I am loving living in the Quarter again with all of these great, small food places opening with caring owners and chefs on hand. Begone the cranky and overpriced run of the mill food and drink: bow down to Spitfire coffee, Meauxbar’s bistro, Cane and Table’s small plates, Vietnamese food at 9 Roses, authentic Cajun food and dancing with Mosquito Supper Club, traditional New Orleans cuisine at Kingfish (well, under opening chef Greg Sonnier that is- hope it is remains as good) and now Cuban food and cocktails. While you are there, look around and notice all of the lovely little shops selling handmade, local or beautiful items on Royal and Chartres. And for all of you who laugh behind your hands at all of the unfortunate crime news happening here (and everywhere), know that we are enjoying life and fun in the old city very well thank you.
Link to a great picture on nola.com this week of my pal Tracy Thomson standing in her studio. Her gorgeous hats, potholders, bags (and more) are available daily at Dutch Alley Cooperative, a local artist cooperative found in the French Quarter (Dumaine at the river). The rumor is that if you check in with her early enough in the year, you might just be able to get on her list to purchase a unique Mardi Gras costume designed and hand sewn by Tracy herself. Tracy has also vended at JazzFest in the Contemporary Crafts area for the last 20 years and was one of my premier Festivus vendors for the five years that we ran that market in the mid 2000s.
I have been roaming the FQ over the last few days, off from work for a week and with a car at my disposal. Car rented from the nice Hertz people at the Omni Hotel at Royal and St. Louis-well in the garage on the Chartres side. (It’s the only car rental counter in the FQ, and has nice staff who chat about all types of things with you although I DO wish Mr. Hertz would staff it everyday and stop being forgetful about taking the gas up fee off, but other than that, hurrah for all of the Hertz family and that does include little Hal Hertz and even Minnie Hertz who is still a bit whiny.) The car means Maddie the Cartoon Dog gets to come along and take a perambulation along her streets, happily poking her head in shops and smelling people’s shoes.
Between parking successfully and taking advantage of Golden Lantern’s drink prices, one of the things I have indulged in recently-while on my 2-3 trips to FQ-is paper.
Oh I love paper. I love to write notes or to send letters or to drop a card with some satsumas to someone’s door before they come home, so they can find it after (maybe) a bad day or just a ho-hum day.
This may be the only true manner that my Southern mother drilled in me. Well, I do say yes ma’am to older women and could curtsey still but since I haven’t had a dress on since the 1990s, it’s a lost art in my repertoire.
And you would think I had lovely penmanship they way I go on, but no, I lost that early in life and substituted nothing in its place. Maybe the beautiful paper is to make up for that loss.
So, paper. I almost always buy some beautiful cards at Nadine Blake’s on Royal. Her store is lovely, she and her “staff” both. And to have a store that takes serious care and delight with their window displays is a treat to those of us who remember the days of many of those type of store owners throughout the Quarter. There I buy greenery tropical cards, drinking quote cards, single funny birthday cards and the last time I bought a silver crescent moon that I when I returned home I immediately hung on the end of my ceiling fan pull chain.
After spending hour(s) there, I usually walk 2 blocks to the corner of Dumaine and Royal to my Florentine paper supply place, Papier Plume. Yes, Italian paper. I went to Florence in 2008 and was dazzled by the many, many things that Italian artisans still make. Paper, leather goods, textiles, cars, scooters, coffee makers, long underwear- the list goes on and on.
I bought paper while there and used it so sparingly because when would I be able to return for more? Then one day, I saw the same design through a window in my hometown and walked inside this magic place. Papier Plume also does calligraphy and wedding invitations and has lovely pens and (my latest addition) sealing wax and stampers. If you see an envelope with a blue owl or a red sun on the flap in your door, do know where it came from. Especially if food comes with..
The third is the dynamic sister store Ragin Daisy on Dumaine and Chartres. These two ladies are destined to be legends with their charming personalities and dry wit. They have such cool stuff; this is where I get journals and sometimes find boxes of vintage-styled postcards.
(I also use the tourist store at the corner of Camp and Magazine for cheap FQ postcards when I want to send a bunch of news out, like for a party. I think they are 10 for 100 there, don’t pore over the clichés too much; it’s better to just embrace the tacky once in a while.)
And you can stop by Historic New Orleans Collection’s gift shop on Royal, past Toulouse. You can get some oyster cards or maybe a lovely map. And view the collection and talk to the nice docent and gift shop ladies who are of a type, it’s true but still part of our gumbo. Just maybe not part of the dirty rice.
And finally, I will always give you a heads up to go see Gnome on Barracks and Decatur for many, many inspired finds. They will surely have moleskin journals and plain ol paper journals and probably some pens and you will be absolutely be fortified by the sense that good design is an important part of any ordered life.
Then go home and practice your penmanship.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum designated Cosimo Matassa’s J&M Recording Studio as a historic Rock and Roll Landmark, one of 11 nationwide.
A few J&M recordings, including Fats Domino’s single “The Fat Man,” Roy Brown’s “Good Rockin Tonight” and Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti” have sometimes been called the first rock n’ roll record.
Now a launderette, you can still hear Fats Domino at the piano if you listen closely enough when the rinse cycle comes on..
Then stop by and see the Matassa boys at the family store at St. Phillip and Dauphine and get some red beans for later…
from Frank Etheridge’s 2006 (?) Gambit story:
Matassa then opened a studio in a larger space on the 500 block of Gov. Nicholls Street in a former cold storage space for avocados — “great sound there,” he says — and then later expanded further when he moved to the 700 block of Camp Street in a building that also housed offices for his Dover record distribution business as well as a studio. Matassa also had a plant in Jefferson Parish to manufacture the records.
“I was trying to be a factor on the national level,” Matassa explains of his expansion in the years leading up to the mid-’60s. “But every time I went to a bank for a loan, they’d throw me out. Unfortunately, people in New Orleans with money at the time were only interested in real estate deals or oil deals. That’s why Nashville made it with the music industry, because the city had a couple of sympathetic banks.”
Great movie made in 1966 starring Robert Redford and Natalie Wood. The scenes in New Orleans are nice, including Jackson Square, City Park, St. Louis #1 and the apartment on Dumaine (817?). Later on, Tennessee himself also lived on Dumaine…
Tennessee Williams wrote the original one-act play (which took place entirely on railroad tracks with younger sister Willie telling the story of her sister) but, as usual, did not participate or like the movie adaptation of his play.
The scenes in the little apartment are good, as are the characters one sees on the streets. Amazing to see Clover Grill and The Washing Well 40 plus years ago…
A great memory from an unusual travel book:
“Kaldi’s Coffee House and Coffee Museum
941 Decatur Street 568-8989
Open Sunday-Thursday 7 am to midnight
Friday-Saturday 7 am to 2:30 am
One of New Orleans most aromatic experiences is the stimulating fragrance of roasting coffee beans. Read the paper and rest your feet in this slightly counter-culture haven, while sampling an inspiring array of pungent brews. Their museum of coffee memorabilia is worth a look.”
I miss it still, but am glad for offspring Fair Grinds in MidCity!
We’re just finishing up the latest festival for our most famous writer. Not cheap to attend, but probably worth it, if you are a writer or a reader on New Orleans or the South. Nice website: it’s in my links on the right.
What I know about him-off the top of my head:
Came here from St. Louis to get a job on the WPA Writer’s Project: was not hired by Lyle Saxon. Came back and lived on Toulouse, then on Orleans then on Dumaine.
Lived in Key West later in life.
Poker Night was the original name for the play Streetcar Named Desire. The Desire streetcar started running in 1920, and traveled down Decatur, through the French Market, over to Royal, then right on Canal and right again on Bourbon to head to Desire. Streetcar was shut down the year or year after the play opened on Broadway.
Had a party where the landlady poured hot water through the floorboards to quiet everyone down.