NOLA

This post is about a week overdue. My memory has blurred over that time and the writing will suffer as a result.
I want to preface this entry by saying that New Orleans is now my favorite city. The people are great, the food is amazing, the city is beautiful and the bjj is solid.
Special thanks to Charles Haymon for the hard rolls and for taking me out and covering my broke ass. You were a great host. Hopefully I get to visit again someday.
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I woke up early on Sunday (8 a.m.) to make the 10 hour drive to New Orleans. It was an uneventful trip- just a lot of coffee and podcasts.
The first thing I did when I got to town was try some fried alligator at a swanky downtown place called Cochon, which was pretty good.
A few hours later, after wandering the French Quarter, I tried fried alligator and étouffée at another place. The gator was about the same but $2 cheaper.
On Monday I took myself in a driving tour of the city.IMG_0236.jpg

I drove east along the Mississippi all the way out to Arabi, then crossed the river and turned west back to downtown. I continued through way out west past Metarie, past an airport. Then north, back east and back to the center of town. In the evening I went down to NOLA BJJ (uptown).
Class started at 6, but at 6:15 nobody was there. Understandable- it was the week of Christmas after all. I rushed over to Metarie to another gym I knew of called Mushin. Their class started at 6 as well, but I made it in by 6:45 and they were kind enough to let me jump in for the nog sparring. Most of the guys were new, but I got a good sweat on and the lat guy I rolled with was decent.

Tuesday was a tour on foot. I walked the French Quarter and Canal Street.
I tried a crawfish empanada and some breaded catfish. The catfish was good, but not the crawfish.
In the evening I tried Nola Uptown again. The head instructor Mathias was there but he was in a sling from recent shoulder surgery. But two brown belts, a blue belt, a white belt and two brand new guys without gi’s were training. One of the browns ran the class. He taught the common arm bar/triangle/arm bar series from closed guard. I drilled with a new guy who  spazzed his way through the moves but caught on quickly and seemed to enjoy himself.
I got to roll with everyone afterward and felt that the colored belts were definitely skilled and possessed their own unique styles. After class we talked a little and the brown belts told me about a friend of theirs who had done a trip similar to mine and called it 50 States of BJJ. Apparently he was in town with his own school and had recently been promoted to black belt. They gave me his number and the location of his gym.
Later that night I went out and had a few drinks at a small random bar on Bourbon Street where I had a good conversation with a fellow patron about his experiences traveling and living in a van.

It rained hard that night and off and on the next day. I killed most of the day on the internet but neglected to write a blog entry.
That night, Wednesday, I went to a NOLA affiliated gym called New State Fitness. This turned out to be the school of the 50 States guy- Charles Haymon.
New State was a good looking space. Their mats had 2 inch foam subfloor which made them extra bouncy.
Charles was really cool and a solid black belt. He had another black belt there, two tough purple belts and two tough blues and rolled with me twice himself. His background music was even impressive- very eclectic- not the same generic rap or rock you hear at most gyms.
When practice was over I showered off with a hose behind the gym and then went out to dinner with Charles.
Later that night, he picked me up downtown and took me out for drinks. We went to several bars on Frenchman Street and the surrounding area including Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop*, the Dragon’s Den and a bunch of dark maze-like spots with no signage. I loved all of them.

I woke up on Thursday just barely hungover and just in time to get to an afternoon practice Charles invited me to at a third Nola location. I rolled with one of Tuesday’s brown belts, an older Vietnamese black belt, and Charles. It was hot in this tiny gym, but it felt good to sweat some booze out.
Before I left, I learned about another practice at 6pm back at NOLA Uptown from a blue belt. So at six I went back and rolled nogi with three other guys and a teenager who weighed about 110lbs.
They were friendly and welcoming and we rotated through several 7 minute rounds to the old country music.
One guy was wearing an R Dojo rash guard so I tried to get into some leg entanglements with him. I didn’t catch him, but also didn’t get caught myself so I counted it as a personal achievement.

My uncle Mark got me a hotel for Xmas Eve, so I spent the rest of the night  relaxing in my room (not blogging). I went to bed early so I could get on the road at a decent time the next morning.

The drive west was pretty. I stopped in Breaux Bridge only because I recognized the name from True Detective. There was gas station/restaurant where I had crackling, an excellent andouille and tried boudin for the first and last time.
Then it was Lake Charles, Orange, TX, Beaumont, Houston, and finally Austin, where I met up with my old Olympia friends Spencer and Ryan.

At this point I was practically out of money- down to a couple hundred bucks. It was time to find some work:(
But Austin is a decent city with several gyms. It’s good place to be I guess.

*A bar I saw in Boston makes the same claim, but Lafitte’s is one hundred times cooler.

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