The crazy-ass Bostonian Irish bouncer outside the bar on Chartres St. was hollering at passing tourists when we approached. I guess “hawking” would be the actual term for it, really, but his base nature and style made it more like hollering. Invitational hollering, to be exact. “Come hear live music! See the Green Fairy! Come on, get in here! Those other places are boring! Hey you, bring ya date in here, don’t be a wimp!”
I’m paraphrasing and cleaning that up a little (actually, quite a lot), but you get the idea.
Interestingly and effectively, about two or three out of five groups he did this to would then step inside the venue, blinking like lost voles, wondering how they got in there but deciding to go ahead and buy a drink anyway.
The further toward Canal St. you get while wandering upriver in the French Quarter, the less classically and historically picturesque things become, and the more urban-with-an-edge-of-possible-danger they get. You’re just getting close to the dividing line between the FQ and the CBD is all. Things get more City.
There are a lot of businesses on that end that are already closed up for the night when you arrive; contrasted and exacerbated by a number of bodegas where you can get your smokes and your cheap beer and a few hundred tourist t-shirts (5 for $20!) while some shady cats hover around making questionable deals and the honking and swearing traffic blares by a block away up on Canal. Some restaurants and bars, too, but then there’s the Mahogany Jazz Hall, where you get sucked in by a crazy-ass bouncer, buy a few rounds, enjoy some pretty good music, and if you pay an extra fee, meet the Green Fairy for an absinthe tasting and a little burlesque.
This place is pretty durned alright, in my book.
We were a little down on our luck that night and decided to go drown our sorrows. The bouncer is a good friend of ours so we decided to go pay him a visit which is how we found ourselves parked at the bar receiving comped drinks from the pretty-durned-great bar staff and chatting with the Green Fairy herself for a spell.
Ya gotta love a bar where the Fae hang out, y’know?
Bouncer buddy bounded up to us at one point fairly early on grinning ear to ear, clutching a container wrapped in a crinkled plastic grocery sack. “My friend Louise brought me Jewish Penicillin!” he proclaimed. It was a Tupperware of chicken soup – he’d been feeling under the weather.
Louise herself approached shortly thereafter, joking about her Italian Jewish New Yorkness. Introductions all around, great to meet you, and then she was off toward the front of the bar, where more patrons later entered wondering how they happened to find themselves inside.
The first musician of the night finished and I sipped my sympathy whisky and snapped some photos and had deep bar conversations with J and then the next band fired up and I heard this HUGE bluesy voice and looked over to see…
that the progenitor of the Jewish Penicillin was the next act, and she was pretty damn incredible.
And that’s how nights go in New Orleans. Sometimes you’re down on your luck, but then you get sucked in by a place, and sometimes wonder how you got there, buy a drink anyway, meet some new crazy and talented people, enjoy your friendships, and make a night of it.
That’s just what we do.
Full photo set here: