Thursday, October 23, 2008

How to take the ride!

Do you want to take the ride? I must turn over $60 to the company for a half hour tour. I can take one to five people... a babe in arms or a doggie in your lap doesn’t count, and one person or two very small people can ride shotgun. It works out to $12 a head for five people. I typically work Friday through Monday, perhaps on Wednesdy. I'll usually be at the Jackson Square hack stand between 9:30 and 3:30pm. It's best to call me at 504-322-4703 to set things up...

Impairments may not matter. Stepping up may be difficult on some carriages. One or two drivers can assist anyone who can climb stairs to get on board. I find it easier getting on board than lurching up from a low-slung car. Hard of hearing? Me too! I can shout the whole tour over the the background noise. And perhaps you can sit in the shotgun seat, where you won't miss a word.

If you need to get to the quarter, the Canal Streetcar is a possibility, like the lot on the river next to Jackson square. If you get dropped off by an auto, you may sit in Jackson Square, benches are about 20 yards way... or sit in my carriage until the driver parks and returns. Your driver can turn toward the river at St. Peter (Jackson Brewery) and head into the downriver lot.

I carry a camera, and will be pleased to take your pictures sitting in the carriage, feeding Bonnie a slice of carrot, or hugging her head. I will usually email it to your pictures the same evening!
I guarantee a delightful tour, covering the most important sites. Focus is on history, culture, architecture, cuisine. My stories will have you laughing, with solemn moments, as we talk about what we lost in Katrina, and sone of the joyful changes that we are experiencing.

The joys of mule driving...

Buggy driving has put me out in the weather 5 days a week, working steadily for 8 or 9 hours a day. All my little health complaints just evaporated! I have learned that at age 74, full-time work was good for me! My mule Bonnie is a sweetheart, she trusts me most of the time, and does not go out with other boys. The community of drivers is supportive of this old rookie. The artists, waiters, street sweepers, scruffy street people, and most of the law enforcement people are your typical New Orleans-loving kindred spirits.

My customers are usually tickled with my tour. I usually get rave reviews and good tips. I learned early on to purge out my Blue State wisecracks for clients who get grim with the first one -- one set of four ladies, age 20 to 25, from Ohio, who looked like debutantes, were silent throughout and gave me a $2 tip...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A slow but fun Tuesday...

Only four half-hour tours today... but great fun anyway!

Here are five of the seventeen ladies visiting from a retirement home in Algiers. We split the gang up between three carriages. Each paid $12. They clearly had a great time. Of course, I got to tell them about the pivotal role played by les gens de couleur in New Orleans.

These Canadians were thrilled by my stories about the lives of the French in early New Orleans, their contribution to our culture, and the special relation we have with modern France.

They liked Bonnie too. Bonnie likes them and just about anybody...

Monday, October 13, 2008

Schedule, content, tour details...

Yesterday was another excellent day. I gave five tours, got nice tips. I’m very happy with my short route; the stories are getting punchy and focused. BUT it takes 40 minutes. I need to concentrate on getting it down to 30.

I’m committed to working five days a week through November. My son John called last night to say he had California friends, who wanted to take a tour today, but I have other commitments.

Here’s my probable schedule: M-W-F-S-S, 9am to 3-4pm.. I will be taking Mondays and Thursdays off. To reserve a spot, call 504-322-4703. Two hours notice should be enough for me to work you in.
Cost is $60 for a half hour, for one to five guests. Some guests choose to add a visit to St. Louis #1 cemetery, an additional half hour. I can arrange to meet guests anywhere in the Quarter. If the Jackson Square hack stand is open, I use it.

You can save a little money taking one of the 8 passenger surreys. There, you have to wait until it gets 5 to 8 passengers. Most any guide will give you a good show. Some are Cabildo-trained guides with backgrounds as good as my own.

Of course, being a French Quarter tour, the French connection is primary. We also feature the contributions of the les gens de couleur (people of color), since people of mixed blood have always been a major part of our pleasurable survival. Others who add spice to our gumbo are the Spanish, German, Italian, and Vietnamese. The latest wave that adds a whipped cream topping are the angels who came after Katrina, the hard-working Hispanics, and Americans who came to help us out temporarily. Many decide to stay permanently. My daughter, a school teacher in California, spends many vacations here, often doing rescue and charity work. Lots of challenging and satisfying work is still undone. The rewards are great, since New Orleans is such an accepting and fun-loving community...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A good day in the Quarter!

All the carriage companies were out in force yesterday. My last ride of the day was a Cajun family from Lafayette. This young gentleman was thrilled to ride shotgun with me:

It was like last Saturday. Perfect weather. When I pulled back into the stand, folks jumped into the carriage as the previous patrons were paying for their ride.

Hard to tell who was happier, the passengers, or the drivers...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Unforseen difficulties are keeping me off the street for a few days. I should return for the weekend.

Last Sunday, I got one of the better artists in the Quarter to take my picture with Bonnie. I'm snuggling up to her and stroking her velvety nose. She doesn't mind snuggling up. It's very reassuring to have such a large creature be so docile.

I did a little more study on the Web. Donkeys and horses were domesticated about 6,000 years ago. Mules appeared whenever jacks were kept around mares. Their keepers found features that made them superior to either parent for some uses, and bred them to do the heavy work of transporting stuff. The donkeys are believed to be from Egypt, and today's mules can take the heat, which makes them good for New Orleans summers.

Mules are sure-footed! They are used for a hair-raising trip down into and back up the Grand Canyon. There's a great painting of Napoleon crossing the Alps on a big white horse... actually, he rode a mule.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

A good busy day! All I had to do was smile, no sales talks needed. I have a collection of tales from five years of walking tours, classes, and hours of Wikepedia. My clients leave happy: tips are good. Today I cleared about $180, and tomorrow (Sunday) could be a good day too.

In between tours I coax the animal lovers over to my mule for pictures and to stroke the velvety nose... like this cute little lady is doing:

My mule's name is Bonnie. She is 20 years old, has been on the street for 16 years. She listens well. She is very fit: she can trot for a mile without getting winded.

She isn’t perfect... she does not like puddles, manhole covers, gratings, or even black asphalt patches. I must be alert to keep the carriage out of trouble when she shies away from stuff.

But she is also fastidious. She only makes waste in the privacy of her stall, not on the street. Her diaper is empty at the end of the day, so I don't have to wash it out.
The other evening, she snuck into her stall when my back was turned and I found her rolling around in the sawdust to scratch her back. Today, I gave her a good brushing and she didn't have to roll around in the sawdust... I'm learning. The morning and evening grooming sessions are clearly building a bond.

A mule seems to mostly take after the mare, but then you notice the Jack coming through: a big head, long ears, pulling power, and agile legs with hooves that can kill a man or a mountain lion in a jiffy. come from the Jack father. At feeding times, some voice their impatience. They go "whinny whinny whinny-HE HAW" ... it may be a way of complaining to long missing jack and mare that made her, that the food comes way too slow here.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Slow day.

Two charters, I made $45. Other guides say it will get better soon. I practiced my banjo uke and chatted other drivers and tourists.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

I got my own mule today. I'm not sure of her name yet. She is a great worker: gentle, spry, responsive, stoic and dignified. She is a joy to drive... but like all mules, tends to get spooked a bit by anything in the road... like puddles of water, or manhole covers. This gets challenging for the driver, who must restrain the mule from getting us into harms way.

Work has been very light, but intensely satisfying.