Category Louisiana

Ahh, New Orleans. The Big Cheezy. Sweet Lady Gumbo. Old….Swampy.

the big cheezy

I love a good pun. And bad ones, too. So when I spotted The Big Cheezy on Google Maps as I was plotting out places that I wanted to visit on my trip, it immediately got added to the list. What’s not to love about grilled cheese sandwiches?

It was actually a bit of a struggle to get to the shop–I intended to take the streetcar the majority of the way there and walk the remaining few blocks, but literally two blocks into my ride, a truck tried to make a left turn in front of it, the streetcar couldn’t stop in time, and t-boned the truck pretty badly, really crunching the rear quarter. The driver of the truck just drove away, she didn’t even look back. Even though everyone seemed fine and the streetcar itself had very little damage, we had to wait for the transportation authorities to arrive, and then fill out paperwork, and everyone was deboarded as that car had to be put out of commission for the investigation. The distance between me and lunch never felt longer.  I eventually called for an uber driver to pick us up and take us the rest of the way as the next car was jam packed and I was starting to get hangry.

red streetcar

grilled cheezes here

big cheezy menu

The grilled cheeses were completely worth every second of hassle, however. We went splitsies on two sandwiches–The Juice (cheddar & pepper jack on sourdough, roast beef w/ debris gravy and grilled green peppers) and Crawgator (cheddar, pepper jack on sourdough w/alligator and crawfish sausages, caramelized onions and grilled green peppers)–so basically, the difference between them was some onions and the type of meat. My standout favorite was the Crawgator. The Juice was good, but a bit wet, and the beef gravy tended to overpower the cheese. The crawgator sausage added heat and complexity without overwhelming the cheese–because after all, a grilled cheese is first and foremost a cheese sandwich.



the juice

The streetcars were still borked from earlier. I should’ve grabbed a third sandwich for the long walk back.

City of the Dead: St Louis Cemetery No 1

rev zombies house of voodoo

rev zombies voodoo shop

The above-ground cemeteries of New Orleans have long-fascinated visitors to the area. Mark Twain famously said that the city of New Orleans has no architecture, save for its cemeteries. Nicolas Cage even bought space for and constructed an enormous whitewashed pyramid for his eventual interment. Thanks to vandals, disrespectful tourists, and ne’er do wells, you actually can no longer visit St Louis Cemetery No. 1 if you don’t have relatives interred there unless you are accompanied by a licensed tour group. I selected Haunted History Tours at random (all the tour groups advertise that they’re the number one tour group, and they all pretty much depart from one voodoo shop or another so it’s impossible to differentiate between them from afar), and fairly shortly into the tour I was sure I had made the correct choice. I’d seen a number of tour groups wandering through the french quarter, and some of them were so large that I’m not certain the people in the back knew what was going on or could even see the thing they were there to hear about before the group made it to the next thing on the list. Our tour group was seven people plus the tour guide, which made it easy to hear and ask questions and get a more personal tour experience. 

We departed from Rev. Zombie’s House of Voodoo (meh, I’ve seriously seen some of the candles for sale in there at Urban Outfitters), and walked up the street toward the cemetery, learning the original sites of the graves so none of us invest in potentially haunted property, and taking a couple of quick detours at Louis Armstrong Park and Basin St. Station to talk about the history of the area, learn about why people and GPS devices get so confused when talking about directions in New Orleans (you’re not going north, south, east, and west in the crescent city–you’re going lakeside, riverside, uptown and downtown), and take one last opportunity to use a restroom since (surprise!) there aren’t any in the cemetery. While we were in Basin St. Station, our tour guide recommended a book, Frenchmen Desire Good Children, about the history of New Orleans and its interesting street naming conventions. Somehow, I got the title mixed up in my head and went back to Basin St. Station later and requested to buy a copy of City of Saints and Bastards, to which the people working there looked quite perplexed and asked me which tour guide recommended that book, again? It turns out once they figured out which book I was actually after, that they were sold out, but they also enthusiastically praised it, and said it’s the book that all New Orleans tour guides study before they take their examinations. I bought it later on Amazon and just very recently started to read it, which I wholeheartedly recommend you not do, because it is the single most racist piece of shit I’ve ever read. I said “What the fuck?!?” more times in the first ten pages than I did throughout the entirety of the series of Twin Peaks, and it wasn’t a perplexed kind of Twin Peaks-y “What the fuck?” but a truly horrified, can’t believe this book came highly recommended, really can’t believe that the author just compared native americans to dogs sort of “WHAT. THE. FUCK.”. I think I would have preferred City of Saints and Bastards to this hot garbage.

tomb of marie laveau

marie laveau tomb

xes on tomb

a cemetery for all

brick tombs

bricked up tomb

broken nameplate


But back to the tour. It was interesting to see how differently the city of New Orleans handles burials. We learned that because of the heat inside the tombs, in about a year’s time, there are only bones left in the tomb, which means that they can be reused over and over again, adding more names to the plaque on the front, while the bones intermingle in an area at the bottom. This is why you see double-decker tombs in the cemetery, because if you had multiple family members die less than a year apart, you wouldn’t want to open the tomb until the decomposition process had ended. With two, unless your family was having a really bad year, it’s unlikely you’d have to worry about opening up a tomb that wasn’t…uh…fully baked. We also learned that tomb maintenance is handled by the family or by a trust left by a family for said purpose, which is why some tombs look pristine and others are crumbling. 

Marie Laveau, the voodoo queen of New Orleans, is interred at St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, and even though maintenance people keep whitewashing away the Xes people scratch on the sides of the tomb, hoping for her favors even in death, more keep appearing. Evidently, if your wish is granted, you’re supposed to return and circle your Xes and leave her a gift in accordance with the size of the favor–although her tomb has been cleaned, it’s plain to see that not many favors are granted. Some people also believe that Marie Laveau’s bones are not interred within that tomb but are instead elsewhere in the cemetery out of fear of them being stolen, which is why triple Xes are found all over various tombs in the cemetery from people hedging their bets.


burial table

city of the dead

crumbling brick tomb

crumbling tomb



growing its own flowers

homer plessy

life finds a way

lion drawer handle

marble sculpture

marble tomb


nicolas cage tomb


pink tomb

plant life


row of tombs

rusty gate

st louis cemetery

st louis

Visiting this cemetery made me think a bit more about what I’d want for my own body when I die. I’ve joked about being packed into a lipstick tube and launched into space, I’ve suggested that it would be totally fine if I was just tossed into a dumpster, but it is important to really consider the impact not only our lives have on the planet, but also our deaths. The single coffin below ground has to be a thing of the past, as our world population has exploded and there just simply isn’t room. Family crypts are an interesting solution. Maybe I can get in on Nic Cage’s badass pyramid. Either way, right now, I’m seriously in the mood for some brick oven pizza.

New Orleans! Home of pirates, drunks, and whores! New Orleans! Tacky overpriced souvenir stores!

When I was in my early twenties, I would have loved Bourbon Street. I would have definitely reveled in the seediness with a Huge Ass Beer(tm) in each hand, a poboy strapped between my boobs, and I would have offered bites of the sandwich to anyone in exchange for strings of tacky plastic beads, plus I probably would have come home with at least six new t-shirts with slogans ranging from mildly suggestive to banned in three states. Now that I’m older, saggier, significantly less rock ‘n’ roll, and way more possessive of my sandwiches, Bourbon Street doesn’t really do it for me. Every morning, the streets are literally hosed off from the previous night’s debauchery, and the smell that arises from said hosing can only be described as the scent of bad decision making.

  horse hitching post

napoleons itch

wrought iron veranda


buggy outside lafittes

It could be solely that I am older and more cynical, but especially during daylight hours, it feels like every tagline on Bourbon could be followed by “…you assholes!” “Pizza by the slice…you assholes!” “Huge Ass Beers…you assholes!” “Barely Legal Club…you assholes!” “Put some spice in your life…you assholes!”  “Balcony upstairs party party party…you assholes!” “Home of the hand grenade…you assholes!” Even the stuff that’s sold as sincere is kind of bullshitty. Take Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, for one. It’s advertised as the oldest bar in the United States, a pirate bar, and it is a pretty old bar, but not the oldest–it wasn’t a bar at the same time it was an actual blacksmith shop. They also claim that the Lafitte brothers (the pirates in question) used the place as a base for their smuggling operations between 1772 and 1791. However, the elder Lafitte didn’t even come to Louisiana until 1803. And then there’s the faux aging on the outside of the building, which makes it look less authentically old and more like a pirate bar as built by Disney. The only thing I would buy as being authentically old in the building is the bathroom, which will sincerely make you regret breaking the seal on your bladder with the aforementioned Huge Ass Beer…you asshole.

lafittes blacksmith shop exterior

lafittes blacksmith shop

beer at lafittes

nola poboys

Which isn’t to say that dreams don’t come true on Bourbon Street or that nothing good happens there. I was meeting up with friends to take a tour nearby, so we decided to grab lunch at NOLA Poboys on Bourbon beforehand. They actually didn’t have a permit for their deep fryer at the time (waiting on a visit from the fire department) so anything that would normally be fried on their menu was unavailable–which I was totally fine with because I do occasionally eat things that haven’t been deep fried.

I ordered a hot ham and beef sandwich, and while the sandwich itself was delicious, the truly wonderful thing happened in the wake of the sandwich, when I went to wash off the gravy that had dripped down to my elbows. You see, ever since I first encountered one of those super powerful hand dryers that flap the skin on the backs of your hands around like it’s trying to push it aside and dry you at the mitochondrial level, I have wanted to stick my stomach under one and see what happens. The problem is, these dryers are always right out in the open, so you never really get a level of privacy that’s particularly conducive to this type of scientific experiment. However, the bathroom at NOLA Poboys was an all-in-one unit, complete with super hand dryer, and thus, science could happen.


…As my gut whipped around like the Blob caught in a freak tornado, I may have shed a tear composed of 90% joy, 10% shame. Bourbon Street is truly a magical place.