Thursday, 17 January 2013

Rinse and Repeat, NOLA style

If New York is the center of American capitalism then surely New Orleans is the centre of American hedonism. New York, founded by the Dutch and built on the industry of English enterprise, is dedicated to working hard and making a buck. New Orleans, established on the attitudes of the French but built by the Spanish is dedicated to playing hard and taking that buck away.

While New Orleans may be the hedonistic center of this country; Bourbon Street is definitely the bull's eye. This six block long stretch of narrow street in the French Quarter, sided by old Spanish Colonial styled, European looking, two and three story buildings built in a square with a central garden or patio, is awash in neon, alcohol and cheap souvenirs. Hawkers, shills and pimps stand on the corners and gather in their prey as it walks by, oblivious to the seedy back corners and dark places in this part of what is really a fascinating city, a city with history in every pore.

Music blares on Bourbon Street as you walk by the entries to the littering of bars that proliferates in this short stretch of street; heavy, brassy, pounding. The strip clubs, each with their requisite gatherer enticing you with the lie, demonstrate their wares in silhouette and photographs lining the blacked out windows of their chosen abode. Inside you can find young women of every shape, size and colour demonstrating their skills with a brass pole and their lack of skill as a dancer.

Even in this you can find humanity. One young lady, on approaching me to solicit a personal piece of business, asked about my wheelchair. She listened intently, eyes widening and glistening as I told her about my ALS and what would happen to me over the next while. Then, incongruously, she shifted her conversation and tone and said "God has a plan for your life" after which she moved on to the next potential customer. Surely His plan was not that she should begin her life as a stripper and more on Bourbon Street. I don't think she asked herself that question.

Drunkenness is the order of the evening on Bourbon Street. That, too, leads to incongruity. My brother and I had decided to have a drink at the famous Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone. While seated at the rotating bar, enjoying an local ale, I saw an aging southern belle across the bar. She was well-dressed, and well oiled. Her overdone make-up spoke of long faded youth and her steadfast drinking spoke of a doubtful future. I commented to my brother on this "Delta Dawn" and, after a moment, we moved onto other things.

On leaving the hotel she happened to be standing, or rather stumbling, next to the cab stand. She approached me and stuck out her hand as if to shake mine. I did. She repeated this maneuver with my brother. I could see her alcohol infused brain attempting to come up with speech. She managed to burble out only two words, slurring at me "Accident? War?" We said war and decided at that moment that I was a Gulf War vet, the first Gulf War. She stumbled away, satisfied that she had made some sort of meaningful human contact, sufficiently drunk as to not remember it in the morning or possibly even in the next moment.

As night flows into day the character of the street changes. Darkness becomes light and the hordes of humanity are replaced by fleets of trucks refueling the watering holes and "gentlemen's clubs". The day wanes, the night people awaken and evening returns to Bourbon Street once again.

Rinse and Repeat.


  1. Your description is so vivid Rick, it takes me back to the times I visited New Orleans with Adam, Jim and Ray. Where was Ricky in all this? Is he having a great time?
    My love to all of you

  2. Ricky often goes off on his own to do what interests him. He says he is having fun; I believe him.