It took a while to walk to Bourbon Street. It had nothing to do with proximity - our ancient hotel is only a few blocks away, we just had to stop every so often to seek shelter from the deluge. The sun was beating down even with the pouring rain, forcing the humidity to replicate a sauna. Every person we'd met over the last few days warned us to be careful in New Orleans, and when were only a few steps from the bright lights of Bourbon Street, a lady tramp walked by us with a freshly soiled dress. There you go again America, the best and worst in the land right next to eachother.
It became immediately apparent that the neon lights of Nashville's Broadway and Memphis' Beale Street are just baby versions of Bourbon Street. Seeing people was one indicator. Seeing them drunk off their faces at 7PM was another. Finally, we'd get to see some of that famed partying down here.
Up and down Bourbon street, we walked past innumerable bars, strip clubs and fried food restaurants. Above us, like Memphis, black clouds lit up with the regularity of the kick drums resonating outside the bars. If ever there was evidence for the necessity of The Weather Channel, spending these last few days in the south has shown it.
Max and I settled into another bar to watch the Chicago Bulls lose again, and as my heart sank, so did the beers at our table. Around us an MC yelled down a microphone and a dance floor packed out with young guys already hammered by 10PM and older people who had left their coordination behind as they attempted to relive their youth.
A mechanical bull was replaced by a whale out the back, and before too long the animal barely looked out of place as the rain returned with a ferocity I had not yet seen in America. Rain soaked drunks sought shelter, while the ones who had arrived earlier didn't mind getting soaked and continued they're hilarious dance moves.
A hen's party arrived, with their pink singlets announcing to everyone they were going to get rampid in New Orleans. None of their group seemed to notice the error, and with the collective I.Q. of the bar dropping, Max and I left knowing we had to be up early the following morning.
At 10AM Max's friends came by, picked us up in their car and we drove to parts of the city to see how the reaction to Hurricane Katrina has been after six years. There is abandonment spread randomly across the area, with rebuilt houses neighbouring those marked in spray paint indicating fatalities from six years ago. To think, that after this amount of time such damage is still widely evident is remarkable. It's heartening to see people rebuilt, but rightly or wrongly, reminders of tragedy are still abound.
New Orleans is more than booze and tragedy, and a 45 minute drive from the city brought us to the swamplands. In the southern heat, we boarded a boat and set out through the murky brown water into the wilderness of the area.
Almost immediately massive birds were flying around us and turtles were spotted lounging around semi submerged logs. Within 10 minutes the first alligator appeared, and in what must be a Pavlovian instinct, came up to the side of the boat to be fed hotdogs for all of tourists. When they weren't eating the finest of Walmart's mystery meat hotdogs, they were instead feasting on marshmellows, and watching a baby one swim towards and eat one was not something I expected to see when I woke up. A little strange, but amusing none the less.
Through the swamps and bayous, more and more alligators made appearances, getting bigger and bigger as the trip went on. They'd all come to the boat, sliding across the side and eventually jumping out of the water to eat the bait. I dared not get too close to the side, because they could have easily had their head in my lap, such was the proximity.
All along the swamp are summer and weekend houses, offering the owners mosquito filled weekends away from the city. Some are quite extravagant, with doors, windows and their own docks. Others are simply sheds, and are slipping closer and closer to the water. When Hurricane Katrina struck the area, there were stories of some of them floating all the way to the other side of the swamp, such was the intensity.
Eventually we entered more wooded areas, and the water line on the tree gave the appearance of a fake sunshine coming through at a flat angle. Duck weed covered the water, giving a the surface a false green carpet. Dragonflies and countless other insects all bounced across it, like it was a solid as the banks.
Later that night we all went out to dinner on Bourbon street. Stopping for street performers, street beers and a cigar, we went to a few of the strips bars. Now, I wish I could tell you more about my night, but my tape stopped recording. I remember some beads, a balcony, being very worried I was going to be thrown out for pouring beer on someone from the balcony (they just wanted me to use a plastic cup, not a glass bottle). After that, it's a real blur.
At some point in the night Dicky Peach arrived, and rumours are circulating today that I was throwing ice at him and teasing his new haircut. At another point in the night I was also informed that I stood on him while rummaging near the coffee machine (I've since found a nice coffee stain on a wall on the other side). Anything else that happened is anecdotal, and I guess I did what you're supposed to do in New Orleans. I got hammered, got some beads and forgot the rest of the night. Now Dicky Peach is here, I can only imagine something similar will happen tonight. Eek.
Down - Stone The Crow
Nola. A great break from a few guys more famous for angry man music.