I decided to check out the island of Algiers yesterday, after strolling through the French Market (stopping off for another serving of Beignets at Cafe du Monde) and along the waterfront. While on the free ferry across, I checked my map to see where to go. An ad at the bottom of the map caught my eye - for "Mardi Gras World". I'd read an article about Blaine Kern in an in flight magazine, but had forgotten all about it.
In a nutshell, Kern inc. makes over 70% off all the floats in the New Orleans mardi gras (which, incidentally, had its' inception the day before New Orleans was named) and Mardi Gras World is a working workshop, where floats are built or stripped down and altered. They also build a lot of giant 'props' - statues I guess - from pappier mache, styrofoam or fiberglass. It was a lot of fun - dressing up in mardi gras costumes, watching the artists at work, and simply admiring the craftsmanship.
I decided to forgo the free shuttle and wandered back to the ferry terminal, past a lot of really cute old houses. The ferry ride back was just as short and pleasant as before. I walked down to St Charles Ave to get the streetcar down there. Beautiful, beautiful houses (former plantations) lined the street, plenty of big old trees, and basically, a very very rich part of town. I only saw one house that had a board with a giant X on it - a sign that it was damaged in Katrina and that at least one person died.
All this had really taken it out of me, and I decided on another quiet night in. I was having an interesting, though shallow discussion with some people around the table, when we were joined by Sheely. A brassy blond from Texas, with the concentration span of a goldfish, she somehow weaved it into conversation that she wanted to be a mortician, a writer, and in marketing. She said she worked in a cabaret. A few minutes later, she somehow weaved in to the conversation that stem cell research is atrocious, and that it should be stopped because, not only is abortion abhorrent, but there's a black market for foetus arms and legs in China...not for stem cell research, but as a fountain of youth type cuisine.
Well, that kind of threw us. What do you say to that? A few seconds later, she asked me if I wanted to see her 'outfits'. I wasn't sure what she was referring to, but since I may have hurt her feelings in my questioning of her beliefs, I agreed. When she said she worked in 'cabaret', she actually meant 'strip club'. And was very excited to show me the new outfits (read: lingerie) she'd bought (all tax deductible too) to wear that night. She lives somewhere in Texas, and has two kids, but comes down here once a month or so to earn better money. Lovely lady, just a bit ditzy.
This morning, I found out how it pays to be friends with the chef. I'd been chatting to John last night, and he'd offered me a bowl of his homemade granola, which was delicious. This morning, after doing a few bits and pieces around town, I got home absolutely starving and was delighted to find out he was still serving breakfast. I asked him for the pancakes, and I couldn't tell if it was one extremely thick, or two quite thick pancakes the size of a dinner plate, with banana cooked in, and a sprinkling of granola on top. Delicious. The going rate for such a dish? $4.75. My price? $2. Sweet. Of course, I gave him a couple of bucks for his trouble, but that's why it always pays to know the chef!