Nola. N’awlins. New Orleans. Call it what you want. I call it mysterious. Oh, New Orleans makes me want to be a vampire! The vibe, the mysteriousness, the freakiness of it all! Visiting Ann Rice’s hometown is about as close to a vampire as I will ever be, unfortunately. We all love Twilight, but I have been a huge fan of the fangy undeads since I can remember. Maybe it was Interview With A Vampire starring Brad Pitt that did me in. Or it could have been Once Bitten. Either way, True Blood and Robert Patterson and his family of bloodsuckers have gotten me back into the vampire mood.
This was my third visit to New Orleans, and I always feel a little different when I visit that town. A little uneasy in the Big Easy. I grew up watching scary movies with my mom. Silver Bullet, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street. You name it, I watched it. So to this day I’m always looking back over my shoulder in the dark. I don’t think I will ever outgrow the fear that something is watching me.
I hadn’t been to New Orleans since before Hurricane Katrina. It is definitely cleaner now, but with that came deserted buildings and storefronts. The French Quarter was still kickin’ as if nothing had ever happened. We stayed at the Ritz since it was basically free. They were doing a Papa Noel special, and it was almost as cheap as a Marriott, so we booked it since that particular Ritz had the best spa of all the Ritz’s, and one of the top spas in the USA.
We kept meaning to go and steam and hot tub, but the streets of Nola kept taunting us to come out and play. So I never stepped foot past the spa store or the gym. Friday night we walked around and found Arnaud’s Restaurant. Where we enjoyed a three-piece band. It was quite lovely. But Sunday night we hit the jackpot with Dinner at Bombay, and some of the most amazing food I’ve ever had, followed by a stroll around town to find Madame LaVeau’s Voodoo house, where Psychic Cybil gave me a reading and was spot on. She looked at me and said, “I see Eat Pray Love,” which I just happened to have with me on the trip. That was cool yet kind of freaky.
Afterward we found Madame LaLaurie’s haunted house. Google her if you haven’t heard about her nastiness. A pretty evil socialite who’s house caught on fire. When the fireman came to save the building, they found slaves and servants that were tied to the walls and floors, and bound in other ways with their eyes sewn shut, their ears sawed down, broken limbs, and even tortured genitals. (This happened in 1840). She fled, never to be found. Her house has been turned into many businesses, none of which have succeeded for very long because the screams of the tortured victims are said to still be very prominent, as well as Madame LaLaurie’s ghost.
When I walked up to her building I was honestly scared to death. I walked over to peer through the window, but as I leaned in I was afraid I would see something, or get pulled in by some “other.” I felt instantly unsettled. I’m scared of my own shadow, so this was pushing it for me. When I turned to leave, I realized my family was already a half a block away. I ran to catch up but couldn’t help to keep looking back over my shoulder. It took me a while to shake that eerie feeling.
On our walk back to the hotel, we passed the gay section, adorned with rainbow flags everywhere. As I passed a go-go bar, I noticed a very skinny male up on the bar dancing in short hot pants. Confirmed. definitely gay.
Preservation Hall was where we ended the night. What a pleasant surprise! It was a stripped down old storefront. Six men, no mics, old school vintage jazz. Amazing jazz. Breathtaking jazz. The band had summoned quite a diverse crowd. From a guy wearing a NY baseball hat and a leather coat, to a guy in dreads, to a hipster crowd, to three West Virginians just looking for some raw, real music without anyone trying to sell us anything. Like deep-fried oysters or powder-sugar-covered beignets.
These guys were all over sixty, except for one, Lionel, who was the trombone player, that sang in a Louis Armstrong voice. He worked that bone like some unforeseen force was playing tug-of-war with it. The band was more than impressive. They were electric. Their passion for jazz was felt in every single person that night. I definitely have a newfound appreciation for it, and can’t wait to visit there again. Now instead of feeling uneasy in the Big Easy, New Orleans makes me feel excited and alive inside….and next time I’m finding the vampire bar!