19 Firetruck

New Orleans Pt I

Posted on 16. Apr, 2015 by in Gypsy Bikers

by Scooter Tramp Scotty Kerekes

Fall of 2013

The freedom of warm summer months that allow easy movement throughout the continent were almost gone. As the southbound highway led onward through the slight chill of fall and to the promise of milder southern climates, I thought of my destination…

A long time motorcyclist, B.B. St. Roman had learned of my travels through a friend, became a fan of my writing, and contacted me. Last year, I’d taken the opportunity to pay her a quick visit on the way to Daytona. It was then I’d learned of my new friend’s strange history. For 15 years of her youth B.B. had worked as the sound person for a crew that made documentaries around the world, and for that time she’d seldom set foot back into the U.S. Over the course of this employment she’d once spent nine months living completely off the grid with the primitive people who inhabit the Himalayan Mountains as the crew had made documentary of their shaman. There were many other documentaries too, but I think it was those two years spent in the company of Mother Teresa that influenced B.B. most.

18 Firetruck She told me that Mother Teresa was love in action. I found it interesting that B.B. also knows the Dali Lama.

With no desire to settle down, B.B. had taken her lovin’ where it came and, running in those circles anyway, had affairs with a handful of celebrities whose names we all know. When the documentary job had run its course, B.B. took employment as the road manager for Dr. John—a big name musician originally from New Orleans. After 10 years more of world travel she finally bought a house and came to settle in the French Quarter of New Orleans. She’d soon married Pops—a Shovelhead rider and the man originally responsible for starting the Louisiana ABATE chapter. Pops also orchestrated various local biker charity events and there’s now a public park dedicated to his name. Yet after only two years of marriage Pops had passed of Cancer.

From the very start of her life in New Orleans B.B. began to donate so much time at the 8th District Cop Shop in an 20 Firetruck champain effort to help the city’s homeless population that the station ultimately invented a position for her. Nowadays, with the help of one woman, policies have changed throughout the city. New facilities have opened. Housing has become available; and almost anything that has to do with people in need is channeled through one of her three cell phones. She’s one busy woman.

Having found B.B.’s story of great interest, I looked excitedly forward to the time I’d soon spend living in the French Quarter with her. Little did I suspect that Betsy and I would not leave for seven weeks…

21 Plantation house The French Quarter is a grid of 200 year old buildings that act as walls along the narrow streets of this crowded neighborhood, and B.B.’s little home sits on Burgundy St.—which is just two blocks north of Bourbon St. The place is 204 years old and a narrow gated pathway leads between her place and the one next door. I was soon met there by a small eccentric white woman with long dreadlocks. After hugs and greetings, B.B. led me down the pathway to the tiny enclosed courtyard behind her place. It was there that the home’s main entrance faced a smaller building. That structure had long ago served as kitchen to the main quarters, but is now a complete home she rents to an old friend. I eyed the yard with thoughts of where to put in camp amid this small area.

I soon began to settle in around the French Quarter.

Since I hale from a background of huge motorcycle rallies, the noisy allure of Bourbon St. didn’t really suck me into 22 Plantation house its vacuum. However, the city of New Orleans loves its street performers and offers them the use of Royal St. (one block south of Bourbon) where auto traffic is generally blocked off for this purpose. There, amid the coffee places and other shops, I took great pleasure in these constant performances. Street performers range from one singer with a guitar to large acts that easily rival any Broadway or television talent. Among them I made a few friends.

Neko calls himself a “motorcycle magician” and rides from Washington State to work Royal St. every winter. I found his lot interesting and spent a good few afternoons jabbering with him at our favorite coffee shop.

23 Plantation house tour guide The reputation and fame for excessive fun that New Orleans enjoys is well earned and if one finds himself bored there it’s only because he’s not yet gotten out of bed. Monday through Sunday the action is constant. The bars never close and it’s legal to drink anywhere on the streets. Beyond the drinking scene there’s plenty of things happening as well. Of course the live music is endless but there’s also biker events, street fairs, festivals, parties, pot lucks, and parades.

My god New Orleans does love its parades. These range from convoys of fancy floats, marching bands, hordes of bicycles with loud ghetto-blaster music, to parades of people carrying or pushing dogs in shopping carts. I also noted that the N.O. cops rarely bother anyone.

B.B.’s own motorcycle had not run for three months but I had it fixed in an hour. Often dragging B.B. away from the endless demands of her constant work with the underprivileged, we began to attend many events and make new friends too. Although her own bike now ran, our outings were made mostly two up and from the comfort of my full dress Electra Glide.

I’ve never known anybody who lives in such constant altruistic service to their fellow man and I could not walk down 24 Plantation house tour the street with this woman without people coming up all starry eyed and saying, “B.B. you saved my life. I don’t know what I’d have done without your help.” Many seemed happy just to stand in her aura for a few minutes. It was a strange experience to live in the presents of someone so closely akin to Mother Teresa—except that B.B. is by no means a saint. The city’s people, rich and poor alike, exhibit great love for this small, dreadlock clad, white girl. The ragged people say they have her back (she’s often in the streets among them at hours ranging till 3am) and I’m sure no one could lay a hand on her without being attacked. The wealthy seem to share much the same sentiment.

One afternoon we bicycled to a party in the French Quarter. I remembered this place from the previous week when a woman had called to inform B.B. that she’d saved a portion of her coveted Cajan food and to come get it. That time she had met us at the door, but today it was a doorman who checked our names on his list before allowing passage.

At the stair-top my coat was taken and, upon entering, I noted that a single piece of art upon the wall was probably worth more than the last 10 years of my life. I had dined on lobster and caviar that day.

25 Plantation house tour The holidays arrived and with them came even more social gatherings and events. It was near Christmas when B.B. told me she’d be riding with a bunch of others atop an antique firetruck next week. Sounded weird so I invited myself.

It was full dark when we arrived at the street corner where the truck waited. With a bunch of what looked like straight-laced folks, we climbed atop the old red battle-wagon. Near the front, one woman sat at a huge pipe organ. She began to play and Christmas tunes split the air as the truck jolted forward. Cramped among the smiling faces I watched as bottles of champagne were uncorked and plastic cups filled. Between us sat piles of cardboard boxes filled with small bags of potato chips and our gang began throwing them into the outstretched arms of people in the street. We were now a one-firetruck parade.

Our mission, I was told, was to scrutinize the Christmas decorations of every building in the French Quarter then later make assessment of who won the grand prize—whatever that might be. The French Quarter’s a grid of one way streets and our antique red Christmas slay slowly traversed them all. It was one of the weirdest times of my life and, along with the others, the grin seldom left my face as this strange show continued for an hour and a half.

Eventually the truck stopped and everyone filed off. A woman said to B.B., “We’re going to the big house. Come with us.” But my escort wished to go home instead. “There’s gonna be free food!” That statement caught my ear and I talked B.B. into going. The place was very near and, stepping inside, I realized that tonight’s ride through the Twilight Zone had not yet ended. This house had obviously once belonged to some pre-Civil War filthy rich dude who was most likely connected to the plantation business. New Orleans was, after all, once a big shipping port for the cotton and tobacco industry of that era.

I entered the dining room to note most of our crew (which B.B. quietly informed me were some kind of civic leaders) 26 seat for wax face now seated at its long wooden table. After grabbing a sandwich from their table, I turned to survey the living room. It was magnificent. One of the older men really loved this house, wanted to show it off to somebody, and decided it was gonna be me. What a break. So B.B. and I followed as he led from room to room telling story and answering my dumb questions. Of considerable interest was the wide wooden chair with high side panels. Our Tour Guide informed me that the woman of that time wore large hoop dresses and makeup made of wax. If they sat too near the fire their faces would melt. But they could sit in this chair with its high sides blocking the direct flame, be warm, and maintain composure too. Go figure aristocrats.

As we went to leave a woman handed B.B. an envelope containing $500 in cash. A Christmas gift from the wealthy. Only two days before I’d witnessed police at the 8th district take up a collection of $350 as Xmas gift for her. There were others too. It figured. I’d seen B.B. inspire the spirit of giving and selfless labor among so many in recent weeks. In short time I was destined to offer service as well…and for it would receive great reward.

But then, that’s another story…

 

 

 

 

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2 Responses to “New Orleans Pt I”

  1. Hd Openroad

    16. Apr, 2015

    By Scooter Tramp Scotty Kerekes

  2. Hd Openroad

    22. Apr, 2015

    Updated, includes videos!

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