Category Archives: Travel

Too Sober for Bourbon St.

I don’t drink much. I’ve been drunk a grand total of once in my life. It wasn’t pleasant, so I don’t feel like repeating the experience. So what would I be doing on the famous Bourbon St. in New Orleans?

 We had to go to Jefferson Parrish, Louisiana for the worst of family emergencies, but were determined to appreciate a bit of the scenery despite the sadness each day brought. Certainly, the Big Easy is a good place to forget your troubles. So we tried some local cuisine, and wandered the streets. One restaurant had a guy playing a trumpet out a window to attract patrons. Street musicians, sometimes entire bands, were common, and most of them were very good. You can hear Bourbon Street from about two blocks away. The street is lined with bars and strip clubs and a few souvenir shops thrown in for good measure. Every bar blares music out open windows and doors, to the point where you can barely differentiate one song from the next. During the day, it’s chaotic. At night, it’s like one giant party stretching well over 10 blocks. Every night is Mardi Gras.

 I got a frozen daiquiri from a bar called Jester’s in a plastic cup as long as my forearm. They gave up some jester beads with the drink, which I was happy to add to my growing collection. No, I did not lift my shirt for the beads. On every side, people crowded overhead balconies and tossed beads to those of us below. Gene kept getting hit in the head with them. I guess I was the original target, though I didn’t actually see anyone throw them to me. Not being proud, I picked up several off the ground. Why not? I ended up with quite a collection that way.

As for my Jester Daiquiri, it never seemed to get any lower. Must have been the slushy ice melting. Either that, or I really am a lightweight. One thing I can say is that everyone was very friendly and nice. With all those people crowding the streets, there was plenty of bumping around, but also plenty of shoulder patting and congeniality. I can’t imagine that happening in New York. It reminded me a little of New Year’s in London. The whole city seemed happy and ready to party. Wow.

The crowd was more eclectic than I expected. It was made up mostly of 20 – 25 year old party animals dressed the way you would expect, but plenty of older people around retirement age wandered the streets too. Several bookish looking young women wove through the crowd, and a few Asian tourists photographed their kids surrounded by all the lights and mayhem. In the middle of it all, an evangelist group held large crosses and handed out pamphlets to the drunken carousers. That reminded me of a group of republicans who came to a Michael Moore speech back in 2004. Some people are confident enough to go anywhere.

And what about me? I’m not the noisy, partying type. I don’t expect, nor require attention from strangers. (Except of course when it comes to reading my books – and maybe my blog?) When I start to get too buzzed, I switch to Coke or Pepsi and look for food. I love live music, but like to actually be able to sit and listen to it, as opposed to barely being able to distinguish it from the general cacophony of the area. The heat and humidity was unbelievable, and I just wanted to get back to the hotel and wash off the city grime.

So, Bourbon St. is not for me. It was interesting to see and experience, but once was probably enough. We did party all that night, as appropriate for our last night in New Orleans. Ended up in the hotel bar, singing “Hey Jude” and “Piano Man” until the sun rose. Staggered up to the room and eventually onto the plane back to Philadelphia. As much as I gripe about New Jersey, I was happy to come back. Cliché or not, there’s no place like home.