In life we have all these outrageous social classes and groups that separate us from one another. You have the ultra-conservative people who balk at the sight of some of the shenanigans the liberals undertake in, then there are the business type who work harder than they intend to play, there are the family-orientated who make changing a diaper seem like the next best thing after a grand reception with the president (well, this may depend on the president who offers you that grand reception), and then there are those wild college students who at the age of 30 are still there studying the effects that ethanol will have on the organs. In normal life we do not mix, we are required to each stay on our dividing sides of class and tolerate each other. Yet, come to New Orleans and you will see a meeting of the classes that will so baffle and intrigue you at the very same time. More specifically, set your foot amongst those walking the tar on Bourbon Street; mingle with a lady old enough to be your grandmother, talk politics with a child barely out of a high school classroom and boogie all night with someone who could quite possibly be more formal and stuffy than your father. On Bourbon Street this is the way of life.
Arriving amidst peak hour traffic after seeing the inside of a car for too long, the best and most logical thing would be to find our hotel, take a shower and sleep until waking up would actually make us happy people again. We arrived at the hotel, where I was trying very hard to keep my judgment well hidden, and found our room. Walking the corridor to our room was like standing outside the KFC in Dundee, South Africa. Being the Christmas season it kind of made you feel nostalgic for all of two seconds, and then the smell really hit and having reminders of home did not seem that important anymore. So after taking about an hour to unpack the car (none of us got the memo to pack light), we made plans to be out the door by 7pm because Kevin was going to show us how to really party. It never happened that way; it was a kind of rough estimate of what time to get up.
First rule to remember when partying: always, always have something to eat beforehand. It makes the headache the next morning only a little less as intensifying. Being in New Orleans you have to try the food no matter how absurd it may sound. If you do not it is like going to France and completely missing Paris, it is just not done. There are many options and something will satisfy your curiosity, being the adventurous people we were we decided to try a sampler of all the different kinds of food. And Shaii being a vegetarian opted for the cheese pizza (at the end of our trip he has officially tasted more cheese pizza then anyone I know). My favorite was the Gumbo, I know it had rice in it and some other stuff (sometimes it is best just to eat and not ask). So with the bellies all filled up it was time to go see Bourbon Street for the first time, and be transformed.
Now many people think Vegas is the party capital of the world, yes they may be right, but Bourbon Street in New Orleans is thee party capital that does not distinguish between people. If you decide to make a night out on the town in your fluffy pajama’s with cute white bunnies then good for you. If you have just come from a long day of exploring other parts of the city with your huge camera bulging in your front, your white socks pulled up smartly somewhere between your calf and knee and your flowery flip flops on your feet, then there is a place for you here to. The one very interesting thing about New Orleans is that alcohol is permitted on the streets, just not in the container it comes in. It is kind of like the philosophy most parents have about their teenagers, “We know terrible things are abounding in your rooms, but just close the door and we can pretend it’s not really there.” Another very important rule to remember when going out is to always carry a phone or in the worst case remember your friend’s number. I sadly did not heed my own advice here and got separated from the group somewhere between meeting a new friend, trying to scream a conversation to a stranger and dancing the night away in a smoke filled room. When deciding that Bourbon Street had come out a victor this first night, I waited to tell my friends it was time to go and could not find a single familiar face. Now the time comes when you want to rewind the hands of time, charge that phone and carry it with you. With hundreds of bars and clubs and places to be on that crowded street, finding my friends was like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack. So against everything I had ever been taught by my wonderful parents, I went home with a stranger so he could help me get a hold of my friends and find the hotel I was staying at. I was lucky that night; I never went home with an axe murderer who would later feed me to the alligators. This person helped me find my friends and hotel and even dropped me off at 4 in the morning, now that is real Southern Hospitality for you. I do, however, not recommend this to anyone.
Before you think that New Orleans was a one stop party destination, I will assure you we did see more of what this truly rare part of America had to offer. We drifted through the French Market by day somehow being bargained into buying things that just touched the corner of our eyes. We ate more food than I think humanly safe, but savored every last morsel. And after lunch we had coffee at the famous Café Du Mont, where icing sugar brought out the child within and the coffee just refined the behavior. We watched passengers embark on the last Steam Boat and were greeted by a homeless man making many exuberant sounds; Shaii seemed thoroughly delighted in communicating in this manner. We took a tram ride to nowhere and back again just because we could and enjoyed it regardless.
If it is at all possible, every person should make a stop in New Orleans at least once. To see what a meshing of the social classes and cultures is like. To see difference as something that makes you special and not what separates you. Albert Einstein once said that, “The distinctions separating social classes are false; in the last analysis they rest on force.” I think when he said this he must have been dreaming about the faraway place of Bourbon Street, New Orleans.