PART TWO NOLA, the shenanigans

I fiercely hope sometimes that this blog appeals to people, even if it’s mostly devoid of tales of drinking beer and debauchery across 9,000 miles. See, I leave most of that out, as I’m really hoping to share with you those raw, beautiful and unusual moments. The ones that highlight the good in people, the moments meeting strangers that defies the world we see projected on our TV screens. And, yes, those moments do often occur over food and spirits. Like at Finn McCools Irish Pub in NOLA.

The gangThis is where I was headed after my first post on arriving in NOLA. Alan, my host the first night in NOLA, had announced the meetup with short notice. Surprisingly, quite a many great people showed up, even a Royal Bastard. I was late after attempting to follow shoddy directions and then ultimately relying on the sense of familiarity I’ve only recently acquired in NOLA. It’s a difficult town for a visitor; confusing layout. And while it can at first seem so big and intimidating, every visit makes it feel a little smaller and more familiar.

We talked outside over brews and the group introduced me to many regulars. Eric the Barefoot took a handful of postcards and began passing them out in the bar; the next thing I knew, people were coming out to say HI, Good Luck and to define Peace!

I realized that food had made only a brief appearance in my day, so we decided to go for Middle Eastern food next door. There were six of us dining together and I appreciated the communal feeling, as I grab a lot of meals alone on the road. I had eaten lunch earlier with four of them-Jocelyn, Tom, Mike and Alan. They took me out to Luiza’s by the Tracks, apparently a landmark restaurant in NOLA. Tom and Mike are great guys from Big Easy Scooters, the Genuine dealer in town. Although I didn’t need any service while in town, they were great about showing up and hanging out. It was because of Chelsea-of the Scoot Richmond fame, my heroine that Tom ultimately wound up in NOLA.

Dave, a Royal Bastard, was there at dinner and the conversation was exceptional. I was dining with some rather smart cookies. After dinner we went back to McCools, watched some of the playoffs on TV. Then Dave made sure I knew how to get to my new accomodations.

Talk about a small world. Last year my host Rebecca took me to a Soul Rebel show. While there, I interviewed two women, also travelers. After the interviews I had gone inside and wound up talking to a guy Johnny about my tatts, the trip and his goal to attend Burning Man. He bought me a beer, told me he wanted a vintage scoot and that was that. He left a good impression, as did his lady. One of the girls I interviewed that night made it into the P.E.A.C.E SCOOT trailer.

IMG_0757Scooter forums are great. Rich posted about my visit to town and a guy named Johnny said he had couch space available. And that he met me last year. So Dave led me over to Johnny’s and I spent the next 3 nights in a wonderful sanctuary. Johnny had since bought his vintage Vespa and had even hosted Matua, of Vespadition. To make the world even smaller, it turns out the girls I had interviewed at Soul Rebels were couchsurfing with him that year.

I woke up early Wednesday and headed over to The Green Project, where I would volunteer for 7 hours. Please, visit their website to learn more about a great organization and look to see if there is one in your community. I was happy to volunteer because NOLA needs help rebuilding. Volunteer work also allows me insight to help me decide the final two organizations whom I donate to at the end. The Green Project is absolutely astounding and is managed by amazing people.

TGP offers valuable resources to its community and our environment by keeping 45-70% of stuff out of landfills. They provide the drop off point for recycled paint, lumber, and building materials; re salvaging them to be placed somewhere else in the city. Their services are also especially valuable in helping preserve New Orleans architectural history. They compost and grow a garden on site. They thrive on volunteers, are brilliant at every level and I hope every town creates something like them. It is shameful what we waste, especially in comparison to what people around the world need. Not to mention our environmental crisis. Most towns have a Habitat for Humanity re-sell store, where you can get hardware in just as good of shape as Lowe’s.

The day went quickly, working in paint with Charlie. My volunteer photo set is here.

Charlie Brown had just quit the film industry, in order to save his soul and spare himself a breakdown from the grueling schedule. We talked all day long. I got to name the two batches of paint, one white, Peace and one brown, Leroy. Erin was a wonderful lady who stopped in to offer laughs and directions. She also commented, like many other places where I volunteer, that they need more volunteers. Go help out The Green Project-it’s a great place!

After a day in the shop, it was time for free music in Lafayette Park. I spent a bit of time there reveling in the crowd. In New Orleans, music is like church. People let the music move through their body and soul, the dancing is so joyous to watch. Thunderstorms were coming in so I went back to Johnny’s. I grabbed food at Whole Foods, thanks to them for donating me a gift card that helps maintain my health while on the road.

I stayed up late talking to Aaron, Johnny’s roomate, about the website he is developing. We discussed what it means to have a vision that you can’t ignore and the wonderment of following through with your passions at all costs. He is very consumed by starting this website, and I’m sorry I can’t put the link here because I’ve forgotten the URL. Then he asked how P.E.A.C.E Scoot got started and we talked a couple of more hours. He told me his definition of Peace could be best describes as grace before gluttony.

The next day was rather mundane. I spent hours trying to find spots to volunteer in the next states and places to stay. Then it was time to do some work. Fortunately I have the honor of working for a website that is just starting off, it is called thesecondroad.org. I offer rudimentary skills in beta-testing and diplomatic skills as a talent scout. It has really been an eye and heart opener to read the many blogs out there that chronicle people overcoming obstacles and recreating their life from the bottom up.

There has been a fair amount of work this past week, although I usually only do 5 hours at most. It gives me money for tacos, espresso and some petro. I figure the more I can earn money-the more will be left for donation at the end of the trip!

I spent Thursday evening at his house, a lovely home complete with two recently planted oak trees. Him and the lady fixed up a meal and we watched the Hornets lose to the San Antonio Spurs. It was very chill and I love to hear his philosophy about traveling.

One quote from Johnny Nomad is, “If I have learned one thing as a traveler, it would be that the world would be a better place if everyone took a little time out of their lives to explore the world around them.”

He’s on a quest for enlightenment adn trying to see the whole globe without ever taking an airplane. He has visited 7 continents and 70 countries! Johnny knows how to host a traveler because he’s done so much of it himself. In my brief time there felt like I was at home. I appreciate the trust and comfort he offered! I stayed in their sun room, it was beautiful. I went to sleep rather late Thursday night, only to wake up to a massive thunderstorm. Three thoughts went through my head.

Wow, this is beautiful. Yikes, I’m riding in the rain today. Damn, if I don’t move I’m gonna be bacon.

Long streaks of lightning were flashing in over me, so I moved out of the sunroom.

I woke up early to pack the scoot and meet the NOLA scooterists for a bon voyage breakfast. I was already soaked by the time I arrived. Although I wasn’t very awake for the meeting, it was a splendid time and I’m glad so many came out to say goodbye. Sadly Alan wasn’t there. Rich gave me a hand held tape recorder to do interviews with. This is helpful since I was recording with my ipod, which broke the day the trip started, making life kinda miserable on the long rides. The scrumptious breakfast at the notorious Lil Dizzies would hold me until 10pm that night.

The generosity and companionship made NOLA much more hospitable than any other time I’ve visited. Thanks Mike, Tom, Joceyln, Missy, Jan, Rich, Dave, Johnny, Aaron, The Green Project, Alan, and anyone I neglect to mention!

Rich being the amazing gentleman that he is, escorted me over to the West Bank via ferry. I was the only brave enough to show on scooter that day. Rich’s warehouse was on the way out to 90W so I spent a couple of hours there viewing his genious LED creations and listening to his stories. I stalled also hoping the rain would clear but finally had to push on.

New Orleans 08 was an incredible visit, thank you everybody!

Check out the photo set of NOLA here

One Reply to “PART TWO NOLA, the shenanigans”

  1. Good to take another trip via the blogosphere…Can never get enough of the bon temps in the Big Easy!

    Thanks for sharing the lighter side. It’s good to see the resiliency of New Orleans-both her people and her spirit. It makes me think of the potential of humans to heal as individuals and in the presence of one another.

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