Archived Arts & Entertainment

This must be the place: ‘Meet me in the city and see everything is so fine’

The Wild Magnolias parade in New Orleans. (Garret K. Woodward photo) The Wild Magnolias parade in New Orleans. (Garret K. Woodward photo)

About 10:30 a.m. last Tuesday, I laced up my running shoes and walked out the front door of the small hotel room in the Treme neighborhood of New Orleans, Louisiana. Blue skies, sunshine and warm air. 

It was also Mardi Gras and “Fat Tuesday.” The moment I stepped foot onto Esplanade Avenue, a sea of faces, costumes, live music and absolute mayhem appeared before me. Sidewalks were filled with folks heading in seemingly every direction, each in search of a particular parade or house party. Shenanigans afoot, and all in the name of the beauty and culture that is NOLA.

Jogging down Esplanade, I turned right onto North Rampart Street, ultimately pushing into the depths of the French Quarter. Down Barracks towards Burgundy, Dauphine, Bourbon, and Royal streets. Bars and restaurants already overflowing with joyous humanity in the late morning.

Along my trek a few anonymous faces yelled out here and there, “Hey, why you running right now? It’s Mardi Gras. Get a drink in your hand.” True that, my brothers and sisters. True that. Trotting back to the hotel, I darted back down along Barracks Street to skip around the foot traffic on Esplanade. 

And it was in that moment on the corner of Barracks and Treme where I noticed a door opening in what appeared to be an abandoned building, or at least seemed so when I ran by it a couple days prior. I realized it was a neighborhood bar, the exterior wall painted with the words, “The Little People’s Place.” A pop-up tent was also being set up to grill out.

Returning back to the hotel, my lady friend was sitting by the pool reading a book in the noonday sun. After a quick dip in the refreshing waters, I emerged from the pool and told her about The Little People’s Place, how it was right around the corner, and, perhaps, we should stop by for some cold suds amid our afternoon Mardi Gras wanderings and ponderings. She agreed.

Related Items

After we got dressed, it was time to enter the madness, to head out into the general public and see what sorts of adventures we may find ourselves immersed in. Stepping back onto Esplanade, a parade was drifting by. Standing there on the grassy median, we were soon surrounded by hundreds of colorful costumes following a massive drumline. It was surreal to be in that moment, this whirlwind of sound and spectacle, the awe-inspiring scope of it all.

Walking up to The Little People’s Place, one of the patrons said it was “a cash only bar, but there’s an ATM ‘round the corner a couple blocks south of here.” Following his directions, we were moseying to Rampart, but not before finding ourselves in the midst of The Wild Magnolias parade on the corner of Henriette Delille and Governor Nicholls.

Celebrating the indigenous heritage that lies at the foundation of NOLA culture and history, the tribe was adorned in beautifully intricate suits (pictured). Pounding their drums and howling into the heavens, they roamed the side streets, picking up new followers one-by-one, including ourselves. We followed the congregation for a few blocks, only to circle back to The Little People’s Place once cash was secured at the ATM in the corner store.

The small structure was only one-story tall, where it’d be filled to the brim if more than a dozen patrons were inside at the same time. Most of the friendly faces were sitting outside on the large bench or simply standing on the sidewalk sipping cold suds. Vibrant conversation and storytelling. Belly laughter. Hugs. Handshakes. Beloved old friends or new ones genuinely made in the haste of the moment at-hand. 

Eventually, I found myself making acquaintances with Roy, whose grandfather opened The Little People’s Place in 1947. Roy grew up in the house next door. He spoke of his childhood a few decades ago, where he, his siblings, cousins, and other neighborhood kids would ride their bikes all around the city, play stickball and football in front of the bar, and how memorable the Friday fish fry was — and remains — to this day. 

Roy was as welcoming as he was interested in how we stumbled across the establishment. “It just seemed like nice place with good folks,” I said. He smiled and shook my hand. We were now friends. A couple hours later, my lady friend and I moved on into the French Quarter. 

But, forget the alternate, somewhat plastic reality that is Bourbon Street on Mardi Gras. No, we headed up and down Royal and Burgundy streets, out towards the boardwalk along the Mississippi River, the air now foggy from a cool evening breeze overtaking the hot city. Onward towards Frenchman Street and back into the Treme neighborhood.

It was nearing midnight and soon Mardi Gras would be over, at least until next year. Strolling down Esplanade, it was decided to grab a late-night burger and fries at Buffa’s Lounge. The mob scene inside and on the street corner at Buffa’s that was earlier in the day was now just a fresh memory. The floors were covered in glitter, confetti and empty drink cups. The place was pretty much empty, as were the streets.

The bartenders were delirious yet jovial amid endless work shifts throughout the last few days. As I got up to use the restroom, I could hear a piano being played in the back barroom. I wandered in and there was this single person tapping away at the keys. Nobody else around. All the chairs put up and so forth. 

I asked his name. “Adam,” he replied. He had just finished a 12-hour shift behind the bar, now just flushing out his exhausted mind with some solo piano numbers played for nobody in particular, just himself and in that moment, this deafening silence in the aftermath of the torrential storm that is Mardi Gras.

Life is beautiful, grasp for it, y’all.

Leave a comment

Smokey Mountain News Logo
Go to top
Payment Information


At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.