Ten years ago, Pavel and I finally accrued enough mileage for a trip (it only took us about 7 years). We didn't have enough time--or mileage--to go to Europe, so we decided to go to New Orleans. For some reason, I don't have a journal from that trip, or even any photos, so New Orleans is fuzzy in my mind. Though the Ramos Gin Fizzes and Sazeracs could also have caused the blur.
What I do remember from that trip are snapshots.
Dinner at Uglesich's, now sadly closed. I tucked into a plate of Shrimp Uggie, with potatoes, green peppers, onions, and plenty of hot sauce. Behind the counter a guy shucked oysters the whole time with such aplomb he didn't even look down at the oysters. Not once. He just kept laughing and talking to the customers.
At the Camellia Grill. We sat at the 'w' shaped counter, and settled in for a show. Our waiter's tag said 'Sleepy'. He was anything but--he knew what we wanted before we did, and was constantly moving. The diner food was cooked in front of us, the kitchen compact and ingenious, full of chrome doors that closed with reassuring clicks.
The meal ended with Pavel and me dithering about whether or not to have some pie, finally deciding to split a piece. Out of nowhere Sleepy appeared: “You two gonna share a cuppa coffee and a piece of pecan pie?” He called it ‘pee-kan pie’. Sleepy cut a big slab of pie, then turned around and called to us: “You want it a la mode, right?” We hesitated for a second, and he answered his own question. “Of course you do…what’s the point not having it a la mode.” That cleared up, he turned back around, wiped off the griddle and dropped the pie on the griddle, complete with butter and hamburger grease. After a few minutes he deftly flipped our pie—now it was upside down on the hot hamburger grease. Somehow, the hamburger grease worked okay with pecan pie—sort of a lowbrow mincemeat. Or maybe you had to be there.
At the Tin Roof Cafe (also closed now) we sipped bourbon and listened to Wendell Brunious play and sing 'I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate'--it went on for at least 10 minutes. Halfway through the song a little old lady got up. She must have been in her eighties—both in years and pounds. All in black, she circled the bar doing a solo two step, raising her white handkerchief every fourth step.
I'm Back in New Orleans this week. This time Pavel's on business, so I'll be left to my own devices most days. I imagine I'll come up with some stories for you.