The Girlfriend has a real knack for conforming to her surroundings whenever we go away somewhere. For example, when we were in London a few months ago, coming home from an after hours club she impressed our cab driver with her British accent, screaming at him, “Do I sound British to you? Crikey!”
Which is precisely I was more than a little nervous taking her to New Orleans, a city known for heavy drinking, public displays of nudity and a bustling harbor industry.
In order to understand what we were faced with, and to understand what The Girlfriend and I look for in a good vacation city, here it is: The Daily Dump’s First Official City Review: New Orleans.
The Climate: Being below sea level is a truly unique experience. Often, when walking out the front door of the hotel, it would feel as though you were walking into a swamp. A swamp full of drunk southerners.
Not that it was all that unpleasant. Both The Girlfriend and I are aficionados of sun and hot weather. Still, though, on more than one occasion we were driven to retreating to the hotel after consuming inordinately large meals, as I convinced The Girlfriend that our bodies were overheating due to all the energy being used to aid in the digestion process.
The Girlfriend thought this was a load of shit, but she played along because, I could tell, she wanted to go back to our hotel’s rooftop pool as much as I did.
Also, the weight of the air lends to an ominous feeling when walking around the drunken crowds on Bourbon Street. Just this constant feeling that something bad or gross is going to happen, that someone is going to start a fight with you or throw up near you or a saggy boob is going to touch your arm.
The Culture: Like I said before, New Orleans is a city unlike any other in the United States, built on a strong foundation of cultural and historical significance and an economy of filthy, pornish voyeurism.
There is the Garden District, which is home to some of the oldest estate houses in all of Louisiana, the Mighty Mississippi, with it’s shores marked on both sides with battlegrounds from the Civil War, and Bourbon Street, where you can find such establishments as Big Daddy’s, Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club and The “Men Who Look Like Woman” Club (I can only assume that’s the name, because the establishment is marked only by a sign that says, "Men Who Look Like Women.”)
What’s more, New Orleans is home to some of the best, if not the best, jazz establishments in the U.S. From Preservation Hall, a “family friendly” establishment where no smoking or drinking is allowed and everyone crams in to undecorated rooms with wood benches to hear classic jazz, to the north end of the French Quarter, where you can buy drugs, have your car stolen and hear some intense jazz all in a half-hour span.
Or, back on Bourbon Street, you can hear some of the loudest bass pounding out the most overplayed rock and hip hop anthems of our generation – producing conversations like this one The Girlfriend and I had on Saturday morning:
Me: “Why do I have “Sweet Child of Mine” in my head? Did we hear that song last night?”
The Girlfriend: “Probably.”
Then there’s the up-and-coming art scene, with, on certain streets, more galleries and coffee houses than hurricane bars.
But, above all, there is “Beads For Boobs.” If you had to list on defining characteristic of New Orleans, it would have to be that, on any given drunken night, a woman can lift up her shirt and, subsequentially, be showered with brightly colored plastic beads, which she will then wear on her neck and cherish as though the beads beheld any real value other than the 25 cents paid for them or the small slice of dignity sacrificed in procuring them.
All in all, you can say that, culturally speaking, New Orleans is a city feeding off dichotomy. It’s not a trashy party town, it’s the home of Jazz; it’s not all about beads and boobs, it’s got substantial historical and value; they don’t just hose the vommit off the streets at the end of the night, it’s the home of creole and cajun cuisine! Well, they do hose the vommit off the streets at the end of the night, but you see what I’m getting at.
The People: Oh the people.
The thing about New Orleans is, it’s such a tourist city that I couldn’t even make a guess at how many locals I came across on any given day. 10? 20 maybe? I know the 300 lb women with the Mickey Mouse t-shirts were not locals. I know the men with the high top sneakers, jean shorts and cowboy hats on were not locals. And I also know that anyone who looked remotely like me was not a local.
So really, what we’re talking about when we talk about “the people of New Orleans” is the type of person who is drawn to New Orleans. And, really, that’s everyone, precisely because it has something for everyone (and nudity).
But if I had to list a few of my favorites (and trust me, I do) they would be the following:
– The Drunk Bellman (way too old to be a bellboy). Asked us a minimum of three times where we were from and a minimum of five times how long we were in town. Every time we answered it was like news to him. If he has a brain tumor that adversely affects his short term memory, I regret writing this. But I’m pretty confident he was just drunk.
– The 3 For 1 Drink Guy. Genius bar on Bourbon Street served three for one beers all night long. You buy one, they give you three. That simple.
So, when Marissa and I first go up to the bar, there is an guy sitting on a stool by himself. Apparently, he had just ordered one beer, was given three, and didn’t want the other two – so he gave them to The Girlfriend and me. Flash forward a half an hour later and The Girlfriend and I buy another round. The Girlfriend suggests that it would be nice to give our third beer to the guy who gave us his extra two originally. We walk over to him and The Girlfriend hands him the beer. His is shocked, then confused. The Girlfriend explains that we’re returning the favor for the drinks he gave us. Still confused. She says that he bought one beer, was given three, and gave the extra two to us. Still nothing. Finally, he makes pretend to understand what we’re saying and thanks us.
A few minutes later, while we’re standing near the door, the guy quickly walks past us outside, not acknowledging us, presumably due to the fact that he would soon be vomiting.
– The Token Homeless Guy. Too many years ago to count without getting depressed, my friend BJ and I went to New Orleans, among other places, for spring break. While we were walking around the French Quarter one day, a homeless guy came up to BJ and this interaction happened:
Homeless Guy: “I bet I can tell you where you got those shoes.”
BJ: “OK, where?”
Homeless Guy: “What size are they?”
BJ: “I don’t know. 9’s?”
Homeless Guy: “You got them on your feet!”
Suddenly, the Homeless Guy throws a wad of shoe polish on BJ’s shoe and starts polishing it. BJ is confused and angry. The Homeless Man finishes, barely wiping up the polish and holds out his hand. BJ looks at him. Homeless Man says, “What, you not gonna pay a man for polishing your shoes?” Nevermind that he only polished one shoe and it wasn’t really polished so much as had crap wiped on it, but BJ gave him a few dollars and we parted ways. (Later that afternoon, this the same guy came up to BJ and this conversation occurred:
Homeless Guy: “Hey buddy, got a smoke?”
BJ: “Hey man, how’s it going?”
Homeless Guy: “Yeah, got a smoke?”
BJ: “Dude, you just polished my shoe like two hours ago. You don’t remember me?”
Homeless Guy: “Oh right! Got a smoke?”
My point in recalling this? On Sunday night, while The Girlfriend and I were walking down from a restaurant to The House of Blues for the Ray Lamontagne concert, a homeless guy stops us and asks if we have any spare change. I tell him I don’t have any and keep on walking. As I’m walking away, I hear him saw behind me, “I bet I can tell you where you got those shoes!”
Was it the same guy? Or is this a common New Orleans routine? Regardless, I was wearing flip flops and I didn’t want to ruin the fond memory with a glob of shoe polish in between my toes. So I’ll never know.
– Body Odor Woman at A&P. I would say this is self-explanatory, but only insofar as a crippling, mind-numbing stench can be considered self-explanatory. I can’t even begin to fathom the places that this smell came from, although my first guess would be “hell” and my second guess would definitely not be “the shower.” She stood behind us on line for the register, and had we not needed, literally NEEDED, the water w were holding so badly, I would have fled. Instead, The Girlfriend and I discretely pulled oral hygiene products off the shelf next to us and sniffed them.
– Woman In Bikini Top, Aged 75, Man In Lime Green Spandex Short Shorts, Aged 80 – On Bourbon Street. Now that’s self-explanatory.
An open letter to My Heart:
I am sorry. It was tasty at the time, and, perhaps due to all the beer, I wasn’t thinking clearly when I ate it all. I hope you can find it in your . . . you, to forgive me.
p.s. I particularly regret the pork spare ribs for brunch.