Day 23: October 21, 2015--NOLA: French Quarter 2

Don't miss today's Gallery!

They don't call it "The Big Easy" for nuthin'. (Photo by Lila--but concept by James!)

Today was another wand'ring day, with a couple of interesting high points. One of them was a laundromat (seriously?) and we took one step closer to meeting Cousin Wayne.

We had some laundry to do, and--as Old 77 had no self-service machines--one of us discovered an unusual place to do that. The Clothes Spin (get it?) was once J & M Music Shop (and recording studio) owned by early rock enabler Cosimo Matassa. It's where Fats Domino, Little Richard, Ray Charles, Allen Toussaint, Sam Cooke, Jerry Lee Lewis, Dr. John, "and many others" recorded some of their earliest and greatest hits (who can forget "Tutti Frutti"?)

The plaques out front and the jukebox inside are the only testimony to its former glory.

(Photos by Lila)

Afterward, we headed up Esplanade once again to see if we could meet my cousin Wayne Baquet, owner of Li'l Dizzy's. The place was open, but Wayne wasn't in. We did meet Roz, though.

When I asked after Wayne, the waitress called someone over--as it turns out, our cousin Rudy (Wayne's brother)--but when calling, she said, "Hey, Rudy! This man says he's a Baquet!" and from behind us came a rather doubtful, "WHO says he's a Baquet?!" I turned around and said, "I am!" and an older black woman retorted, "But you're WHITE!" Meet Roz.

I told her who my granddad was, and, bona fides established, ended up looking at some of Wayne's memorabilia related to Grandpa Achille. Roz told us that after three decades of working for the family, she was "practically a Baquet" herself!

I can't remember when or how we took our laundry back to the hotel--maybe we carried it all day?--but the rest of the day was spent wandering the streets in and around the French Quarter. See the Gallery for more, but let me mention a few highlights here:
  • Listening to musicians, on the Square and elsewhere
  • Preservation Hall, which we would visit the next night
  • A streetcar ride back to the area around Old 77
  • The uber-weird Piazza d'Italia near our hotel, called "the first 'postmodern ruin'"
The pictures in the Gallery will be worth thousands of words.

Two more things to tell you about.

One was dinner at Juan's Flying Burrito, a few blocks from our hotel, and a meal so good we took our friends the McClains back the next night. Who can resist a place that calls itself "the world’s first Creole Taqueria"? Besides, the menu was very veg-friendly, and the service was great.

(Photo by Lila)
The other thing to mention is, ambling through Lafayette Square on the way to Juan's, we came across a monument to a man named John McDonogh; the monument was dedicated "from the Public School Children of New Orleans."

I never thought much about it until researching for this blog, when I discovered that this statue maybe ought to come down. You be the judge.

You see, Mr. McDonogh was one of those "enlightened" slave owners who even set up a system for "his" slaves to buy their freedom. But he was also a promoter of the scheme to transport free people of color back to Liberia. While this may sound noble, the motives behind the "American Colonization Society" included the perception that free blacks were "a burden on society and a threat to white workers" because they worked cheap. One of their leaders called blacks "promoters of mischief."

On the other other hand, when McDonogh died in 1850, he "left the bulk of his fortune... to the cities of Baltimore and New Orleans for the purpose of building public schools for poor children--specifically, white and freed black children." No provision for those still enslaved.

Over 30 schools were built in New Orleans from his bequest, most of them named "John McDonogh." There were so many that they were referred to by number--"McDonogh #15," etc. Though many have been renamed (in an effort to talk slaveholders' names off of schools), eight still bear his name.

And the monument from the grateful school children still stands. Uh-huh.

Don't miss today's Gallery!

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