Bluebonnet Swamp and The Chimes East

February 13, 2006

Well, winter finally arrived to Baton Rouge this weekend. By winter, I mean that on Saturday, there were only a handful of hours during the middle of the day where it was warm enough to wear shorts, and even then, only because the hatred of long pants outweighs the discomfort of cold legs in my book.

Our coldest Saturday of the year coincided with "bring your dog day" at Bluebonnet Swamp. Bluebonnet Swamp is a small swamp and wooded area smack in the middle of a busy part of town. It's crossed with gravel trails over the dry land and boardwalks over the marsh, and at least until your cell phone stars vibrating your groin area, it quickly feels like legitimate wilderness. As soon as it warmed up enough to be outside in shorts, I took Lili for her first trip. It turns out that there's nothing that beagle likes more than charging down a trail in the woods. She was so anxious to head down the trails that she declined the free treat and water that we were offered at check-in. So, down the trail we started.
Lili, forced to stop her sprint through the park so that I could tie my shoe.
At the dog's urging, we charged up and down trails at breakneck speed, and we found that we had pretty much seen everything -- or rather, we had passed by everything -- in ten minutes. On my previous trips to the swamp, it had been muddy. This weekend, the swamp was a glorious, thick gray-green soup, with water in some places up to the bottom of the boardwalk. There's also a new trail that loops around to a locked door, through which you can see the Bluebonnet library. We made a couple of other passes around the park, sniffed a few butts, got our ears scratched by a kid, and avoided a particularly mean dog. Then, a park official came out and asked me to kindly refrain from sniffing other patrons' butts, so we had to leave. After watching the end of an LSU basketball game, I took a little nap. The house was cold, so I woke up a couple of hours later on a small couch, covered in a dog and a couple of cats. After my nap, I got a call from Mrs. theskinnyonbenny, requesting that I meet her and a bunch of coworkers at The Chimes East. The Chimes East is a new restaurant and bar, and I had never as much as seen the building. But I had assumed that I might just never go there, on account of two big strikes. First, it's in my "no-go" zone for Baton Rouge. I've been here long enough that I know all parts of town, but with only a couple of exceptions, I have no use for anything North of Florida Blvd. or East of Airline Highway. Sure, I occasionally go North for Tony's Seafood or a Krispy Kreme. Or I might venture East for a movie or for.... Well shit, I don't know why, but I might go that way for something or other.
The New Official Map of Baton Rouge
My "go" quadrant of town really has everything I need. It includes LSU and downtown. I added a little hump that allows me to get to work without leaving the "go" quadrant. I've probably been to every bar and restaurant in there, most of them dozens of times. The second and more important strike on The Chimes East is that it isn't the original Chimes. Most of you probably know The Chimes, but if not, I'll give you the briefest of summaries. The Chimes is a bar and restaurant at the edge of LSU's campus. It's been where it is for I don't know how long, but it's at least been on its current corner since before I came to town in '89. In short, it's probably one of the world's best bars. They have hundreds of beers, and dozens on tab. The food is top-notch and reasonably priced. It's the type of place where you will see the heavily pierced Goth kids next to a table of sorority girls next to a table of yuppies next to a professor at the bar next to a bum next to a drunk old woman. It's just about always crowded. If you're looking for elbow room, convenient access, or a non-smoking section, The Chimes probably isn't your type of place. I know this is a bit of a tangent, but since this post is already ridiculously long, I'll indulge myself. Some time ago, I wondered what toilet, outside those at my home or at work, I've used the most. I decided on the stainless steel urinal trough in the men's room at the back, rightmost corner of The Chimes. I conservatively estimate that I've peed there an average of four times a month every month since September, 1989. That comes to 784 urinations into that trough. So I was a little bit disappointed to see how nice The Chimes East turned out to be. It's a nice two-story brick structure with lots of big windows. Even though it's a new building, it has the feel of a renovated warehouse. The inside is very open, and it's actually kind of pretty.
The way-too-normal toilet at The Chimes East
The menu and beer selection was the same. But there were some big differences: there was plenty of on-site parking, we were seated in a non-smoking section, and twice, our waitress called me "sir." I don't think that has ever happened at the real Chimes. I should also mention that I peed (three times) in a porcelain toilet rather than in a steel trough. Overall, it was pretty good. I won't make the frequent drive to that part of town just to go there, but in all honesty, it probably is worth the occasional trip.