Texas / Louisiana
I'm sitting on a New Orleans porch in a beautiful neighborhood where almost all the houses have columns, porches, and very tall skinny windows. The tree in front of me is draped lavishly in multicolored plastic necklaces; one of the hallmarks of the city. Since my last post I've motorcycled through Austin, Lafayette, and New Orleans. I'll try to sum up the last 2 weeks:
I spent three nights in Austin (thank you Katie, Katie, and Dylan) and in that time saw the awesome young-musical-hipster-community that is what makes Austin such a cool place. It's the first city I've ever been in that didn't feel like a city, it felt like a bunch of young people hanging out together. What my friends referred to as a "shitty dive bar" turned out to be way cooler than most San Francisco bars I've been to-instead of a small room crammed with people holding $15 cocktails, it was a large flowing space with a coffee shop, booze bar, musical stage, and outdoor seating. The guests ranged from writers powering through a 12 hour coffee binge to couples playing board games to the ubiquitous bearded, tattooed, cigarette smoking artist-hipsters that seemed to be everywhere. This place feels alive. Austin is one of the fastest growing cities in Texas and no wonder why.
After a satisfactory sampling of Austin booze and culture, I spent a night couchsurfing in Beaumont TX (thanks Khris) and landed in Lafayette Lousiana, one of the coolest unexpected visits of my trip. I was invited by a friend whom I met in SF's Dolores Park a year ago: I bumped into this group of cool cats who were on a road trip and needed a place to stay for the night- they ended up crashing at my house.
I had never heard of Lafayette, so when my friend Olivia invited me to check it out I just said sure, having no idea how much I was going to fall in love with the place. Lafayette has got to be one of the coolest towns I've ever been to; it's got about 100,000 people (to Austin's 885,000 and New Orleans' 380,000) and has a super rad small-community vibe. I stayed at the Blue Moon, which is a hostel/hotel/venue where you can stay for $19 per night and catch some incredible live music. Lafayette is one of the biggest hubs of Cajun culture, which is a French-Canadian amalgam now existing mostly in Louisiana, involving spicy seafood, vigorous dancing, distinctive accents, and of course music. Unbeknownst to me, Lafayette is a destination spot the world over for French people, Europeans, and anyone seeking a taste of the picante Cajun lifestyle. These are some of the warmest, most interesting people I've met- I sat down at an outdoor cafe to jam on the piano and within minutes was joined by the manager and another patron who played along on percussion. The whole town has a relaxed, fun, super-authentic art community vibe. We saw Zydeco Radio play at this awesome venue called the Feed & Seed which is a barn converted into musical venue / bar, where I tried the local beers Abita Purple Haze and Abita amber (the amber is my favorite) and I got to try a bit of Cajun dancing. My wonderful tour guides also brought me along to Dockside Studios, a stunningly-gorgeous Grammy-winning riverside recording studio where their friend was recording a funk album. Other highlights included the Spanish moss, Drive-in daiquiris, home-cooked etouffee (crawfish stew over rice), and more great music than my brain could handle…I'm wondering if I should move to New York after all.
Bad roads, tons of street brass bands, plastic necklaces strewn about, people drinking beer in the streets. Pretty cool place overall. Last night we enjoyed one of the greatest spectacles yet: a crawfish boil. You pay $10 at the bar, and about twenty tons of crawfish are boiled in massive pots along with corn, rabbit, mushrooms, sausage, boudin (Lousiana style white sausage with pork, rice and spices). 3 or 4 long plastic worktables are laid out end to end and the massive buckets of cooked deliciousness are dumped along the whole length. Then the feeding frenzy begins: 40 or 50 people snatch and claw at the heavenly steamy goodness, ripping tails off, squeezing craw-juices into their mouths, piling up potatoes and sausages and caracasses in their narrow feeding zones. The din is deafening and the food is unbelievable. This crawfish free-for-all was followed by one of the best live jazz acts I've ever seen; the Joe Krown trio, consisting of an organ, guitar, and drums. As my friend put it: they play the first half of the set to whomever is there, take an hour break and get wasted, then play a turned-up second half for the fans and the late-nighters. The audience by the end was only about fifteen people, but damn that was some of the best live music I've ever seen. The night ended walking home through the quiet, dark streets where you walk in the middle of the road because the sidewalks are underwater. Oak trees overhead, gas lamps flickering on porches. Louisiana has my heart.