Putting My Feet Up in New Orleans
Again the next day I hop off the Green Line tram at Canal
Then I cut over to Royal and walk down to 437. I am a little cautious about
going into the shop. I stare in the window for awhile, then enter the shop.
It is not
just guns but antique coins and stamps as well. I am glad that it is not
just a gun shop, where it might be expected that you are a gun enthusiast. Maybe
this concern is a little silly because any of the guns sold here are simply
collectors items; they are guns too old to be fired. I in fact am an antique-gun owner. I have a five-shot, Iver Johnson 32-caliber pistol that I
inherited from my grandmother. It is pearl-handled and silver-plated,
unlike the standard Iver Johnson models. My grandmother was a school teacher in Arizona in the late
1890s and was afraid of coyotes and Indians. Hence the pistol
that she never used on either. When as a kid I used to visit her, I used to
go into her bedroom and ask to see "the gun." She took it out of her desk
drawer, unloaded the cartridges—it was an unusual gun that breaks at the
top, automatically ejecting all cartridges—and I got to point it out the
window towards the vegetable garden in the back yard and absolutely nowhere
else. Being the gun's greatest admirer—my brother's interests were
elsewhere—I inherited it when she died. I still have it in a locker in
San Francisco. It is unloaded and I have no bullets for it. I think I am a reasonably
safe owner unless the gun should fall out of the locker and hit someone on
Finally, I walk inside the shop and work my way around the
counter on the left side, thinking about my grandmother and bygone times.
I ask a tall, thin, slightly nervous guy behind
the counter about Peychaud's shop. Are gun shops supposed to make you
nervous? Maybe so, because I was feeling a little nervous too. He tells me it was purchased by
James H. Cohen
& Sons—that's the name of the current shop—back in the 1800s.
But he says that very little has changed. Mostly some offices were added in
the back. The windows and the front of the store look virtually unchanged.
Then I noticed three Colt 44s under the counter where we are standing. I
inquire about them. I have always
admired this weapon for its aesthetics. It is big, sleek, and well balanced.
There are a couple of them in the Wells Fargo museum in the bank in San Francisco and I always have trouble walking by them without stopping to
admire them. Have you ever held a long-barreled Smith & Wesson 357 magnum?
Weapons like that have a strange, unwholesome attraction, at least for me. When I was younger
I felt it intensely; now only a little. They combine beauty and the power to
destroy all in one object; and in their explosive power, there is even
something sexual about them. They are perhaps an evil fascination.
He lit up a bit when I asked about the Colts and pointed out
that there were three slightly different models.
"Ah, yes, I see this now," I said, as if I had been
foolishly inattentive before.
We were both now staring down into the glass case, two
Then I mentioned my
pearl-handled, silver-plated Iver Johnson. He looked pained and
said that unfortunately
they had no Iver Johnsons. I let him know that mine was not for sale.
"Yes, yes, I understand," he said.
"Could I shoot a picture?" I asked, pointing to one of
"Sure, no problem," he said. "Is the position
"Yes, I think it's fine," I said.
He had changed from cold to at least lukewarm.
But sill I didn't have much information on Peychaud and the old shop. It was
a big shop, though. That surprised me. I had somehow pictured a little shop
with a small counter. This place was big enough to host a cocktail
party, not just a few friends sitting on hard wooden stools and putting
their feet up. There were also big windows from which to watch the street
and, I thought, any ladies who might venture by. Was
there a one-drink limit or was a second or even a third allowed? One will
never know. There was no licensing board to check up on Peychaud back then.
And what about drinking in the street? I suppose the issue
never came up, but it is hard to imagine Peychaud's friends walking off with
the coquetier, or egg glass, turned upside down that he served his
drink in. You may want to note that the French word coquetier,
mispronounced "cocktail" by Americans, may have been the source of the name
for this type of drink. But regard this possibility with skepticism. Merriam
Webster shows the origin of "cocktail" as cock + tail, and the
Farmer's Cabinet newspaper used the term "cocktail" in an editorial about a
"lounger" back in 1803, probably before Peychaud first served his drink. The
world is full of stories. They form its mental fabric, according to some. So
maybe we should just enjoy them.
The Sazerac Company now owns the Peychaud label, and if you want more
information you can go to the Sazerac website. As for the Sazerac
Coffee House, you can ask the Holiday Inn about that.
Taste of New Orleans