Rachael and I rolled up into the Big Easy yesterday afternoon. I was excited. I’d read a quotation by Duke Ellington, “In New Orleans, culture doesn’t come down from on high. It bubbles up from the street.” I was ready to experience it.
My first impression driving through was that New Orleans really is a city in decay. It has so much style, but most of the buildings are falling apart. It could use a facelift. But maybe that’s what makes it cool? I haven’t decided yet.
Anyway, we settled into our room, and then got ready to go out and explore. Today we didn’t really have a game plan other than to wander.
We used some of our hosts’ rickety bikes to bike down Esplanade to the French quarter. The brakes were a little sketch, and a lot screechy. So were we, as we peddled along the cracked, uneven streets, doing a bit of a flash-bike in our short dresses. I serenaded Rachael with my rendition of, “They see me rollin’/ They hatin’/Patrollin’/And tryin’ to catch me ridin’ dirty.” She liked it.
We finally arrived, locked up dem bikes, and started our adventures. We criss-crossed between Canal, Bourbon, Chartres, etc, which was clearly the most blatantly tourist part of town. But it was interesting to see.
We ducked in and out of the tourist shops. They’re selling a lot of beignet mix, hot sauce, praline candy, and Mardi gras masks. We went into a funky, but still excessively touristy voodoo shop, where I got shouted at for taking a picture. Ma B. I’ll admit that it was justifiable though, because I was literally thinking, “I could make this shit, let me take a picture, and I can make a sewing pattern later”.
Also, I’m apparently developing a saltshaker fetish, but check these out:
We walked through Jackson Square, a nice little park, and threw pennies into the pond to make wishes.
Around the edges roost a variety of not quite categorizeable people that straddle the line between hipster, homeless, and “gypsy”.
I was incensed by these fortune-tellers. I’m sorry, but if you’re going to be marketing yourself as a fortune-teller, at least have the sense to be some sort of dark-skinned, exotic-looking women. These people were some hick white dudes in cowboy hats. Wtf? I’ll have to get a better picture tomorrow, so you all can share in my outrage.
Bourbon Street was the most, er, indelicate. I’d describe walking down it as being barraged by a flood of older, white, sun-damaged tourists with varying levels of tummy fat and intoxication. They were usually found toting some sort of alcoholic slushy (which I won’t hate on, because you know we’re gonna get on that eventually), in some sort of horribly tacky plastic container, shaped like a trumpet, or a fleur de lis, or a goddamn flowerpot for all I could tell. Idk why evoked so much ire in me, but I just found those plastic containers so distasteful. However, these drunken goons made for good, but cringe-worthy, people watching. I shuddered as one middle-aged lady decided she wanted to do a sexy dance next to a bucket/drum player on the street. The more she hiked her dress up, the more I quietly shouted to myself, “Oh stop! Please, please stop!”. Also, her sexy-dance was pathetic. If you’re gonna be hiking up your skirt for easier leg movement, then you better be doing more than shuffling your feet back and forth. Ballerina disapproval. We also observed a woman flash her tits to these disgusting uggo men on a balcony, in return for which they dropped down those plastic Mardi gras beads. Yick.
As the night got darker, suddenly a block of strip clubs popped up in the middle of it. I felt bad for the poor girls that had to sit outside in their underwear trying to entice the tourists to come in. It looked like a rotten life. The Asian women, that had during the day tried to beckon us in to their shop for a foot massage, yielded way to an army of bouncers shouting at us and everyone to come in and liven up their bar. Since turning 21, I’ve discovered I’m still as much of a grandma as ever. Every bar we passed I looked into and rejected because they all looked so unpleasant, and excessively loud. I have delicate ears, I say! And who decided the music had to be played at a volume to make your ears ring for days afterwards and any conversation impossible? A major turn-off.
But finally, Rachael and I did find someplace acceptable for me: a pleasant little courtyard with a bar, café, nice outdoor seating, and a very good live jazz band. We sat down, exhausted after all of our walking, and shared a Sazerac- apparently a New Orleans classic.
But like everything on Bourbon Street, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t authentic. While the jazz at the end of the night was very enjoyable, our mission for the next two days is now going to be to find the real, cool New Orleans. That will be a much better adventure.