Friday, October 7, 2022

Algiers Point

This is what Key West was like in 1976....

In any town or city there are always "hidden" neighborhoods that only the folks-in-the-know are aware of.  When we lived in the DC area, we found such a neighborhood down the George Washington Parkway, South of Old Town Alexandria.  A short commute via the parkway along the Potomac and you're in Alexandria.  A few more miles, and you're in DC.  It certainly beats fighting traffic on I-66 trying to commute from Manassas (or as the locals call it, "MyNastyAss").  Yet so many flocked to the new townhouse developments out in a cornfield with two-hour long commutes (each way) in mind-bending traffic.  Meanwhile, the idea of living by the river, minutes away from everything, for less money, was alien to them.

But of course, like anything else, these neighborhoods get "discovered" and ours did - and was bulldozed to make room for mini-mansions.   It was nice while it lasted.

So in a way, I hate to post about this - lest I be guilty of destroying a nice neighborhood.

If you've been to New Orleans more than once, you get quickly tired of the French Quarter and all the nonsense surrounding it.  It is too crowded, noisy, full of obnoxious tourists who think a "good time" means drinking until you puke.   The place is full of tourist traps - some good, mostly bad.

The garden district is nice, and the trolley ride there is certainly fun.  But other neighborhoods are best left unexplored - there is a reason Louisiana and New Orleans have the reputation as the murder capital of the USA.

A friend of ours used to live here and he gave us the name of a few places to visit.  We had tried some of our old haunts, and some new.  The new "Sazerac Experience" is just a faux distillery tour by the folks who make Buffalo Trace and Southern Comfort (and Sazerac Rye).  It was free (and worth every penny!), but uninteresting.  Most of the sweaty tourists (and everyone is a sweaty tourist) had no idea what it was all about other than a chance for a free drink.  They were saying things like, "What is a Sazerac cocktail, anyway?" or "I don't like Rye - do you have any Margaritas or Hurricanes?"

We quickly left and transported ourselves to the Sazerac Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel for the real deal. Sit in quite comfort and enjoy the lovely wood paneling and historic (and slightly racist) 1930's murals.  It is like being transported to the bar at the Overlook Hotel in The Shining.  Bartenders still wear white jackets, and everyone is sipping cocktails.  Real cocktails - not high-fructose corn syrup and cheap rum.

Well, it was quiet and relaxing until a crowd of puffy-faced middle-aged men from the Midwest arrived who were part of a hydraulics distributor's convention, all wearing the same uniform of tan chinos and knit shirts like the proud boys or something.  Lots of high-fives and lite beer being consumed.  I am so glad to be retired.

It was at least better than the Hotel Monteleone with its famous "carousel" bar.  You ride the bar as it slowly rotates in a circle, and consume a bottle of bubbly.   Maybe a few years ago you could do that - today the place is packed to the rafters.

There has to be some sort of quiet, out-of-the-way place to go, right?

Our friend lived on Algiers Point and suggested we take the ferry ($2) across the Mississippi to visit the place.

Quiet, here we come.  It is a residential neighborhood with a few restaurants and bars here and there.  If you like to take quiet walks and stop for an excellent taco sold out of an old Gulf gas station, well, here you are.  The architecture is similar to that of the old ship's captain's houses in Key West and it has that quiet back-street vibe Key West had before it became an adult amusement park.  And its only a five-minute ferry ride from downtown New Orleans, too!

But alas, it will probably be "discovered" as well and in fact, already is.  We saw one fine old house that had been divided into three condos selling for about $300,000 each.   Not a lot of money in the greater scheme of things, but the house as it was, probably wasn't worth a million dollars before.  Before long, the locals will be priced out of the neighborhood and it will become another gentrified nightmare.

So, you have to appreciate these sort of things while they are there.

We ran into a couple of tourists coming off the ferry when we got on.  "Don't bother going!" they said, "There's nothing there!"

"Perfect!" I replied, but I doubt they understood what I was getting at.  To them the "Big Easy" was all about carrying around enormous plastic cups of vile red liquid and getting as shitfaced as possible.  No wonder people get mugged here with regularity!  They were looking for the strip clubs and beer bars on Bourbon Street - a street best left unexplored, or to put it more succinctly, there is nothing there you can't find in any other tourist district in any tourist town.

Sometimes, it is best to seek out the quiet places - before they are all gone!