Sunday, March 4, 2012

New Orleans Trip #4: Flipped Reality in Baton Rouge

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On my last trip to New Orleans, I was in my early twenties and played jazz in a club for kids my age who were dancing and smiling.

To you, that's an unremarkable statement. To me, it was mind-blowing. People my age didn't listen to jazz; I was accustomed to playing for oldsters and Japanese tourists. And those few my age who did tended to sit demurely and listen. They didn't have much life to them. The kids with any kind of verve were into punk rock, and, though I played a few gigs myself at CBGBs, I couldn't deny that, compared to that scene, the music I preferred seemed sleepy and quaint.

So playing for ballsy 20-somethings who behaved like they were at a Ramones gig was a heady experience.

Red beans and rice were served to everyone at intermission. I took my place in the queue, next to a couple of huge Tulane University football jocks, with whom I shared the geekiest imaginable discussion of proper red bean seasoning. We were kindred spirits, the football jocks and I. This was also, ahem, refreshing.

It was all so disorienting and wonderful. In the back of my head played the song "There's a Place For Me". Who knew there was a locale where everyday people shared my weirdo interests? Where everything was reversed, and the crazies were the ones opting for Pizza Hut and unswinging music?

Left was right, up was down. And that's why I was unsurprised, this trip, to find myself in a beery/frat-ish student hangout near LSU in Baton Rouge, with lots of sports on TV, ordering fried stuff off a slick laminated menu...and actually enjoying it. Chimes (3357 Highland Road, Baton Rouge, LA; 225-383-1754) is no temple of gastronomic revelation. But everything was damned good. For example:

Wonderful shrimp and (fried) grits, with worlds more flair than you'd expect in a college gin mill.

...and good boudin balls.

Our waitress - a homecoming queenish coed - appreciated my geeking out over the beer list, and was excited to try an especially esoteric one I'd ferretted out.Again, I found myself in an alternative universe where chowhoundishness is mainstream. Can't get too used to this.

The next morning, I had a disappointing breakfast at the wrong branch of Broken Egg Cafe (the one in Mandeville is supposed to be good), at 2531 Citiplace Court, Baton Rouge, LA; 225-615-8461. This is, after all, not a magical world where every bite's perfect - it's just that the preponderance is flipped.

Would you believe this trough of espresso, which even shows a bit of tidal movement, is a mere single shot? Ah, well. A swing and a miss...

Read the next installment (#5)

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