I’m drunkenly smoking outside of a random bar on Bourbon Street, when I notice her speed walking in my direction. It’s hard not to miss her, and even in my inebriated state, I know this is going to get weird.

We make eye contact, and I realize much too late that I should’ve looked away. She has those Bourbon street, shark eyes. The sort of eyes that are looking to simultaneously hustle a tourist and find a safe place to hide.

“Hey! I just need to stand here for a minute!” The woman shouts, coming to a sudden stop a few feet before crashing into me.

She’s a tall, pasty blonde, with giant fake boobs, a gold tooth, and weird hair. My friend Rob will later remark that she used to wear cornrows, and her hairline must’ve been thinned out because of that. His theory seems plausible. Although, I’m fairly certain he’s just spit-balling possibilities.

“Um, okay.” I respond warily, not sure what her play is going to be, but preparing a polite “No, thank you”  to whatever it is, just in case.

I watch as a tall, African-American man, walks by and glances at her for a beat too long, before turning and walking off.

“You see that shit?” She nods her head in the fleeting man’s direction.

“See what?” I ask.

“Pimps, man! They don’t take a hint!” She asks for a cigarette and I give her one. She lights up.

“I gotta find a white boy every time, and they’ll leave my ass alone for a minute, you know?” She is also white, and no, I don’t know, but now I want to head back into the bar and find my friends.

“That’s um, okay, whatever. Are you alright?”

She looks up at me, and lets out a loud laugh, as if to say Are you fucking kidding me, dude? I smile and laugh as well. We finish our cigarettes, as one of her friends, and one of mine, show up at either of our sides. We nod our goodbyes and head our separate ways.

In a couple of hours, I will witness a sloppy street fight, while eating pizza from atop a garbage can, which I am using as a table. I will experience the most amazing live jazz performance of my life. I will watch as newlyweds dance lovingly down the street, while a marching band plays them further into the night. And I will try to keep up with a city that’s too big to handle, and too easy to get lost in. But I’m getting ahead of myself, and that’s easy to do when trying to recount a lost weekend in New Orleans. A lot of the trip now resides in that part of my mind reserved for blurry scenarios and hazy conversations.

How it Started

Tim, Rob, Dan, and I, had this trip on the books for months. It was to be the first guy’s trip we had taken since the last guy’s trip, which was three years ago, and landed us in Myrtle beach for a drunken weekend on, well, the beach. Rob and I were the married-with-kids contingent of the group. Dan, was the knowledgeable music buff, and the closest thing we had to a New Orleans expat (He visits the Big Easy annually for Jazz fest), and Tim was our wisecracking wild card.

So after months of waiting, a tedious slug through O’Hare, and a quick cab ride, we finally arrived, with our baggage and expectations in tow.

Our hotel was in the French Quarter, and it had a pool. These were the consensual sticking points for everyone in our group. We checked in, dumped the baggage, but kept the expectations, and let out into the night.

First thing on our list was food. We wandered over to the Acme Oyster House, but the line was a block long. We scanned the street and headed to Felix’s across the street. We hungrily ordered as much fried seafood and raw oysters as we could handle. After having our fill, we decided to take our chances on Bourbon Street. My stomach was queasy as we began to bar hop. Half a dozen drinks later, and I was on top of the world. We people watched and cracked wise as we went, stopping periodically to fill up on booze.

The deals never stopped coming our way… the Bourbon Street Carnival barkers shouting them at us, while brandishing large signs with the same deals on them. Covering their bases, just in case we were hearing impaired or blind.

“Two for One Beers!” followed by “Two for One Hurricanes!” Followed by “Multiple Grenades!” Followed by “Two for one tits!” Followed by “Topless and bottomless and well drinks too!” followed by “Don’t be scared!” And on and on it went.

A wild yet gregarious atmosphere, the street was the embodiment of a drunken uncle. Late into the evening, we decided upon a to-do list of sorts. If we limited our stay to Bourbon Street, all of us would be in need of more life insurance and a liver transplant by day three.

The list consisted of a few things we all wanted to do. Hit Café Du Monde for Beignets and Café Au Laits. As well as a walk around the market and Jackson Square, and take in the best live jazz show we could find, and of course eat and drink ourselves stupid. I also wanted to get my fortune told. But I was alone on that one.

The Puking Man Play-by-Play

We found ourselves sipping grenades on a random Bourbon Street balcony. To say the drink was sweet was an understatement. I wasn’t sure what would hit me first, the diabetes or the booze. While we drunkenly shot the breeze, I noticed the puking man, and being the sophomoric man-child that I am, I managed to film him, as he added to the stagnant puddles of tourist fluids that line the corners of Bourbon Street.

Here’s the poor bastard in the act: Part 1. Where I realize how lucky we are:

 

And part 2. Where we break it down:

 

Preservation Hall and a Sad Song

Just off of Bourbon Street lies Preservation Hall. A legendary jazz music venue situated in an intimate, two hundred year-old building.

We waited in line on our second night, and just missed the cut off for the 8pm show. Knowing we couldn’t stand in line for another hour for the 9pm show, we made a pact to wait as long as it took on our last night to get in. On the last night, our luck improved, and we found our way to the standing room area.

Inside the venue:

Preservation Hall

At first, a bit of claustrophobia began to set in, and I found myself taking deep breaths, subconsciously fighting it off, while trying not to think of the fire hazard we just trapped ourselves inside of. Soon however, the musicians made their way to their seats, and after they began playing, all was okay. Live Jazz has a therapeutic, perhaps even a healing effect, or at least that’s my takeaway from the handful of live performances I’ve seen.

That’s the good part of a live show. The bad part is sometimes you’re stuck next to someone who wants to make a shared experience about them and them alone. Tim and I exchanged a look as the middle-aged spaz in front of us, clapped his hands rapidly in the air, and let out high-pitched yelps, during the quieter and more nuanced moments of the concert. Tim shook his head and took a step away from the man, as did I. To be too close to his neediness was to become his neediness. Or something like that.

All of the musicians, most of whom were in their twilight years, gave it their all. And to my newbie ears, they were the Jedi masters we were looking for. The clarinet player in-particular caught my eye, or ear, or both eye and ear in this case, or whatever. Anyhow, I never heard a clarinet sound like that before, and given the fact that the guy looked to be nearing 100 years old, I thought it was quite the accomplishment.

My oldest son has recently taken up the clarinet, and I couldn’t help thinking of him, and how much he would’ve loved this performance. I vowed to take him and his brother to a live jazz show in the near future.

Late in the show, the bandleader announced they would sing a sad song. It was the St. James Infirmary Song.  And it was sad, but sad in that special kind of New Orleans way, where even if you’re fighting back tears, you still might be tapping your foot to the beat. Dan later filled me in on a couple of the gloomier elements in Louis Armstrong’s life, and the song resonated even more.

Here’s the Louis Armstrong version:

 

To the Bachelors and Bachelorettes Everywhere

There is something distasteful, or at the very least, odd, in wearing matching outfits with a dozen other women. Throw in a random tiara and my cringe dial goes to 100%. It’s like a very small cult that worships a penis straw deity. I know these facets of the Bachelorette party are tradition, but so was cannibalism at one point.

I don’t have much more to say on this subject, except that in the future I hope a bill is passed, which somehow relegates all of these parties to Las Vegas. It’s the only place that does this sort of buffoonery justice.

Not to be outdone by the ladies and their phallic accoutrements, here’s a video of a bachelor party-boy playing with a blow up doll by the pool:

 

The Old Guys at the Concert

On Dan’s suggestion, we cabbed it to a concert on the westside, which featured Dumpster Funk. They were a great funk band that had us head-nodding and half-dancing between pulls from our beers.

There were a couple of takeaways from the concert that were clearly obvious, even to the half-dancing and fully-inebriated. One, People’s Blues of Richmond (the opener), was an amazing band. Someone remarked that they were kind of like a young, coked-up Led Zeppelin. And I remember thinking that was a decent summation. They played as if there were thousands in attendance. There were probably forty of us at the show.

The second, and the much sadder takeaway, was that we were most likely the oldest people there, and we’re not even forty. The average age of the concert goers seemed to be around 21 years old. People that young gross me out. Mainly, because I know I gross them out, and fuck them for being grossed out by the inevitable. I’ll do the judging around here, damn it.

Regardless, we drank our beers and listened to our funk. And the show proved a good experience, even for the crusty old farts in the back.

 

Café Du Monde and the Violinists

We sat waiting for our beignets and café au laits. Our collective hangover growing stronger by the second. If we didn’t shove fried dough into our bodies soon, our sickness could very well become sentient. On the scale of Global catastrophe, Skynet had nothing on the Tequila flu. It’s the super flu, only with Tequila. Game over, man.

Lucky for us, and the rest of humanity, the beignets did come, and they were exactly the type of fried goodness that can cure hunger, centuries long conflicts, and even our hangovers, within a few bites. Soon, we were caffeinated and back on the street. After hovering briefly outside the window of a praline shop (They looked like what I imagined snowflakes in Candy Land would be), we made our way toward Jackson Park.

While in the park, we heard what sounded like a violin in the distance. I couldn’t be sure, because I never heard a violin sound like that before… except for maybe on the soundtrack for Last of the Mohicans. We walked with purpose toward the sound, hypnotized like Odysseus’s men to the sirens.

There was a couple in the square. They played their violins in unison, as we sat with others in stunned silence. A couple of us managed to pull our phones and record a portion of their performance.

The Sirens of New Orleans:

 

They worked their instruments effortlessly and in the sort of union that I hoped bled into other areas of their lives. I imagined them traveling carefree through a strange world, together. Making enough to comfortably live out each night. Only to wake and make music in some other park, the next morning. And so it would go, until they were old and world worn, and their violins, the same weathered ones they played in New Orleans all those years ago, followed them to their next gig.

And a longtime from now, they will be in New Orleans once more. And it will be the home that they hoped for. And their violins will sit on a dusty shelf, except for special occasions, or when the morning is just right, and then they will take them down and reminisce.

 

 

Comments
  1. Sue Krisch says:

    Nick thank you so much for tagging Tim . You have saved him from endless questioning about the trip. And you are a fantastic writer. I will now have to start stalking your works. 😊

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