Steve Bivans

Author, Coach, Urban Viking

Tag: travel

Captain Larry LaFeet: The Land-Pirate of Decatur Street

 

I lost my pride on Decatur Street.

This isn’t one of those, somewhere, sometime, thangs, either. Hell no, I know precisely where and when I lost it, my pride that is.

It was liberated by a buccaneer, a pirate, on Decatur Street, in New Orleans, Louisiana, on Thursday the 23rd day of March, 2017.

When I say ‘buccaneer,’ I ain’t talkin’ about a swashbuckling, sea-legged pirate, either. Nope. He was a Land-Pirate, a Boot Buccaneer.

The Story Begins…

On our first trip to the Big Easy–our only trip so far–Paysh caught a nasty stomach bug, which I mentioned in another article on Lafitte’s Blacksmith Bar. The bug, or whatever it was, really knocked her down on the second day of our trip, and while it subsided somewhat during the week, it was a factor the entire vacation.

By the next to last day, Thursday the 23rd, she was feeling a lot better, if not quite 100%, and we headed down to the Quarter in the afternoon to stroll around, eat dinner, and see the sights.

We had dinner at The Gumbo Shop, which was quaint. I had the jambalaya, which was pretty good. Paysh–thanks to her gut parasite–opted for mashed potatoes, which really sucks ass if you’re in New Orleans at a place called The Gumbo Shop.

It was a very cool place, though, with an open courtyard in back with plants and palms and a fountain and sculptures.

gumbo shop new orleansWe sat in what was probably the colonial kitchen on the backside of the courtyard, a brick structure with French doors, old wooden tables, the remnants of the fireplace, a gumbo pot on the old, brick stove next to the fireplace, and pots and pans hanging on the walls. The setting was superb.

After dinner, we strolled around Jackson Square looking for a mule carriage to ride, but had very little luck finding one.

No matter where we went, we seemed to have just missed them, kind of like surfers seeking the perfect waves, “Shoulda been here yesterday, man.” Ce la vie.

A Pedestrian Pirate Attack

New Orleans is reknowned for its pirates. Pretty much everyone knows of Captain Jean Lafitte, spelled with an ‘i’. But have you ever heard of the most famous pirate of all? Larry LaFeet? spelled with two ‘e-s’? Probably not. pirates on Decatur Street

Here’s the story…

We had pretty much given up on procuring a carriage so we decided to walk up and check out Artillery Park , overlooking the Square, when I was attacked by Larry LaFeet the Land-Pirate.

Artillery Park  is a raised area overlooking both Jackson Square to the north, and the mighty Mississippi to the south, and was the position from which Big Easyites in a more violent epoch, could fire flaming cannonballs at approaching, hostile ships sailing up the river to attack the city. Some of those ships were flying Union Jacks, and some of them Jolly Rogers.

On this fine evening, however, the cannons were apparently un-manned, because one of those pesky corsairs slipped the net.

As we were climbing the ramp up to the park, he sprang from the dark cover of a palm tree, on to the path.

“Hey brother!” was the shot across my bow that alerted me to his presence.

At that point, he was flying friendly colors, though he had a Jolly Roger in his back pocket, as I was to learn soon enough.

“Those are some nice shoes!” was his second shot, closer to the hull of the ship, but still friendly.

My suspicions were both eased AND tightened at the same time, if that’s possible? I was disarmed somewhat by his amicable nature, but suspicious of his admiration for my footwear.

They were just Red Wing boots: nothing special about them. They were certainly not worth shanking me to steal them, which lessoned my alarm, too. But why would he give a rat’s ass about my shoes?
To say I was taken off guard is a gross understatement. I wasn’t knocked to the floor, but nothing in my upbringing had prepared me to respond to surprise compliments from a Cajun pirate.

I say he was a pirate, not because he was dressed as one or anything. He didn’t look like Captain Jack Sparrow stumbling along with a finger hooked in a bottle of rum. I’m not sure what he was wearing, actually. It was pretty dark.

“Thanks?” I replied.

“How y’all doing tonight?” he followed, quickly.

“Uhh, pretty good,” I was beginning to regain my composure, I thought, and asked the obvious question, “What can I help ya with brother?” Hey, I was in his city, so trying to be polite and give him the benefit of the doubt. I’m that kind of tourist. The kind that doesn’t request Piano Man in a touristy bar, or treat the locals like a nuisance.

“Those are some nice shoes,” he repeated, “Betcha I can tell you exactly where you got’em, the state, city, and street where you got’em! I betcha. Hey, this is how I make my livin’ man, ya know, I don’t beg, or sell drugs on the corner, I got kids to feed at home, I’m just out here shinin’ shoes and talkin’ ta people ya know, whatcha say? Betcha $20 I can tell ya where you got them shoes!”

Now, let me just say in my own defense, that you’re reading this stuff at your leisure, so don’t judge me too harshly for what happened next. I wasn’t reading this shit; I was trying to follow his offer, challenge, whatever it was, in the dark, taken off guard, and he wasn’t waiting around for me to ‘get it’ either. He was a mutherfuckin’ fast talker, and I mean really fast. It was mostly a blur of syllables flying by of which I caught only every 4th or 5th.

I’m quite certain that the dialogue I remember is faulty as hell, since I didn’t hear or comprehend 90% of it, even as I was hearing it for the first time. My memory of what transpired is colored by the aftermath. In retrospect, I have cobbled together what I think was his tactic:

  1. Catch me by surprise. CHECK
  2. Keep me off guard. CHECK
  3. Always keep the initiative. I never had a chance.

Once a pirate has you against the gunwales, you’re fucked.

And I was definitely about to walk the plank.

I was shark food, chicken of the fuckin’ sea, even if I didn’t know it, yet. He had me in a corner, and there were fins to the left, and fins to the right.

“Whatever, man,” I said, half out of breath from trying to follow his turbo rant. I was thinking to myself, He can’t possibly guess that I got these from Robert Street in West Saint Paul. My accent definitely doesn’t give it away. I’m not from Minnesota, and you can get Red Wing boots, anyfuckinwhere.

“Betchatwentydollars and if I’m right you owe me twenny and twenny for shinin’ yer shoes too. Whatdayasay? ThisishowImakealivindon’tchaknow? Got kids to feed, I ain’t pushing drugs or robbin’ nobody? It’s an honest livin’ whatcha say?”

I’m tellin ya, he was throwing cutlass jabs and firin’ hot lead as fast as he could sling it, and I was starting to smell like blood in the water. My brain was reeling from the barrage of questions and his speech was almost hypnotic.

I felt at this point that we had somehow ‘bonded’ though that doesn’t make any fuckin’ sense, I know, especially in the post mortem. But in that moment we were two dudes understandin’ one another, I think? Fuck if I know.

The Curse of Pride

This is where my pride got me, I think. It was all about pride.

I pride myself as a pretty smart guy, usually. And my mother raised me with a very acute bullshit meter—though she would never call it that. I can smell a scam a mile away, or so I’ve always thought.

But this time, the pride I’m talkin’ about isn’t in my ability to catch the con, it was in my general affability, sense of fair play, and belief in the basic goodness of humanity.

The problem with that pride, in this instance, was that I was in a fencing match with a pirate in a dark alley, and he had the advantage, because he knew something I didn’t, and he was a master of language, as you’ll see.

Larry LaFeet the Land-Pirate had engaged me in a conversation, or at least that’s what I thought at first. But the speed of that exchange was such that I never had time to gather my wits. He came out of the dark, opened the exchange and took complete control of all of it. At no point did I ever really regain the initiative. He was a master of conversation.

Or at least the ‘con’ sans ‘versation.’

He employed all his wits and training to maneuver me, my sense of humanity, and my pride to the edge of the plank, with salt water and tiger sharks swirling in the surf under my feet. Metaphorically speaking of course.

The magic of Yes

Every great salesperson knows that the key to closing the deal is to get your prospective buyer to answer a series of simple, no-brainer questions in the affirmative. If you can get them to say ‘yes’ several times, then it becomes increasingly difficult to put a stop to it, and one more ‘yes’ is almost assured.

At this point, I’d said ‘yes’ too many times to say no.

I had been tricked into giving away several yeses by Larry the Land-Pirate, without even realizing it.

It was like subliminal messages in a 1970s movie that make you want to eat ten pounds of popcorn and become a diabetic drinking five gallons of Coca Cola to wash it down with. Larry had included several tiny, barely noticeable questions in his rapid-fire con-versation:

“I’m just makin’ a living right?”

“I’m not on the street sellin’ drugs, know what I mean?”

“Everybody’s gotta feed their kids, right?”

By the time he got around to the final thrust on the origin of my shoes, I said,

“Okay, Bring It! Deal!”

And the tigers of the sea feasted well that night.

The word deal had no more rolled off my tongue when he ran his cutlass through and I tumbled into the salty, sea, encircled by sharks, and staining the waves a crimson hue.

There was no hesitation in Larry LaFeet the Land-Pirate’s victory lunge. He didn’t wait for me to change my mind, deliberate on the question, or to scream for help. The sands of the hour-glass had run out.

His sword was like a flash of lightnin’:

“You got them shoes, on your feet, on Decatur Street, in New Orleans, in the State of Louisiana!”

As the word Louisiana came out of his mouth, he lunged to the ground with a squirt bottle in his left hand and a rag in the other, squeezed some white-ish looking foam on the toes of my boots and proceeded to ‘shine’ them with the cloth.

I was struck dumb and motionless, like some troll in a Tolkien tale, caught by the sudden onset of the sunrise and the spell of a wizard.

“FUCK!” I said, utterly flummoxed.

I had fallen victim to a simple play on words.

Because I had been taken by surprise, and kept off balance, and given too many yeses, I’d paid no attention to his choice of verb.

There are at least two definitions of the word, got.

One, is the past tense of ‘to get,’ to obtain something in other-words, and that’s the one Larry had implied in his initial challenge:

“I betcha I can tell you where you got them shoes.”

I knew precisely where I had obtained them: on Robert Street in West Saint Paul, and was supremely confident that there was no fuckin’ WAY that he could deduce all of that.

But what I should have done—and would have if I hadn’t be on the ropes the entire time—was to remember the other definition of got: to possess something, or to have something in your possession: i.e., I’ve got shoes on my feet.

“Damn!”

There I was, a writer, fuck, a best selling AUTHOR, standing in the dark, on Decatur Street, in the French Quarter of New Orleans, outwitted with words by a con-man land-pirate.

Fuck me.

I was out of my depth at that point. I had been taken by a simple play on words, something that I do to other people all the time. Hell, I do it almost every evening at the dinner table. I learned it from birth.

My dad is a pun artist. He lives by the pun. If there’s an obvious, cheesy pun lying on the table, he’s always gonna pick it up. Doesn’t matter if it’s a can of Cheez Wiz, or stinky bleu; Sam Bivans is always gonna pick it up and voice it out loud. He did it every single day of my childhood. He’s still doing it. And I learned the art from him, though mine are usually a fine cheese: like Irish Cheddar or Brie.

But there I was, on Decatur Street, out-punned, out-witted, and out-worded by Larry LaFeet the Land-Pirate, a boot buccaneer with maybe a high school education. Hell, he might not have even finished that!

Of course, he might be an out of work English professor as far as I know. He didn’t look like one, but I don’t actually look like someone with almost a PhD in history, either.

To Pay or Not To Pay?

I really wanted to squelch on that bet, since I had obviously been bamboozled.

But he had appealed to my pride, to my sense of humanity. I mean, he had kids at home, or at least he claimed to have them. Who fuckin’ knows if he actually had kids. But I’m quite certain that he was banking on the chance that I might.

Nothing plays on a parent’s emotions like the thought of kids going without in a hard world.

Kids or no, I tried to wiggle out of paying him for the shoe shine part of it, since I couldn’t really remember if I had agreed to that part or not. I can’t accurately convey the confusion he invoked in my mind. He sounded more like an auctioneer than anything else I could liken it to. It was machine-gun like. So, I tried to get out of half of the bet,

“I’ll give you twenty,” I said without conviction, “but not forty.”

“Nope, the deal was forty dollars, man. Everybody gotta feed their kids.”

If I had pushed it, he would have had little recourse, short of violence. But unless he had a gun on him, he was gonna lose that fight. I had 150 pounds on him, and if it came to that, he would see a different side of Steve Bivans….the Blackbeard side. I’m secretly a land-pirate, too.

But my pride and sense of fair-play–even if I felt I’d been hornswoggled–won out in the end. If I reneged on the bet, I would have had to relinquish all of that pride, and that wasn’t something I was willing to do.

After a second or two, I turned to Paysh—who was probably just as shocked as I was that I’d been bested in a game of words—and said,

“Give him the forty, bebe.”

I was defeated and confused.

I’m still trying to figure out how anyone could possibly con ME out of $40. And he tricked me with a play on words, a simple fuckin’ pun.

Got.

Unfuckinbelievable.

Epilogue

I somehow managed to survive the sharks in the water, though I was definitely limpin’ around on a stump, Captain Ahab style. I’ll be limpin’ for awhile, I reckon.Artillery Park New Orleans

Sans my pride, Paysh and I walked to the top of the hill to see Artillery Park, took selfies of ourselves with St. Loius Cathedral in the background, and then consoled ourselves with beignets at Cafe du Monde, which is a pretty good place to massage a bruised ego. Nothing a few donuts covered in mounds of sugar can’t cure.

At that point we realized that there were no more mule carriages carting tourist, pirate-bait around, so instead we opted for a bike taxi tour.

The funny thing is, that  the next day, on Friday, we were back in the Quarter, and no less than two times that day, I was approached by land-pirates with the same opening thrust,

“Hey man, I like your shoes!”

Ha! I think not.

“That only works the first time, man. Good try though!” and I kept walkin’.

So, if you’re ever on Decatur Street, in New Orleans, in the State of Louisiana, especially at night, keep an eye out for Larry LaFeet the Land-Pirate and his compatriots.

Then either leave your pride at home, or wear some ugly shoes.

If you enjoyed this one, check out my other Big Easy Adventures:

  1. The Big Easy: First 24

  2. A Pirate’s Revenge: An Evening at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar

  3. Cafe du Monde: Feed Your Powdery Addiction

Steve Bivans is a FearLess Life & Self-Publishing Coach, the author of the Amazon #1 Best Sellers, Vikings, War and the Fall of the Carolingians,The End of Fear Itself, and the epic-length, self-help, sustainability tome, Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth: the Guide to Sustainable Shire Living, If you want to learn how write and self-publish a book to best-seller status, crush your limitations and Fears, and disrupt the status quo, contact Steve for a free consultation to see how he can help you change the world! CONTACT STEVE

Cafe du Monde: Feed Your Powdery Addiction

I hate tourist traps.

Well, come to think of it, that’s not entirely true.

Sometimes, you just have to stop into that old-school, roadside souvenir shop with the ginormous statue of Sitting Bull, Paul Bunyan, or Babe the Blue Ox, even if Babe is missing his testicles. That’s another story.

I mean, sometimes cheesy is just fun. You don’t have to actually buy anything, of course. You can just walk through and poke fun at the cheese. It’s a thang.

But for the most part, I really hate tourist traps.

The worst are the ones in strip malls, or some new building stuck in the middle of the actual attraction, like the ones across from Graceland in Memphis.

Holy hound dog, they’re pathetic.

How many Velvet Elvises can you pack into one strip mall?

Apparently a whole shitload. If you can imagine it, the King’s countenance was upon it, and upon a whole host of things that your dreams–indeed even nightmares–would never include. I’m pretty sure I saw some feminine hygiene products in there with fat Elvis’s mug on them, probably singing “Hunk a hunk a burnin’ love” or something.

Anyway, I can’t stand those kinds of tourist hell holes.

There are some tourist traps, however, that you simply must see if you’re visiting certain places in the world. The Eiffel Tower is one. Of course, if you’re in Paris you can’t actually avoid it, per se, since you can see it from everywhere in the fucking city. Or at least I imagine it’s that way. I haven’t actually been to the City of Lights, yet.

If you go to New Orleans, you simply must do the French Quarter and Bourbon Street, the latter at least once, unless you’re a twenty-something college student, then by all means, drink your self to Polookaville, barf on your girlfriend’s shoes, and piss in the street till you get busted for being an ass. But for most of us, myself included, one walk down the street is enough. Okay, two.

But the Quarter as a whole? I think you have to do it every time you go. In fact, it’s the reason I’ll go back, again and again.

And once you’re in the Quarter?
There’s one place that you simply HAVE to do: Cafe du Monde.

Cafe du MondeCafe du Monde, New Orleans

Most locals will avoid talking about the Quarter very much, or only with disdain, since they’re so jaded and tired of frat boys puking on their shoes and pissing in the gutters. I get it.

But when it comes to Cafe du Monde, they all agree; you simply must go there and have beignets. And they’re absolutely right.

In fact, there’s only three reasons I can think of to not go there:

  1. You’re suffering from celiac and can’t eat gluten. There’s so much flour wafting through the air near that place, that you’ll probably break out in hives and shit yourself just walking by, so avoid it if that’s the case.
  2. You’re diabetic. Or
  3. You’re one of those  people who don’t eat much of anything because it was once in the same county as an animal, or because you don’t eat sugar, or you just hate yourself and beat yourself up with a massive Guilt Gavel for eating anything that isn’t broccoli.

In that case, don’t go to New Orleans, at all. Food is the number one reason to go there, period. Are there others? Sure, but who fuckin’ cares. It’s about food.
Okay, booze too, and music.

Keepin’ it Simple

One of the things I rant about all the time is the attempt by restaurants around the world, but especially in the U.S. to please everyone that might possibly, one day, walk in the fucking door.

Instead of focusing on a narrow selection of dishes, they create these enormous menus, sometimes with a hundred or more items on it, to makes sure that everyone on the planet, including your grandmother suffering from rheumatism and an acute case of I’m a fucking bitch, will find something they can choke down.

This is the biggest mistake made by every half-assed, shitty restaurant in America, and probably world-wide.

Stop doing it, damn it! It sucks.

The only thing this philosophy ensures is that your restaurant will fuck up everything on the menu, and get nothing right.

This usually includes the service, since the wait staff and kitchen staff are overwhelmed trying to remember every lame-assed item on the menu, what goes with what, what’s in what, is it gluten free?, fat free?, flavor free?,

“Ma’am, would you like that overcooked, under-cooked, or liquefied in a Ninja blender and served with a fucking straw?”

No wonder most restaurants just suck.

Cafe du Monde, however, has taken the simplification mantra to its inevitable conclusion. If you really want to master something, only do one thing, and fuckin’ do it right! And that’s what they’ve been doing for probably a hundred fuckin’ years, 24 hours a day, 364 days a year. They only close for Christmas, and the occasional hurricane, and I’m not talking about the drink; I’m talkin’ about storms like Katrina.

Booze and storms don’t slow down Cafe du Monde. If they did, they’d never open in this city. Hell no, this is the place where everyone goes: famous people, and the great unwashed, like myself. Hell, the place has been in songs. Jimmy Buffett was so in love with the place that he included it in one of his.

The Cafe has mastered the mantra of simpleness.

There’s only like five things on the menu:cafe du monde, new orleans, beignets and coffee

  1. Coffee
  2. Milk
  3. Orange juice
  4. Water, and
  5. Beignets

And when it comes to the only food item on the menu, beignets, there ain’t 31 fuckin’ flavors!

Fuck no! There’s one!

It’s basically a square donut. And it’s so simple that it doesn’t even have a hole!

They deep fry it, bury it in about 50 pounds of powdered sugar. I’m not exaggerating. Okay, maybe it’s only 49 pounds. Then they serve them up three at a time, and that’s it. They don’t do anything else.

Want something else? Tough shit. Want beignets? Sit the fuck down and eat’em!

Snow-blind in the Big Easy

Whatever you do, don’t wear dark clothing if you venture into the Cafe du Monde.

Wear white. All white.

In fact, bring a large tarp and some duct tape to secure it around your neck, or everyone in the Quarter is gonna know that you were eating beignets under the green and white striped tent.

Tourist, who’ve not had the experience, will think you’ve just arrived from Central America and managed to get past the trained dogs at Louis Armstrong International. There’s white powder EVERYWHERE along Decatur Street. Mostly it’s on people’s shirts and in their cleavage, not up their nose.

It doesn’t take a Sherlock to track the patrons of du Monde. We saw a park bench several blocks away encircled with a white, powdery substance, which was either cocaine, or confectionery sugar. The proximity to the cafe suggested the latter. The debris was heaviest in front of the bench, but left the impression of two human asses in the center of a halo of sugary goodness.

I was instantly hungry.

Practice Makes Perfection

The beignets at Cafe du Monde are the real deal.

They’ve been making these things forever, round the clock, and guess what?

When you do that, you get pretty fuckin good at it. There’s a reason everyone goes there, even the locals, and the famous, the rich, and anyone with enough pennies to scrape together an order; They fuckin’ rock!

They are simply orgasmic.

Even if they don’t have a hole in them, they’re the best donuts you’re ever gonna eat.

They will change your world. They’ll ensure that all your babies are born naked. Trust me, they will.
And while you’re having a religious, elevated blood-sugar experience, you’ll have plenty to look at.

Go there for the beignets, but stick around for the show.

The scene from under the tent is mesmerizing.

In front of you is Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral, the epicenter of New Orleans. There are hundreds of people walking by at all times of the day and night. Musicians, artists, and freaks are performing along the sidewalks. Con men coax the cash out of the pockets of unsuspecting tourists—I’ll tell that story, later—and mule-drawn carriages clip and clop past, while bike taxi drivers strain to shuttle their over-fed fares off to France-man Street—the new Bourbon as any local will tell you.

If I could eat a thousand beignets in a day, I would do it just for the view. Okay, I’d also do it because I’m a sugar addict, and this place is to sugar addicts as Medellin is to those who crave nose candy.

If you’re ever in New Orleans, take some extra insulin, sit your ass down under the green and white tent, put on your tarp, and dig in, because you’ve reached Nirvana at Cafe du Monde!

If you enjoyed this one, check out my other Big Easy Adventures:

  1. The Big Easy: First 24

  2. A Pirate’s Revenge: An Evening at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar

  3. Captain Larry LaFeet: The Land-Pirate of Decatur Street

 

Steve Bivans is a FearLess Life & Self-Publishing Coach, the author of the Amazon #1 Best Sellers, Vikings, War and the Fall of the Carolingians,The End of Fear Itself, and the epic-length, self-help, sustainability tome, Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth: the Guide to Sustainable Shire Living, If you want to learn how write and self-publish a book to best-seller status, crush your limitations and Fears, and disrupt the status quo, contact Steve for a free consultation to see how he can help you change the world! CONTACT STEVE

A Pirate’s Revenge: An Evening at Laffite’s Blacksmith Shop Bar

Wow!” was all I could say.

The drink was 80% rum. No doubt about it. “There’s a hurricane blowin’ in, and it’s off the charts, baby!”

Despite what many people will tell you, especially the locals, Bourbon Street is a place you simply must see on any visit to New Orleans.

huge ass beers on Bourbon Street

Do have a Huge Ass Beer on Bourbon Street!

I might even go so far as to say that if it’s your first time in the Big Easy, there’s no reason to go if you aren’t planning on checking it out. Of course, I’m a party animal at heart. Not everyone is. But I suspect that most of you reading this are, since I talk about it all the time.

There’s nothing particularly wonderful about the street, unless you keep walking. Mostly it’s just a flashy, drunken brawl, sprawling with bars. Not judging. I love bars. But there are bars, and then there are bars.

The best of the street is on the eastern end. You have to keep walking.

If you pass the barricades, and all the neon, tit-flashing, drunk college students, and keep walking down the street, taking in the aromas—beer, bad food, piss and vomit, as well as garbage—then eventually you emerge from the chaos of the west side of  Bourbon to the eastern side, which is immediately quieter, darker, and far less chaotic. There’re still a few drunks, of course, stumbling along to who the fuck knows where, but for the most part, it’s a massive transformation.

Ancient houses and apartments line the street, much as they do on every other street in the Quarter. They’re amazing and beautiful, even when they’re dilapidated. Hell, especially when they are.

IMG_7976One of the charms of the Quarter is its age. And these places are really fucking old. Well, for America they are. In European terms, they’re brand new. But here in the colonies, these are some of the oldest buildings you’ll find, unless you’re in Massachusetts or St. Augustine. But in those places, most of the oldest structures have long fallen down, burned down, or were destroyed in that appalling, stupid movement in the 50s and 60s when Americans lost their fucking minds and embraced all things new and abhorred any hint of history. Places in the East, like Boston, Plymouth, and St. Augustine, still have very old structures, a few, but they are either isolated in ‘historic districts’ or surrounded by modern skyscrapers, or fucking strip malls.

Not so in the Quarter.

The Quarter has managed to maintain its oldness. There are no strip malls in the Quarter, or at least I didn’t see any. No, it’s all still very old, and retains that charm, even on Bourbon Street.

Once you emerge from the neon, booze-soaked west-side of the street, you enter the eastern, residential section, and you keep walking.

We’re looking for pirates.

At the end of the 18th century, New Orleans was a haven for those who lived according to their own laws, shall we say. Privateers, mutineers, smugglers, and pirates loved the city, and why not? It was an ideal spot to sell off all the crap you just looted from the Gulf of Mexico and beyond. Unload and sell it in shops all around town.

And the most notable and famous of all new Orleans’ pirates, was Jean Lafitte.

This ain’t a history lesson on Lafitte, pirates, or the city for that matter. That’s best left to people who actually know what the fuck they’re talking about. No, I’m just mentioning him to give context to our stroll down the eastern length of Bourbon Street. Because that’s where you’ll find a place where history, mystery, legend, fact, fiction, candle light, music, and kick ass booze are all stirred into a sort of gumbo of goodness.

 Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar

The building, on the corner of Bourbon and St. Philip Street is one of the older structures in the Quarter, thanks to sheer luck.Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar

It wasn’t burned down in the great fire of 1788, even though it was a place known for starting fires: a blacksmith shop.

The shop lays claim to loose ties with the infamous buccaneer. According to the legend, friends of Lafitte owned the shop, and it has been reasoned—and not unwarranted, I reckon—that he probably sold goods through the shop, or at least spent time hanging out there with his buddies.

Why not? I’m going with it, because it doesn’t really matter, in New Orleans, whether or not the story is true, as much as whether or not it’s good. And the story that old Lafitte used to hang here is a pretty good one: good enough for me anyway.

The ancient shop looks like something that you’d find in Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean movies, or the old theme ride in Disney World—which, by the way, is one of my favorite rides of all time from my childhood. Hey, it was indoors—which is a great thing in Florida in August—and back in the 70s, there was never a line. You could just run in, jump in one of the boats, and float through a world of pirates for ten or fifteen minutes, watching snaggletoothed swashbucklers, sword fight, dodge bullets, cannonballs, and irate women wielding brooms and bats, and see several swarthy buccaneers attempting to lure a dog into fetching them the key to their prison cell to aid in their escape of both the prison and the inevitable neck stretching their future certainly held. And don’t forget the song, “Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me!” Fuck yeah!

Anyway, I digress. Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar looks just like something you’d expect to see on the ride, but there’s a difference: it’s a REAL FUCKING BUILDING from the 18th century, not some facade that old Walt threw up to fool you into thinking it’s a real pirate bar.

The walls are grey stucco or plaster, covering brick, which is exposed from actual weathering in places. There are gas lamps burning outside; yes, I said gas, real gas lamps. They’re everywhere in the Quarter, but here they give a particularly kick ass effect, flickering and showering orangish-yellow flame-light upon the rough and dirty edifice.

You could hear and smell pirates.

Seriously, you could. Or was that just the sound of drunken college students and the scent of urine, again? Fuck it. Let’s just go with pirates. It’s a better story.

Outside were dozens of patrons, of all ages, in various degrees of inebriation, chattering aloud and creating a ruckus, even if it was a bit reserved in comparison with the neon end of the street that we left on the west end of Bourbon. Lafitte and his sea-legged companions would approve, I’m sure.

The doors were wide open, as well as the shutters on the windows. A breeze blew down the street and through these apertures, bringing a cooling effect upon those inside, and blowing those outside, in. Paysh and I were swept inside. Into the darkness.

It was very dark in Lafitte’s, which I’m sure the pirate would applaud. I mean, what pirate wants to be exposed to the authorities by fluorescent lights?

Fuckin’ none of them, I reckon.

And they wouldn’t have to worry in this place. While there were a few electric lights behind the bar—I suppose bartenders need light to mix drinks—and a blasphemous television in the corner behind the bar—don’t even get me started on fucking boob-tubes in bars–in the rest of the place, there wasn’t a single electric light. Not. Fucking. One. There was nothing but candles everywhere, on every ancient wooden table, in the windows, on shelves.Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar 2

The effect of all this flame is transformative. It helps to enhance the illusion and the backstory: this is a fucking Pirate bar, man! Hell yeah!

We ventured in and began the search for a table. It’s kind of like looking for buried treasure. Okay, that’s a stretch, but I’,m workin’ the metaphor man, or the simile: whichever. We didn’t immediately find one, until we rounded the bar to the back room, where there was a piano hammering away. I don’t remember what tune, probably Hey Jude, like a scene from a Stephen King book.

Behind the ivories was a young guy, well, he was younger than I, playing for tips and taking requests. And there were two empty barstools, right at the piano. Treasure found! Paysh and I boarded them like bloodthirsty pirates, and I went back to the bar in search of New Orleans’ famous cocktail: the Hurricane.

Now, I don’t know if you know what I’m talkin’ about, or not. If not, I’ll refer you to one of my earliest articles and recipes: Hurricane Steve, Category 6. In the spirit of brevity, it’s a fruity, rum drink made famous by another hot spot in the Quarter, Pat O’Brian’s. I didn’t’ get to O’Brian’s this time, but from what I’ve heard, their hurricane is a bit on the sweet side.

Whatever I’m gonna say about the ‘canes I found at Lafitte’s, they were NOT sweet. Fuck no. I watched the bartender pour them. I’m sure the rum wasn’t premium shit, but there was a LOT of it. I mean, they must have been about 80% booze, plus a splash of some pinkish mix from a plastic gallon jug, topped with even more rum. Throw in a plastic straw and the operation was complete!

Boom, two hurricanes!

I paid the ‘tender, tipped him, grabbed my large plastic jugs of pinkish colored rum and stumped my way back to the piano.

When I banged the drink down in front of Paysh, I gave her the following warning: “Bebe, you better be careful, and verrrry slow with that one! It ain’t no fuckin’ joke!

I then turned my attention to my own cup and tuned into the man on the ivories playing an Elton John ditty, while a handful of ladies at the piano, shouted out request and tossed dollars into his little basket.

Mr. Pirate Piano-player would nod, look up the song on his iPad—an addition since Lafitte’s days, I’m sure—and sail into the next tune with abandon. Paysh sipped her ‘cane, while I surfed mine to the beach. I’m quite certain it was a rough ride, complete with sand and salty water in the nose, but it was a hell of a ride, for sure. I mean, if you’re gonna drink with Lafitte, you cain’t be askeert of a bit of rum, my friend!

Yo, ho, yo ho and a bottle or two of it baby! ARRRGH!

I was all in on the pirate’s life at that point, and commenced to shouting out requests for every piano tune I’d ever heard, including Evil Woman, Cold as Ice, and Crocodile Rock.

I avoided Piano Man, even though it’s the best of the bunch. I didn’t want to sound like a fuckin’ tourist after all, or be labeled a cliche, so I abstained from the obvious. Strangely enough, so did everyone else. Fuckers. I wanted someone to request it. But alas, I guess everyone else was just as afraid of being a tourist and just as avoidy of having ‘cliche’ tattooed on their foreheads, so I never got to hear Mr. Joel’s greatest hit.

Paysh totally geeked out and requested some Beethoven: Moonlight Sonata, of course.

Petey the Pirate Pianist managed to find the sheet music on his iPirate, I mean iPad, but after a glance at the masterpiece, quickly and judiciously reasoned that a couple of dollars from two, out-of-town pirates, was a poor substitute for years of instruction in classical piano technique, and instead took a request from an older gentleman pirate for Skynyrd’s Simple Man, to which I shouted, “Fuck yeah man!”

I guess I was a bit too enthusiastic, because all the ladies and the ivory-tickler pirate all laughed and turned to me to judge is the old, fat guy in the kilt had a screw loose or something, I figured that two outburst were better than one, so added,

Hey man, that song is ‘bout as close to church as I ever get!”

This seemed to amuse them even more, and satisfied them that I was indeed a bit looney, which was, I reckon, to be expected in a pirate bar on Bourbon Street.

Petey broke into the song, and I sang backup with him through the whole thing, which was pretty fuckin’ amazing, if I do say so myself. Who knows? I was most of the way through a second Hurricane by then, so feeling very little in the way of pain, and probably even less concerned about my singing voice.

Fuck it! I’m a fuckin’ Pirate, man! I rule the fucking high seas! I get paid for raiding the Keys, not singing within them. (footnote: that was an allusion to the southern Floridian islands, if you didn’t catch it)

And the night went on.

By the time we left, I’d weathered three hurricanes, and sailed through the last half of Paysh’s—which she definitely didn’t need—as a traveler (that’s a ‘drink-to-go’ in N’Orleans), and we launched off in search of other adventures.

Lafitte’s Revenge

To say that the next day was a bit rough is both an overstatement and understatement.

I was a bit slow in moving, for sure. I slept in to 10am, which if you know anything about me, never happens. Of course, I didn’t go to bed until about 2:30, so seven hours sleep after drinking that much booze might be excusable.

For Paysh, however, the night didn’t end very well. By the time we got back to our base camp, she was feeling poorly, and that carried over into the next morning and day. In fact, she was out of commission all day.

I was sure I’d pushed too much of Lafitte’s Revenge on her—that’s what I’m gonna call those ‘canes from now on. But she was still sick the day after, and the next, so I’m pretty sure she picked up some kind of southern sub-tropical gut rot, a piratical parasite, somewhere. And on Bourbon Street? Fuck. It could be anywhere! The place isn’t known for its sanitation.

Why didn’t I catch it?

I have two theories. One, is that she got it somewhere else, even before we left Yankeeland. Of course, I still should have picked it up from her. It’s not like we don’t have contact, right?

The other theory is the one I’m going with. Paysh only had a half a hurricane. I drank three and a half. Alcohol kills germs. I had more of it. End of theory.

So, if you’re ever on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, head on down to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar. But either avoid the restrooms altogether, piss in the street like a college student, or drink yourself into oblivion like a true-blue buccaneer and execute those fuckin’ French Quarter, piratical parasites before they have a chance to jump your ship and force you to walk the plank.

If you enjoyed this one, check out my other Big Easy Adventures:

  1. The Big Easy: First 24

  2. Cafe du Monde: Feed Your Powdery Addiction

  3. Captain Larry LaFeet: The Land-Pirate of Decatur Street

Steve Bivans is a FearLess Life & Self-Publishing Coach, the author of the Amazon #1 Best Sellers, Vikings, War and the Fall of the Carolingians,The End of Fear Itself, and the epic-length, self-help, sustainability tome, Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth: the Guide to Sustainable Shire Living, If you want to learn how write and self-publish a book to best-seller status, crush your limitations and Fears, and disrupt the status quo, contact Steve for a free consultation to see how he can help you change the world! CONTACT STEVE

It’s Wabasha time: Beer Drinking in the Shire

Hi Y’all,

It’s been a great Saturday in the Shire: St. Paul’s West Side. Started the morning off with a fun day at work: The West Side Farmers Market, where we had music, food, and sunshine all morning.

I”m back home, now, and back in the kilt getting ready to head down to what I call, The Ivy Bush, my local, hobbit drinking hole: the Wabasha Brewing Company, which is only 2 block from my house, just down the hill from Bag End.

wabasha brewing company

My 100th Mug of Beer!

I’m headed down there to hit another milestone in beer-drinking.

Since the brewery opened about a year and a half ago, I’ve been the leading beer-drinker in their Mug Club. I hit 100 mugs of beer last week, but was informed by Tiki, one of the owners, that 107 beers was equivalent to an entire KEG of beer!

So, I have a new goal. It’s good to have goals in life, I’m told.

I’m currently at 103 beers. I have only 4 left, to reach the magical number.

So, until tomorrow, CHEERS!

I’ll have a full report soon.

See y’all tomorrow!

Steve Bivans is a FearLess Life & Self-Publishing Coach, the author of the Amazon #1 Best Sellers, Vikings, War and the Fall of the Carolingians,The End of Fear Itself, and the epic-length, self-help, sustainability tome, Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth: the Guide to Sustainable Shire Living, If you want to learn how write and self-publish a book to best-seller status, crush your limitations and Fears, and disrupt the status quo, contact Steve for a free consultation to see how he can help you change the world! CONTACT STEVE

Thru Poop Alley, to the Edge of Bemidji with Paul Bunyun & a Castrated Bull

Good mornin’ Y’all!

I’m writing to you from the ‘MercInn breakfast lobby in Bemidji, Minnesota.

We made it here, finally, after many detours through Bum-Fuck, Egypt. IMG_4551

We had a lovely picnic near the old train depot in Wadena,

 

 

 

 

IMG_4592found shit-loads of cool old barns,

 

 

 

 

 

found Poop Alley, on a dirt road, just down the ‘street’ from a couple of Amish farmers, IMG_4589

 

 

 

 

 

 

and drove through a dying little town, Sebeka,IMG_4598 right after Jimmy Buffett finished singing about one he had driven through: Ringlin’ Ringlin’.

IMG_4610

“WHERE’S MY FUCKIN’ BALLS, PAUL?”

We found Paul and his Ox, after driving right past it on the way to the motel. Apparently, old Babe lost his balls somewhere around Sebeka, because he isn’t anatomically correct, or politically, since he’s just across the street from a huge statue of an ‘Indian’ doing the traditional ‘How Kemosabe’ pose outside of a Mexican restaurant, in the middle of fuckin’ Minnesota.

We also had some adequate wings at a place called Hurricane Grill and Wings–and chain. I’m not a big fan of chains, and this one was definitely chain-y, not Cheney, the doucebag, former Vice-prez.

The Habenera-Lime wings were very light on both the habenera and the lime, though they were crispy, and decent. The  main reason we chose the place had nothing to do with the promise of great food, as much as the view of Lake Bemidji across the road, and a continued glimpse of Paul Bunyun and Ball-less Babe.

It was also a beautiful evening in the low 70s.

After that, we retired to the motel, hit the pool and the hot tub, then did the most decadent and sexy thing that you CAN do in a motel: watched two episodes of Tiny House Hunters. Yeah, we’re fuckin’ old, I reckon. And we don’t own a television at home. It’s almost like the days when we were children, in the 70s, when you looked forward to seeing naked people in a movie, on a COLOR TV with HBO, in some seedy motel along the backroads of ‘Merica, because our parents were trying to save a few dollars and didn’t want to spring for the luxury of Holiday Inn next to the Interstate. Except of course, the people on Tiny House Hunters don’t do it in the fuckin’ nude: the hunting, that is.

And now I’m up writing this riveting article at 6am, which is seriously sleeping in for me, as most of you know.

See y’all tomorrow!

This was Day 41 or something….

 

Steve Bivans is a FearLess Life & Self-Publishing Coach, the author of the Amazon #1 Best Sellers, Vikings, War and the Fall of the Carolingians,The End of Fear Itself, and the epic-length, self-help, sustainability tome, Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth: the Guide to Sustainable Shire Living, If you want to learn how write and self-publish a book to best-seller status, crush your limitations and Fears, and disrupt the status quo, contact Steve for a free consultation to see how he can help you change the world! CONTACT STEVE

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