Monday, June 01, 2009

The Time My Brother Ate a Bird-Rabbit, and Other Vignettes from New Orleans

I finally managed to get a few thoughts and stories organized from my New Orleans trip, which is quite impressive considering I took so many anti-anxiety drugs on the bumpy plane ride home that I tried to start a clown college ("The best clown college in the US! On this plane!" was what it said on the note I apparently passed around the aircraft).

This post is made up of little anecdotes, some photos, and one long story at the end, so if that sounds boring, definitely come back asap for more regularly scheduled fashion blogging, but if you'd like to waste a little of your Monday workday, then you've come to the right place! And just so you're not confused right off the bat: This was a random 3-day trip to New Orleans with my two brothers, Tona and Devin. The mission was mostly to eat po' boys. Mission accomplished.

Day One: The Peep Show Po' Boy

Deliriously hungry after our day of traveling, we wandered around the French Quarter for a couple hours before stumbling into a random restaurant that had "PO BOYS!" written in the window. (Note: wandering into random restaurants while deliriously hungry will become a bad decision theme of this trip.) We took a seat in the empty dining area and didn't even look at the menu before instructing the waiter to bring us three po' boys--one with crawfish, one with shrimp, one with oysters--oh yes, this was the stuff that dreams are made of.

As we excitedly waited for our first taste of New Orleans to arrive, I noticed that Tona was looking sort of uncomfortable, but assumed it was the heat, fatigue and maybe a little culture shock. The food came and it was super good, but Tona was looking more and more upset as he ate. "Bad oysters?" I asked. "Well, yeah," he said, "they don't taste quite right. But also there are lesbians having sex over there." Devin and I craned our necks to check out Tona's view, and sure enough, his chair was directly facing a big screen across the street playing hardcore girl-on-girl porn. Welcome to New Orleans!

This is Tona giving a dramatic thumbs-down to something else, but we can pretend he was taking a stand against lesbian porn during dinner.

Day Two: Scenes from Anaconda

On our second day there we went to the Aquarium, which turned into mostly acting out scenes from the movie Anaconda in front of the anaconda tank.

Devin won the role of Jon Voight for his perfect take on the line, "It wraps its coils around you tighter than any lover."

Then Tona filmed Devin reciting his lines while a group of Russian tourists watched, deeply confused.

Here's me pointing at a white alligator saying, "That looks fake!" Directly afterward the alligator pointed at my hair and said, "That looks frizzy!"

The Gulf of Mexico exhibit was sponsored by the finest stewards of the environment.

Later that day we went to a coffeeshop and spent an hour organizing and photographing a banana funeral:

Here I was playing the very upset Mrs. Banana.

Then we were like, "Oh yeah, we're in New Orleans, we should do things other than sit in coffeeshops pretending to have funerals for a banana," so we went and ate more delicious food, including...

Po' boys without a side of porn:

Muffuletta by the Mississippi:

(Apparently with a side of porn)

And of course:

Plus coffeeshop breaks everyday, cuz we're from Oregon, duh:

Again with the bad hair.

And much, much more--so much amazing food!

Day Three: The Lost Zoo Trip

We rode the streetcar to the zoo and hid under a tree during a huge downpour, which was really fun, but the camera ran out of batteries so this day is stored solely in our memories. Also, I ordered a bourbon to try to be cool and the bartender felt so bad for me that he kept beckoning me back to the bar to add more coke and cherry flavor to help me choke it down. "Bourbon's not for everyone," he said, and I said, "Let me pretend it is, damnit!"

And Finally: The Restaurant

On our last night in New Orleans, we'd been wandering around for a couple hours trying to decide where to have dinner. Every restaurant so far had been eliminated for reasons ranging from too touristy to too expensive to being owned by Carlos Mencia, and our building hunger was making us even more choosy and indecisive. Rounding a corner we saw a sign for a fancy-looking restaurant with a French name, and pressed our sweaty, tired faces against the window. The place looked really elegant--candles, white tablecloths, high-end art--and completely empty.

"It looks expensive," Devin said, and he was right--the Cajun entrees were priced about $15 more than we were wanting to pay.

"It looks fancy," said Tona, frowning at our dirty cutoffs, t-shirts, and sneakers. "I don't think this is our kind of place."

My mind clouded by hypoglycemia, I put my hands on my hips and said, "Let's do it, guys! Our last meal here should be a really nice one, and in this economy, fancy restaurants don't care about what you wear!" I pushed open the door and my brothers followed me in.

Our entrance was met with dead silence, and then a clear "Harumph!" rang out from somewhere toward the back. I squinted to see a group of 5 or 6 nicely dressed servers standing in a circle at the bar. Each of them seemed to be striking an exaggerated pose to indicate their intense judgment and disapproval. The man on the right was literally looking down his nose at us. The guy next to him had crossed his arms and curled his lip. Another one put his hands on his hips and scowled. Another raised one eyebrow. One of them whispered something and they all laughed.

I gulped and said, "Table for three."

Now, before I go on I must tell you that in my family runs a strong streak of contrariness. It may have started with my grandfather, who became the first and only atheist in a long line of Mennonites, then passed along to my father, who once smashed his prized clay sculpture after an art teacher said that she liked it, and then to my three brothers and me. This, along with the fact that I do dumb things when I get hungry, can help explain why these asshole waiters sending us such strong signals to leave, leave, leave made me want to stay, stay, stay.

The group collectively rolled their eyes and then one of them gestured to a rosy pink booth in the center of the room. "Thank you," I said, and we walked over and sat down. One of the waiters, a portly fellow with an aristocratic nose perfectly angled for inflicting harsh judgment, came over and handed us menus. The group standing at the bar was still staring, pausing only to whisper and guffaw.

"Our special tonight is--"

"We'll start with the stuffed mushrooms, please," I said, having glanced at the menu for a millisecond and shut it. I ordered the first thing I saw, wanting to show him that we were classy and legit, even though Tona was wearing a high school wrestling team t-shirt he'd found at the Goodwill.

"Um, OK," our waiter stammered, "that order only comes with three very small mushrooms. Perhaps you'd like to add some oysters?"

"Nope," I said. "Just the three very small mushrooms."

He shook his head dramatically and walked back to join the judgers.

My brothers and I leaned into a huddle. "What the hell is these guys' problem?" whispered Devin.

"It's probably my shirt," said Tona.

"Why are they standing in a clique like bitchy pre-teens?" I asked.

We looked up, and the judgers were still sneering at us. It was a strange feeling to be alone in a restaurant with these newfound arch nemeses, staring them down and talking bad about them as they did the exact same thing to us.

"I have to go the bathroom," Tona said. "Where is it?"

"Shit," said Devin, "you're gonna have to walk right past them!"

Bravely Tona got up and strode past the clique. Their eyes followed him down the hallway like a school of snobby fish.

"I'm going next," Devin told me.

"You know what I'm doing?" I said, "I'm gonna sit right here and wash my hands with a Walgreens wipey--no shame!" I started digging in my purse for the individually wrapped hand wipes I'd bought earlier on Canal Street. In my haste to find them, I started piling old receipts and other purse debris on the pristine white table. Finally I located my handwipes, and as Tona returned and Devin left for the bathroom, I tore open the package and washed up.

The waiter came out of the kitchen after I had created a small landfill at my table setting. As a quick fix and minor act of vengeance, I picked up the silver candle centerpiece and crammed the garbage underneath.

He arrived at our table and handed out small appetizer plates. To make room for our puny order of mushrooms, he picked up the centerpiece, revealing my Walgreens wipey pile, and I began to laugh hysterically. Seriously, I couldn't stop giggling. The juxtaposition of my trash pile and the snobby waiter and the $20 order of 3 mushrooms and the general stress had driven me to madness. I gasped, "I got the giggles!" and the waiter walked away.

The mushrooms were delicious, and soon our poor waiter was back to take our orders. Tona and I chose some basic seafood dishes, while Devin proudly and inexplicably proclaimed, "I'll have the cajun rabbit!"

As Tona grilled Devin about his rabbit cravings, I blurted out to the waiter, "I wasn't laughing at you before. I was laughing at my wipey."

The statement made little sense, but it seemed to genuinely charm the man, and soon we were chit-chatting as if we were longtime friends. Then, of course, I ruined everything. The menu had mentioned the long family history of this place, so I asked him if he was part of the founding family.

"No, I'm not," he smiled.

"So you're pretty much a poser, then?"

Suddenly his eyes narrowed and turned cold and dark. He snorted two breaths out of his nose and then looked me square in the face. " not...a poser," he hissed, turning swiftly back toward his posse.

I was stunned. Did poser have a different meaning in the South? Perhaps "Poser" was the name of the man who killed his father?

"Good job, Nona," said Devin, "Now they're gonna pee in my rabbit."

After an excruciating twenty minutes, the food came out. We ate mostly in silence, trying to down our shockingly expensive entrees as quickly as possible. Tona thought his was rotten. Mine was pretty good. I looked over at Devin a couple minutes into the meal, and his heaping pile of bunny was already half gone. "This is disgusting," he hissed as a slurped down Cajun rabbit cartilage, "but we've gotta get out of here."

I would guess the entire eating process took ten minutes, and that's including the time we spent debating the moral implications of eating a bird-rabbit hybrid after Devin swore he found a full wing in his food. He scraped his plate clean anyway.

We enthusiastically declined dessert, threw down a credit card to pay, and then literally ran from the restaurant. There was a cop standing across the street as we busted out the front door, and although I knew it probably didn't look good for a group of poorly dressed young people to be sprinting out of a fancy restaurant, I didn't care. We flew down the street like bird-rabbits. We never looked back.


sara said...

I'm literally on the floor laughing! Too funny!

ninaribena said...

Oh, hilarious. They really should be more greatful, heh heh bird-rabbits.

So please tell those of us who are clearly missing out, what culinary delight is a po boy exactly???

Pret a Porter P said...


Sarah Von Bargen said...

That white alligator is a bitch, yo. Don't listen to her.

Also, Sal 'Already Pretty' McGraw and I have decided that your next trip needs to be to the MN. It has been spoken.

Poochie said...

I seriously need to travel with you and your family. You have the best* adventures ever!


*By best I mean worst but best for comedic effect.

Kim said...

That right there made it worth getting up and coming into work. Thank you.

WendyB said...

Better to be apparently passing a note around the plane than, say, yourself.

echidna girl said...


Now you need to email the restaurant and ask them for the Cajun Rabbit recipe.

Anonymous said...

Oh man. If only you'd been able to run some "Blues Brothers" dialogue from the scene at Chez Paul ...

New Orleans Ladder said...

Grrrl, you're all over it!
Wonderful post, and I see you found our Envie for coffee and whatnots.
Really, y'all come back sooner than later. How'bout Halloween weekend? Halloween ranks about 3rd behind Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest. Really. The locals go very crazy wit'da costumes and masking.
And BTW... your fine hair ain't frizzy. It is in New Orleans is all. Jus'sayin...
We hung you onto today's Ladda.

Thanks youz,
Editilla~New Orleans Ladder

Oh, and Po'boys were first served to striking street car operators. That is why they call'ems Po'boys.
But as you can see, lagniappe is kinda a family thang.

LallaLydia said...

Laissez les po'boys rouler! That was hillarious, sweetie! Kudos on you for calling the coolkids' bluff!

Hope Thompson said...

Oh my god that story was hilarious!

I just got back from New Orleans a few weeks ago and I miss Po' Boys so much. (PS you HAVE to tell me the name of that restaurant, I'm dyiiing trying to place what it could be!)

Michelle Schraudner said...

Well thank you, now it's not even 10 am and I'm already dying to eat a huge sandwich.

And here I was wondering why my ass looked huge in every swimsuit I tried on last weekend.

kate said...

I grew up in Carmel, CA. It's a very, very rich town full of very, very snobby people.

I learned to cultivate an attitude of absolute belonging anywhere I go. I've found that if *you* act like you're slightly better than *them* they'll assume you're some eccentric rich person they'd better not fuck with.

I'd be happy to show you sometime.

kate said...

I should mention that I was waited on hand and foot at Saks and that I once was a member of a three-person group of shaved-headed punk kids being served dinner at a *very* nice restaurant.

Don't let them see you squirm. You OWN them.

Anonymous said...

You guys are adorable! I'm jealous; my little bro's just entered the sullen, act-like-you-don't-know-me phase (he's 14) and it will be at least 3 more years before he's willing to take a road trip with me. I never thought I was horrifically embarrassing (rather, I was aiming for "cool older sister"), but those dreams are dashed.

But in 3 years? We are going to New Orleans, dammit (and anywhere else I can think of). Those sandwiches look delicious.

Lindsay said...

Haha, oh my gosh.

I can really just picture that whole restaurant story in full mental detail. I almost wish someone would have busted out like a stick of deoderant of something just to piss them off.

New Orleans sounds terrifying. I don't think I'd ever go alone--or without someone willing to start a plane clown college wear all the beginners must wear shirts that look like a vulva.. (earlier post)

My day is brighter after reading this :]

Lisa said...

Hahaha oh geez, that restaurant story...I wonder what was so offensive about the word "poser" exactly? Maybe he was just sorely lacking in the humour department.

Laura F. said...

This was hilarious. Thanks for sharing. :) "Poser" has always been a pejorative term wherever I've lived (including NOLA). I would honestly be pretty insulted if a stranger told me that I was one.

Bekah said...

so this clown college- are you still accepting applications?

Jackie said...

This is pretty much my experience at Ed Debevic's in Chicago about 10 years ago, except substitute your brother for my parents. And it wasn't totally deserted.

Vanessa said...

I hope they didn't actually pee in Devin's bird-rabbit.

Kaume'alani said...

Hilarious, you'd think they'd be nicer to tourists, ever heard of tips? Did you do any shopping while you were there? Pics of street style?

ambika said...

Is it strange that I'm still hungry at the sight of all that food despite the constant mental image of porn?

& you just have to get the *right* bourbon to drink it straight. The boyfriend is from Kentucky and I don't think he'd love me the same if I wasn't so enthusiastic about Woodford Reserve. It's not often carried by bars but *very* easy to drink straight. Makers Mark is a distant second.

TheSundayBest said...

On our second day there we went to the Aquarium, which turned into mostly acting out scenes from the movie Anaconda in front of the anaconda tank.Is good...but...

With a side order of BEST.

daddylikeyblog said...

ninaribena-- to describe a po' boy? It's a super delicious sandwich often including fried shrimp, on a loaf of bread as big as your thigh, and it's worth traveling across the country for.

Sarah Von--
My people and I have also decided that my next trip will be to visit that lovely alcove of amazing fashion bloggers, so please prepare for my imminent arrival!

p.s. This imminent arrival could take place in two months or two years, so stand at the ready!

Princess Poochie--
You're welcome to accompany us anytime!

New Orleans Ladder--
Thanks so much for the shoutout! And yes, we loved Envie and went there everyday. I'd love to come back for Halloween!

I definitely recommend New Orleans, or anywhere with a good supply of giant sandwiches, for little brother bonding experiences. (And should we be setting up a playdate for our sullen 14-year-old brothers? Wouldn't that be cute?)

Laura F--
OK, good to know! I always considered it only a lightly pejorative term, but I still don't know what caused me to say it to our heavily grumpy waiter.

Unfortunately the clown college offer was only valid at 30,000 feet while I was mentally impaired. Better luck next time!

I did do some shopping, but mostly for vintage jewelry and old books. I was way too hot and bloated to try on clothes, but I loved checking out the fashion on the street (unfortunately I didn't take any pics!).

Thanks for the drinkable bourbon tip! You should get together with that amiable bartender and walk me through my next glass. :)

Ms Constantine said...

I'm so glad that I stuck around to read that! You're a funny funny lady.

Robin said...

God I missed you

Daisy said...

The food looks pretty tasty, but Devin looks tastier ;-)

Unknown said...

Oh god, Winona! I am sitting alone in a hotel room giggling out loud, which is a bit of a relief from all the times I'm sitting in a crowded coffee shop trying to stifle the giggles after reading an entry. You're fab, girl!

Kate said...

I had a legitimate moment of defensiveness for you against those waiters. Does you know who she IS?! (I also channeled La Roberts in Pretty Woman: "Big mistake. Huge.")

Hilarious as usual, Winona. And there's just something so comical/humiliating about describing a waiter as a 'portly fellow'. Tee hee!

joy refurbished said...

I need to travel with your family. Halarious!

Vi said...

LOL Daisy is right- your brother Devin is definitely er..... "tastier"

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Adrienne said...

seriously, this has made my day! so funny!

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