, but the rest of us were dazed and confused! In the morning we looked at the windows of St Mary Magdalen and then had raw oysters (a bit saltier than the ones at Luke, and fantastic, as well) and the crab plate, before heading back to Texas on the old Gulf Coast road. We stopped just before the Sabine Pass and bought huge Gulf Coast shrimp at a roadside stand.
So. All that was just the set up. What this post is REALLY about is the book I made about the road trip. Nah, just kidding, although I did make a book. I wrote a poem about the whole thing and stuck in a bunch of photos I took with my iPhone. Here's the poem:
Four people set sail in a car one fine night
Under the moon, to take their delight
In music and food and that other thing
(I’ve forgotten quite what) in Old Louisianne.
They made for Fred’s Bar on a Saturday morn
To hang with Tante Sue and bikers galore
To dance and to stomp and to have a fine time
And then to search out a gumbo divine...
...And records and flirting and old fashioned talk
On the porch of Blue Moon, where ice cream angels walk.
But there must be more music before there is sleep,
And food, of course, but that other thing?
Well, there are some pictures of them playing at sport
Tho’ who in hell knows what they really purport.
For they’re off on a tour of a swamp in a boat
And a whole lot more dancing and ice cream and food.
Elusive, indeed, was their much-needed sleep
Due to trucks emptying dumpsters: beep, beep, beep, beep.
But bravely, oh bravely do the four carry on
And leave for New Orleans at the first crack of dawn.
They looked at museums and plantations, too
Before treating themselves to dinner at Lüke’s.
Two dozen oysters all raw and Gulf Coast
And more talk and food, hey! can we have a toast?
But, non, they are off to Chickie Wah Wah
To hear Evan Christopher and the fab Shannon Powell
Then back to Abbeville in the middle of night
Talking of nuns and frogs with strange eyes
And spirituality and that other thing
Such heat and emotion lead to self correcting...
After some sleep, have they had it with food?
A chorus of voices says “Oh, no, no, no!”
Boudin and oysters and white lump meat crab
They can’t possibly drive; call them a cab!
But, no, they’re off on the old Gulf Coast road,
With a stop for fresh shrimp, before they head home.
Flying through Houston, how can that be?
Oh, thank the stars for that great HOV!
Only in Elgin does the food god desert them
Then they’re back home in Austin, with their poor stomachs hurting...
But their heads and their hearts are filled and replete
And for our fab four, that’s quite a feat!
All thanks to Steve, whose plan extraordinaire
And, ummm, wonderful driving! got them all there...
And back... And now, perhaps they’ll catch some z’s
And dream of new road trips, can there be a reprise?
With music, and food, and that other thing
On the porch of the Blue Moon, where ice cream angels sing.