Canal Street is the hub of public transportation in New Orleans. In fact, most of my Public Transit Tuesdays and non-Gambit bus excursions have me crossing Canal Street at some point. Also, if you're ever lost on a bus adventure, you'll be halfway home if you can find your way back to Canal Street. Sadly, this doesn't work for the RTA's demon seed, the Kenner Loop. The Canal streetcar demographic can't be explained, as it's full of tourists, locals, students, working people and the unemployed. That inexplicable demographic is one of the best parts of riding the Canal streetcar, as you never know who you'll meet. The only depressing thing about riding the Canal Streetcar is that it makes you long for the New Orleans that was...
When I'm frustrated by the tourist-centric Canal Street of today, watching these videos makes me feel better. They're both almost exclusively filmed on Canal Street before the t-shirt shops, urban clothing stores, beauty supplies and pop-up whatever-event-is-in-town shops took over.
"Ain't Dere No More" by Benny Grunch & Da Bunch
"I Need Wheels" by Lil Mac
As much fun as it is to ride the Canal streetcar for pleasure, riding it in hopes of getting somewhere on time can be trying, usually when touristy events are going on. As I've said before, many streetcar operators tend to cater to tourists (although not recently, which leads me to believe that my posts are doing some good at RTA headquarters), which frustrates the working people who are trying to avoid tardiness.
However, I do have one favorite streetcar operator: Damon Tobias. I've seen him operating the streetcar since about 2008, and can say that he treats both tourists and locals with respect and courtesy, making for a very satisfactory streetcar ride. He'll call the dispatcher to get an address for tourists, will stop for locals who are chasing down the streetcar and secures wheelchair-bound patrons with speedy precision. His dreamy eyes and gorgeous set of teeth make him pretty easy on the eyes, too.
The Canal streetcar line begins at the foot of Canal Street, near the Riverwalk, ferry terminal, Harrah's Casino and The Shops at Canal Place, and ends either at the cemeteries near Canal Boulevard or at City Park near the New Orleans Museum of Art.
Starting at the foot of Canal, I began my bus adventure looking for the umbrella hat-wearing, bible-thumping, bullhorn-shouting, scripture-reciting, puppet-playing man who sits on the corner of Decatur and Canal, hoping to get an interview with him. Unfortunately, I didn't see him so I moved on.
I admit I had set ideas about some of the old-line shops, like Rubensteins (102 St. Charles Ave., 581-6666; www.rubensteinsneworleans.com), and figured I would be treated like I wasn’t worthy to be there because of my wardrobe and appearance (I had been given the cold shoulder by some other retailers).This scene from Boomerang kept running through my mind:
I could not have been more mistaken. I really, really love Rubensteins and my experiences at the store have been the exact opposite of what I imagined. Nothing was like the Boomerang scene and everyone was so helpful and fashion-forward, especially Allison Rubenstein Marshall.
I stopped at Odyssey Records (1012 Canal St. 523-3506; www.odysseyrecordsneworleans.com), since they are locally-owned and have such a wide selection of vinyl, concert DVDs, compilation CDs, new releases and local music—though nowhere near as much local music as Louisiana Music Factory (210 Decatur St., 586-1094; www.louisianamusicfactory.com)—but wasn't allowed to ask any questions, take pictures or take notes. Sooo I left. No hard feelings, I just don't get it.
Canal Streetcar tip: Avoid boarding at Bourbon if you can. It's just really busy.
Next, I walked into a weave supply shop just to laugh at the door chime. Here's a video of the hilarious door chime at High Beauty (1019 Canal St., 561-5661).
As I was leaving, I saw some young guys skateboarding. They were close to where some filming was going on, so I'm wondering if they were extras.
Speaking of Hollywood South, I met a lady at the streetcar stop who works in the salad bar at the new Rouses (701 Baronne St., 227-3838; www.rouses.com) and says that celebrity sightings are an everyday thing there. Samuel L. Jackson is there all the time and Angela Hill is there pretty regularly, too. "Angela Hill comes in the nighttime and she stays in that cheese section! I say, good Lawd that woman must love her some cheese!" she said. My new Rouses friend also told me that they sell whole rattlesnakes there and that they are open 'til midnight.
Downtown public transit tip: Rampart and Canal smells really pissy and there are always gobs of spit on the sidewalk. Always. I wish I would've been alive when Rampart Street was booming.
(back on the streetcar)
Allen Wilfred, the homeless man who looks like T-Pain, disappeared from his corner on Canal and Broad,
and I'm wondering where he is. He's been gone for about a month, actually. I hope he's okay. Also, don't expect to be given so much as a bandage at this Rite-Aid if a box of binders falls on you as you're browsing the aisles. I learned that one the hard way.
h/t: Danielle Tollerson
The RTA headquarters (2817 Canal St., 248-3900; www.norta.com) is where your streetcar operator might stop to take a bathroom break or to switch drivers. Don't be worried, time for these is worked into the schedule.
While riding to City Park, I overheard tourists from California and Tennessee discussing the heat and talking about how they haven't found any good seafood or Mexican food yet. Poor things. They said they went to Oceana (739 Conti St., 525-6002; www.oceanagrill.com) and were disappointed by the lack of cleanliness, sub-par food and overall weirdness. Sadly, I agree. I used to love Oceana—when I was forced to eat seafood downtown and couldn't afford anything better—because there was a captivating aquarium scene painted on the walls and because the food and service were both pretty good. Around 2008-2010, things went downhill. Last week, my best friend was in town and going to Oceana is a tradition for us. My glass was dirty, we had maybe three different waiters and one of them was wearing a uniform from the restaurant next door. And the prices have gotten ridiculous. The Oceana episode of Kitchen Nightmares might be clouding my judgement, though. The BBQ shrimp are still good, though not worth the price.
FYI: If you like cherry turnovers, you can get them from Brocato's (214 N. Carrollton Ave., 486-1465; www.angelobrocatoicecream.com) on Thursday afternoons.
(back on the streetcar)
Near the intersection of Canal and Carrollton is where you'll find all the yummy restaurants, like Cafe Minh, Doson Noodle House and Venezia.