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New Orleans #2
OK, I’ve ducked into a coffeehouse in Royal St, open for another hour after my first iteration of Bourbon St. I am full of red beans & rice, jambalaya, and gumbo, not necessarily in that order. (Come to think of it… it was in that order.) Sampler size, so I was still able to face the rest of the street. Then I went and had some bread pudding, so there goes me ingesting anything for the remaining two days here. That’s going to be a problem, inasmuch as I’ve already booked dinner at Antoine’s tomorrow night, as a pledge to Diana who was last there when she was seven. I don’t even *like* oysters [Rockefeller], but I’m here to try things at least once.
Today is not looking as effective a day of tourism as it should have been: I got into the hotel too close to 1 pm, but didn’t emerge until after 6 pm, as I had at least some sleep to catch up on. Had the Airport Shuttle not squandered 40 mins of my life, I might have emerged to daylight, and documented some of what I saw around me. I’d better get up at the crack of dawn tomorrow to make up for it.
Me getting up at the crack of dawn is inconsistent with me coming over here to lodge myself in a gutter on Bourbon St. But then, I wasn’t fooling anyone when I kept saying I would lodge myself in a gutter. I don’t know how to get drunk, after six years of Thursday or Friday pub nights; and I don’t propose to find out in a foreign city, with only my wallet and a tourist map connecting me to my accommodation. I’m slightly buzzed after two cocktails accompanying the New Orleans Sampler, and I’ve noticed I’m slightly buzzed; that guarantees no booze for at least an hour. I don’t relinquish control that easily.
I walked grinning up Bourbon St, until Bourbon St petered out first into a very sedate couple of gay bars, then by Ursulines St into an empty residential street, that was imprudent to hang out in on a Saturday night. I was grinning not because I was having fun per se, but because I was enjoying other people having fun. Bourbon St is tacky and dodgy and garish, and blues singers commingled with Boy George on jukebox, and Authentic New Orleans Po’ Boy commingled with empty Pizza By The Slice parlors, and rocking out stately bars mixed in with hole-in-the-wall boozeries out of a hose, and bored strippers standing in their bras to draw in customers from among the moseying men with beers at hand; and Bourbon St pulses with life. It’s wonderful, in all its partytownness.
There’s even a couple of people on the balcony who haven’t gotten the memo about Mardi Gras, and are throwing beads off the balconies in late October. (In fact, a bunch of people who’ve caught beads have just walked into the coffeehouse.)
There is of course nothing Cajun or French or Spanish or Jacksonian or Antebellum about any of Bourbon St, just a little jazz and a lot of tourists out to have a Good Time. Something like an expurgated Red Light District of Amsterdam, with a familiar smell of aromatic smoking material. Yet the ghosts of the architecture still tell you, if you notice, that there are stories in the walls here. You have to not be drunk to notice of course, and to look at it was an accepting eye. It helps if it’s not dark, too, which is why I do need to come by again in the daytime.
Diana has such an eye—certainly in Greece, and she’s long ago enough gone from the South that she’d notice things here too. (Then again, she said to me of New Orleans what I’ve said of New York: it’s not really The South/The US, it’s something else, something new again.) I forgot to note that she made Iraklion made sense to me last night, bceause she’d noticed what I couldn’t. Iraklion is higgledy-piggledy and cramped and oppressive, not because it’s no longer a Venetian town, the way Rethymnon is. It’s not obtuse Modern Town Un-planners that are to blame. On the contrary: it’s higgledy-piggledy and cramped and oppressive precisely because it is a Venetian town. And Venetians did not do town squares (with the exception of the central square, with the lions fountain and the Logggia). They built Iraklion up as town islands, like they did Venice; and the side walls dividing up housing survive, even as the front and back walls are now ghastly Modern Greek cement.
Anyway, I’m becoming gradually more lucid. Not that you’d notice from what I’m typing. Pit stop before the coffeehouse closes, then Royal St and Decatur St, to see what Non-Bourbon St New Orleans is like of a Saturday night. I’ll miss a lot, but I’ve already noticed that the coffeehouse I’m in exudes a genteel hippiness, that I wasn’t figuring to find here.
Makes up for the coffeehouses I didn’t get to go to in Seattle yesterday.