Friday, January 09, 2009

Only in the Big Easy... the following three items go together: Mardi Gras, lingerie, and crawfish.

Carnival is officially here, and today, the Hollywoods joined a tour group of friends to visit Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World. MGW is a local institution, as Kern (a.k.a. "Mr. Mardi Gras") makes the "greatest free show on earth" possible. Mr. Kern's studio is where local artists, beginning on the day after Mardi Gras (which for a lot of Lutherans could be called "Ashless Wednesday") and work like mad to get the floats created for next year's Carnival.

After a short film giving the historical background of Mardi Gras and of Blaine Kern's studio, we were all treated to king cake and coffee, after which we were given a tour of the warehouse/workship/museum as artists plied their trade.

We had a great time, and afterward wanted to get some lunch.

A block from our church, and two blocks from home is a little neighborhood pub called Bourré's. It always smells so good in the neighborhood when Bourré's is preparing barbecue. A couple weeks back, the three of us were bicycling by, and stopped to check out the place. I wanted to make sure Lion Boy was permitted inside (some restaurants are also bars, and they do have different rules for the under-21 crowd). When we stopped at that time, the place was basically empty, and the lady manager (owner?) told us that they serve lunch, have excellent burgers, and indeed Leo was welcome to come. They even have live music on Friday nights.

And so, after working up a Big Easy appetite touring Mardi Gras World, this seemed like a good time to pop in.

Again, the place was basically empty, save for a fellow at the end of the bar, a single occupied table with a couple folks in the middle of the small dining room, and the same lady manager. Our eyes were immediately drawn to the 12-foot alligator (real) mounted above the bar. The manager came out from behind the bar with an awkward look on her face (maybe it isn't every day a clergyman "in uniform" walks into the bar, at least without a rabbi...). As Leo and I looked at the gator, I heard Mrs. Hollywood, in her ever-unflappable, deadpan way, remark: "I seem to be a little overdressed here."

I turned to look just in time to see two ladies at the table in the middle of the dining room scurrying to cover up with long coats. The manager then sheepishly explained that on Tuesdays and Fridays they have "lingerie shows." I shrugged and smiled at the now-draped ladies at the table and offered: "Kinda chilly in here, huh?" Of course, it was 70 degrees and the doors were open...

Mrs. Hollywood was enjoying this way too much. What else could we do but laugh. We thought of it as just another comical thing that routinely happens in our alternate universe known as New Orleans. But it did seem like the women were genuinely embarrassed. The guy at the end of the bar was cracking up. Oblivious, Leo was petting the tail of the stuffed tiger (this is LSU country, after all) next to the cigarette machine (of which I didn't think any existed any more), and the manager did her best to smooth things over with me and actually try to talk us into staying. Her poise and salesmanship were something to behold.

We said we'd just go somewhere else for lunch. The manager did let us know the show would be over at 2:30 and that there would be live music tonight (presumably, the band would be clad in more than their underwear). Ever chipper, Mrs. Hollywood said good bye and thanked the lady manager. I said we'd be back another time. Leo happily called out "Bye" and waved.

How archetypically N'wahluns! The only things missing missing were the inexplicable guy carrying a chicken under his arm and the ubiquitous fella in the pirate costume. It was funny that there was no sign or anything to give us a heads up that there would be nearly nude women in the restaurant one block from our Christian elementary school at noontime during the week. But leave it to Mrs. H. to put it all into perspective: "Well, they weren't naked." And, as Mrs. H. pointed out, they did cover up when they saw the clerical collar. Mrs. H. has indeed acclimated herself to the local "laissez-faire" Crescent City culture - but then again, she's a French Canadian, cut of the same cloth, and has inherited her iron constitution and "Gallic shrug" from her equally unshockable grandmother.

So, we ambled off to our usual neighborhood haunt, Common Grounds - reasonably certain that only the sandwiches there might be "undressed."

And, as a bonus, one of the specials was crawfish pasta - which was a fitting way to end a great Big Easy day! Bons temps. Seulement ici.


Greg said...

Thanks for the chuckle, and the wave of nostalgia!

Chris Jones said...

I love your posts about New Orleans, but they always remind me that it's been 'way too long since we've managed to go down there.

Chris Ann Matteo said...

Father Hollywood

The talks are now up on

Thank you for visiting and I hope you send feedback about what you hear.

Chris Ann Matteo, Ph.D.

Father Hollywood said...

Thanks, Dr. Matteo! (Readers of Fr. Hollywood who are interested in Classics may want to check out these podcasts).

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Greg:

I guess there's no chance of catching a few beads where "y'at" now. I'm glad I gave you a chuckle. Keep the faith!

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Chris:

Y'all come! I hope you'll look me up when you get here.