A bit of a switch up covering this quick weekend trip with just one post encompassing the whole event. This was pretty much just a last minute decision to go and meet up with my Mother-In-Law for the Red Dress Run in New Orleans. Don't know about the Red Dress Run in NOLA? That's ok neither did I before scheduling this trip.
As with any good event there is some history behind it and the story starts with the H3. The Hash House Harriers started in the 1930s with English soldiers stationed in Malaysia. They were looking to stay in shape, while also adding a fun, social component to their day. Now there are H3s all over the world NOH3 was founded in 1989. They meet once a week, and we still base their meetings off the same game those soldiers in Malaysia played decades ago.
That game is called “Hare & Hounds,” and it was patterned on a game enjoyed by English schoolchildren since at least the time of Queen Elizabeth I. This version, however, has a lot more drinking. They all meet up in a different place in the city each week, and start off with a beer, or two, or some amount. For every meeting, there’s one hare, who starts the run 10-15 minutes before the hounds (who are still enjoying their beverages, presumably). When the hounds begin running, they follow a lightly marked trail — of flour or chalk, laid down by the lead hare — and encounter markings meant to aid or confuse the hounds.” If this sounds, tiring, don’t worry, there’s a beer stop halfway through, and when the hounds find the hare at the end of the course, how do they celebrate? “More beer.”
Enter the "Lady in Red" In 1987, a woman who had never heard of the Hash House Harriers, Hare & Hounds, or the customs of English soldiers in Malaysia flew to San Diego to meet a friend at an H3 event. Not sure what that was, she showed up wearing a red dress and matching heels. She was mocked for her unsuitable attire but decided to shove it in the club’s face by doing the run anyway, making her an instant hero.The following year, the San Diego club commemorated the lady in red by hosting the world’s first-ever Red Dress Run. In the years since, the event has spread across the globe. Nowadays, few do it bigger or better than here in New Orleans, whose first Red Dress Run was hosted in 1995.
Red had a very cute brand new red dress for the occasion and I well... my excuse is I couldn't find a red dress in my size. If I'm being totally honest I'm not one who dresses up on most occasions. I'm very comfortable in who I am and what my style and sense of fashion is in relation to that. Dressing up, be it for costume parties, events, or even holidays really isn't my thing. Hey I had some really kick ass red Nike shoes though.
We flew into NOLA rather than drove. At my age and ailments its just better for me to fly for travel rather than drive. An eight hour roadtrip isn't my thing. Although American Airlines should really look at a direct flight between New Orleans and Austin we had to dog leg the trip through Dallas to reach our destination. A few short flights and layover later though we arrived the New Orleans airport. After a quick cab ride down to the French quarter we got dropped off at the corner of Dauphine and Toulouse for the Hotel St. Marie. I instantly approved at the "Nola-ness" of this hotel. Interview with the vampire could have been filmed here easily. We meet up with my Mother-in-law and after dropping off our bags headed out to Bourbon St.
It was late and packed. The clubs had already started transforming from the jazzy live music venues into the raucous college venues that would take drunken 20-somethings late into the evening with drink and celebration. I grabbed a tankard of over priced whiskey and watched the party unfold. It was interesting to see that as a nightlife entertainment professional what got these college kids partying was the same commercial dance tunes that were popular when I was in high school and college. Nothing had changed for them, or maybe that was the new sound for them but either way there wasn't a single dance hit from the past decade played all night. None the less enjoyable and interesting though.
After hopping around to a few bars we went to Marie Laveau's House of Voodoo to poke around. This place had expanded since the last time I was in there. We poked around, bought a few trinkets and left a coin on the altar. Nothing there impressed on me it was anything more than just for show and commercial interest. I could have been wrong as I didn't purchase any of the overpriced mojo or gris-gris bags. For my personal altar I did get a coin with the likeness of Marie Laveau on the front and her veve on the back. With an early morning though we headed back to the hotel and got some rest.
Early the next morning we woke and got ready. I had arranged a tour of St. Louis No. 1 cemetery with a local tour company. Avoiding the $20 per person hustlers that took unprepared people since the Archdiocese of New Orleans closed off public wanderings on the site due to vandalism. If you are heading out there I highly recommend the “Tours By Foot” option. In the tour started in Storyville. Storyville was the red-light district of New Orleans, Louisiana, from 1897 to 1917. It was established by municipal ordinance under the New Orleans City Council, to regulate prostitution and drugs. Sidney Story, a city alderman, wrote guidelines and legislation to control prostitution within the city. The ordinance designated a thirty-eight block area as the part of the city in which prostitution, although still nominally illegal, was tolerated or regulated. The area was originally referred to as "The District", but its nickname, "Storyville", soon caught on, much to the chagrin of Alderman Story
Of course directly after talking about the history of prostitution in New Orleans we went directly to church. Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel was built in 1826 as the "Chapel of St. Anthony of Padua" (a.k.a. the Mortuary Chapel) to serve as a burial church for victims of yellow fever. It was erected close to St. Louis Cemeteries #1 and #2, the primary Catholic cemeteries at the time. The church building is the oldest surviving church building in New Orleans (all the older churches have since been rebuilt). In addition to the a shrine to Saint Jude which includes a relic of St. Jude in it and hosting a series of "jazz" Masses. Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel also houses the statue of Saint Expedite which is visited by Catholics, as well as some local followers of Voodoo. Some people will claim that this is St. Expeditus, but it is not. What happened was the church received a large shipment of statues of various saints from France that was acquired from the Roman Catholic Church. One case lacked an identifying label but was stamped "Expedite" (Expédit in French), so the residents assumed that must be the saint's name. Expédit still figures prominently in Louisiana Creole folklore and is revered through amulets, flowers, candles, and intercessory prayers.
Finally after that it was on to St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. This is the oldest and most famous cemetery in New Orleans. It was opened in 1789, replacing the city's older St. Peter Cemetery (no longer in existence) as the main burial ground when the city was redesigned after a fire in 1788. It lays 8 blocks from the Mississippi River, on the north side of Basin Street, one block beyond the inland border of the French Quarter. It has been in continuous use since its foundation. Famous New Orleanians buried in St. Louis No. 1 include Etienne de Boré, wealthy pioneer of the sugar industry and the first mayor of New Orleans; Homer Plessy, the plaintiff from the landmark 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court decision on civil rights; and Ernest N. "Dutch" Morial, the first African-American mayor of New Orleans.
The renowned Voodoo priestess Marie Laveau is believed to be interred in the Glapion family crypt. Other notable New Orleanians here include Bernard de Marigny, the French-Creole aristocrat and politician who founded both the Faubourg Marigny and Mandeville, Louisiana; Barthelemy Lafon, the architect and surveyor who allegedly became one of Jean Lafitte's pirates; and Paul Morphy, one of the earliest world champions of chess. Delphine LaLaurie, the notoriously cruel slave owner, is also believed to lie in rest here. Architect and engineer Benjamin Latrobe was buried at St. Louis No. 1 after dying from yellow fever in 1820, while doing engineering for the New Orleans water works. In 2010, actor Nicolas Cage purchased a pyramid-shaped tomb to be his future final resting place. He is rumored to have paid a small fortune for it as well. The cemetery spans just one square block but is the resting place of many thousands. A Protestant section lies in the northwest section of the cemetery and does not contain vaults. In addition to the famous residents and famous future residents there is a societal tomb that was the backdrop for the famous acid trip scene in the 1969 movie, “Easy Rider.”
Once done we wrapped up with a walk back to Bourbon street and a stop by PJ’s Coffee for a snack and some caffeine, after wandering for a bit and stopping by by the hotel we decided to go hit up a few shops. First one we hit was back at Marie Laveau's House of Voodoo so Red could set up getting a card / palm reading later on that day. Afterwards we went around the corner to Boutique Du Vampyre. This was a small but very nice little vampire souvenir shop. Red found a charm for her bracelet and I found some pins for my daughters. We picked up a few trinkets and had a wonderful conversation with the shop clerk. At the end of our transaction she handed us a card with a location to a secret hidden speakeasy with instructions on who to talk to and a passphrase to get in. I was intrigued by this as you can imagine.
After this it was time to head over to meet up with my Mother-in-Law and her friend. Red and I walked down to Jackson Square we’re we meet up and exchanged stories for the day. Eventually we decided to head off for the French Market. Of course along the way we stopped at Cafe Du Monde for café au laits and beignets. I mean you kind of have to. That place has been there since 1862 serving the same menu. It might not be the best café au laits and beignets in the world but it’s definitely up there. After combing though the French Market and all the trinkets for sale we found some jewelry for Red and a few collectible items for her Mother. It had begun to rain, that hard quick southern rain that pops up out of nowhere and pours out buckets. Once it let up a little bit we wandered back down Governor Nicholls street and past the Mansion of Madam Delphine LaLaurie. We just ogled it from the outside.
Once back at the hotel room I changed because the on and off rains, humidity, and temperature meant I was soaked. After that and a quick rally we we’re off once again to the other side of the French Quarter. This time it was a bit of the high society side as we approached Adler’s on Canal Street. This high end jewelry store that was founded in the 1890’s was quite the “white glove” affair as we purchased more jewelry and Red a new Cristy Cali charm bracelet with a few charms to get her started we decided food was the next order of business. Of course this calls for some cajun seafood. Bourbon House it was where all the seafood was consumed including one Le Petit Fruits De Mer by Red and she probably could have polished off a Le Grand. I had the Alligator and Andouille Po-Boy with a Old Chicory Old Fashioned because Laissez les bons temps rouler.
After dinner on the walk back Red’s Mom was leading the way. New Orleans is her city after all, and she knows what to go do. Little did I know she had planned on a Shark Attack. We stopped by the Tropical Isle's Bayou Club and I had no idea what was going on when Red’s Mom ordered the drinks. Next thing I know there are whistles being blown by the bartender, bells being rung and screams of, “EVERYONE OUT OF THE WATER!!! SHARK ATTACK!!!!”. Following this statement in the four cups in front of us a large plastic shark filled with grenadine were slammed into our drinks turning the concoction into a red bloody mess. Red and her Mother were both cackling with glee.
It was getting late by this point so we chilled out at the hotel for a little bit. Later Red and I decided to trek to the Speakeasy we we’re told about. We found the location, spoke to the right person, and was escorted through one club into a secret entrance in the back. Through one locked door and then another we passed until we reached a stairwell and was told to go up. In the stairwell was a sign from the Louisiana Safety Marshall stating, “Caution, Entering A Vampire Danger Zone”. I was not deterred while not a member of the undead myself I have had many dealings with Vampires, both in New Orleans and back home in Austin. Inside we found a lovely bar with lovely people and better music than any I had heard yet. Interesting conversation and a specialty in Absinthe cocktails. Also a private balcony overlooking Bourbon street. It was quite magical. Still staying somewhat responsible we did not party until dawn but retreated back to the hotel for enough sleep before having to check out in the morning and head to the Airport.
Sunday was pretty uneventful as we woke, had breakfast at PJ’s Coffee again and headed to the Airport. I short trip but definitely worth it for Red’s first trip to NOLA as an adult.