Day 50 – A Lesson from the Chess Master of NOLA (December 21, 2020)

Night 50- New Orleans, LA

One more day and one more night before we say goodbye to this city and our new friends.

Even though we are staying at his place, we haven’t really seen much if our host Julien since he works 12 hour shifts. We knew he would be home around 7 this day and made that our time limit to get home.

That is, once we left his place. Part of this day was just for rest. Then we get carried away with maintenance. Then it’s almost noon so we might as well eat some leftovers. But don’t fret, red bean soup and rice is a classic Monday meal here and was made by a local.

We made our way back into the French Quarter with only a few goals. There was supposed to be a chess tournament at a Café, there are some French donuts and coffee that are a must, visit a voodoo store, and keep an eye out for a chess master. This time we would bring our lights so we could stay out a bit later.

And that’s just how it happened. Beignets and coffee at Café du Mond. Pretty tasty. They reminded me of funnel cakes, but baseball sized rectangles instead of spider web. The powdered sugar was wild. It was everywhere. After you empty the paper baggy of the doughnuts, you are left with half a pound of powdered sugar. That isn’t an exaggeration. It’s just how it is. Pretty tasty and in a nice spot by the cathedral.

We then wandered around on foot looking for a voodoo or witchcraft store in search of something cool enough to bring along or send home. We only found two open shops and the only thing that jumped out to me was a book and it was wildly overpriced and over weight. Oh well, lets move on.

Russell had heard of a chess master in a red beret that is known to sit outside of a Café. We had our eyes out yesterday, but no dice. Not until we turned the next corner. The guy has some serious merit in the chess world right now and while I don’t follow the regular news feed, chess is kind of blowing up right now. It’s a fun game the dates back 1600 years or something to that degree. The world of chess is blowing up because of 2 big things. “The Queen’s Gambit” Netflix show and the same streaming platforms that are are big for video games.

So with that, we sat down across from Jude Acers. $5 a game and a lesson. Russell sat at the board and got black. They must have played for 15 or 20 minutes. Jude invited us to hang out and insisted there was no rush. The match was pretty tight and Russell got the guy to stumble once or twice, but the master came back. After the match he took Russell through a test of checkmates. Throwing the heavy pieces around the board to set up these puzzles, Jude was testing him. After he had done a few of them, we sat and talked about how to improve, how playing more people would just open his eyes to more. Especially as we travel. “You would be amazed how people will just come to you if you set up a game in a café”. So that’s the plan now. The old guy had been around quite a while and had a lot of advice to give and experiences to share. To be expected from a person who has done nothing but meet people and practice a strategy game all his life.

We also found out the local tournament wasn’t happening tonight. Oh well, it was time for food anyway. Jude had recommended a few places. The wood fire pizza shop would be perfect. We sat outside and played chess with pizza in the 60 something degree night. Listening to the people passing by as the French market closed for the night. The concern voiced by Julien about our bikes’ safety seemed warranted as one person was telling her friend about a couple stolen purses that day. Jude had also mentioned concern for our bikes. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that we always have them within a few steps of us with the brakes locked and a lock on the tires and frame.

We would leave downtown and ride around the city. Riding between buildings and through traffic is one of the most fun I’ve had on a bike. Without all our stuff we were quite zippy too. Pair that with to cool clear night and it was a great way to end the night. The oddity being the people of the suburbs who were out wandering in the street. 20 or 30 people all walking outside looking up for the “bethel star” event where Jupiter and Saturn lined up for the first time in 800 years. Hopefully no one was in a car accident because of two other planets.

Back at Julien’s, we started reloading the bikes. This turned into a scavenger hunt to find loose items and ways to cut weight more and more. At some point Julien and Kathryne came back and we all got to hang out. Talks of travel, music, band, how to say “NewOleans” properly, and cultures from back home. Julien is half French and speaks it, Kathryne is of Creole descent, and somehow being Pennsylvanian was a thing. So we got to explain the yall, youse-guys, yins thing.

Russell and Julien were settling for the night. Being a small apartment, Kathryne and I moved to the laundry room where I kept packing my bike and she could finish her beverage. We talked paddle boats and other hobbies. She was a canoe instructor of sorts for a local camp and a competitive archer. Talking of the local area and sharing stories of water ways back home filled the time as I kept packing. Shout out to Sapphire Naugle, you might have a new follower after we talked bows and hunting. So far this trip it is easy to find these kinds of people and talk forever. Easy to see how these two found each other.

The one topic that came up was “finding your people”. From traveling, heritage, EMS, fire fighting, and living a bit of a different life, Julien has been around the block a bit. So wondering who your people are is a tricky question. But the idea of people-people seemed good enough. When you get to know enough people of all different sorts, you tend to learn how to appreciate and vibe with everyone. So to identify with people-people, is to find an appreciation for the struggle to live, the struggle to grow, and the people who are out there looking for it all. Which is why he let us stay here with no questions. 2 guys riding bikes around the country? Just living and seeing the human condition of each and every land. People-people. Story tellers and story gatherers.

Sometimes it’s not about the sights or the beignets and more so about the experience you share with the people that told you to eat them. I’m hoping I can share everything we gather from this ride with all my people and all those to come in life. Maybe over tea or coffee.

Speaking of hot beverages, it’s breakfast time for me. Sorry I didn’t have a ton of photos today. Yesterday’s post had 40 something. Good news though, the GoPro will be coming back to life in a few weeks thanks to Addison Shableski. We hit the road again today..

Coffee time for now.

As usual-

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