Opening the Floodgates to Friendships in New Orleans




With so many television productions being shot on location in Louisiana; Billy the Exterminator, Swamp People, Bad Girls Club, Big Easy Justice, you’d think the heyday of reality is on TV. Not so. For true authenticity and adventure in New Orleans all you have to do is follow a local.

I set my sights on seeing the Mardi Gras Indians perform at Algiers Point last night, but, as expected, I got sidetracked. I had every intention to enjoy the first free Summer Concert Series until I met Melvin.

While crossing the Mississippi river, the perfect stranger identified the plane tattooed on my left shoulder while I was taking photos of the city skyline. That’s not easy to do, even for a WWII buff.

The ferry maneuvered into place on the West Bank and Melvin and I disembarked. The sky rumbled and hissed, a storm was threatening to pour down on the park. My ‘quasi-ambassador of New Orleans’ assured me the show would still go on.

Algiers Point sits on a bend in the Mississippi with high banks or dirt levees that confine the river from flooding. Once a crowded industrial riverfront it started a shipbuilding tradition back in 1819.

Today, it’s a quiet tree-lined neighborhood with three miles of walking and biking paths, antique shops, corner stores and restaurants. It’s especially popular among musicians, artists and retirees. A public statue of Louis Armstrong greets visitors coming off the ferry.

A devastating fire in 1895 destroyed 250 beautiful early-style shotgun double houses but owners quickly rebuilt them exactly as before. A shotgun house is long and narrow and has rooms that line up one behind the other, typically the living room first followed by one or two bedrooms and finally a kitchen at the end. Bathrooms came later in the design. They were built as such to allow the wind to blow from room-to-room and cool the hot southern air.

Today, dozens of Creole cottages are trimmed in intricate lattice work and gingerbread shutters, splashed over with rainbow paint and bordered with white picket fences. Many have a wide porch with an overhanging roof beginning the longstanding tradition of congregating with neighbors and passersby.

A lovely senior couple did just that when they saw Melvin and I admiring their abode. Fritz and Jo (85 and 80 respectively) and their guest Eva were about to crack open a bottle of bubbly and share the bounty. They insisted we stay.

I couldn’t believe it. This was a degree of southern hospitality and generosity beyond traditional manners or etiquette.

Fritz made no hesitation of showing off the original wood floors, dual-sided coal fireplaces and super high 14′ ceiling. Jo proved especially fond of her back porch where stray cats lurk in an over-sized shade tree.

Bourbon Street’s din and debauchery is no where to be found in Algiers Point. Founded in 1719, this is a pleasant, safe and absolutely charming village and meeting Melvin, Fritz, Jo and Eva reiterated the legacy and lore.