“Legendary-ish Stories” is a series I plan to write occasionally in which I describe actual incidents that happened in my life. These incidents often involve alcohol and at times immorality – neither of which I necessarily condone. With these stories I hope to add a touch of humor and display human imperfection while simultaneously eroding my credibility. Enjoy.
I remember the first time I set foot in New Orleans famous French Quarter. It is a beautiful and cultural place – I love it. However, I’m not here to talk about the culture or beauty. This story is about the shit show that is the legendary Bourbon Street. There is an energy, I remember even as I approached I could hear the sounds of an intoxicated crowd growing louder. That, in turn, made my anticipation grow. I couldn’t wait to get there – I almost wanted to run. I wanted my first beer in hand, I wanted to participate in one of the most sin-filled streets on earth. I wanted to be part of it.
Even now I can see it, when I first turned the corner on to Bourbon. All of the anticipation I had build up inside myself only intensified. The streets were packed. There were vendors trying to convince me to enter their sex shops and “gentlemen’s clubs” to watch the latest X-rated act about to be performed. Places named “love acts” and “barely legal” only surpassed by the sheer number of businesses selling cheap alcohol.
I quickly scanned the street trying to take it all in as quickly as possible. Then I saw it – “HUGE ASS BEERS”. A massive beer for only $5 – it was really a college student’s dream. I didn’t hesitate and I purchased one. The cold sweet nectar of what was surely a cheap bud light never tasted more satisfying. A hurricane, hand grenade, and a few more beers later the night became a blur.
I remember people offering us free beer to come in their bars. One major advantage of Bourbon Street is the sheer economics of the situation. Supply and demand, my friend. Few places on earth is there such a supply of alcohol and sex – which in turn drives prices down. So far down, in fact, that alcohol becomes so dangerously cheap that even a college student can afford to drink themselves to near death. Which of course, we gave our best shot.
Now let me explain something. Walking around Bourbon Street while under the influence is kind of like being in the twilight zone. You see things you aren’t sure that you can explain. Under normal, completely sober circumstances the events would still be strange. For example, take the street performers. They do cartwheels around the damned street like something you would see at a circus whilst on psychedelics. There are men who make a living by spray painting themselves silver and acting like a statue. There are women, barely dressed, trying to coheres you into their little sex shop in hopes of taking all of your hard earned college monies. There are voodoo shops and haunted mansions – there is even a haunted bar. Needless to say, it’s sensory overload.
Then comes the parade and the beads. What’s interesting is that women – even the most conservative – seem to be willing to expose themselves for $1 beads. What is even more interesting is the men. It seems like every man in the parade who was given the responsibility of handing out beads was over the age of 65. Perhaps it is an earned right that one has to be promoted to over the years via hard work and labor – and finally given the privilege of commanding nudity at the cost of a few worthless beads. The truth of this matter I have never found the answer to.
At this point, perhaps you are asking yourself “Did you ever attend one of the sex shows?” The answer, of course, is yes. What intoxicated 21 year old can resist the temptation of a no entry fee, sex show combination? Not us, that’s who. Upon entering we found seats and grabbed a beer, which was surprisingly as inexpensive as any other beer. However, what we soon learned was what we were witnessing was a sight that they should be giving beers away for free. It became obvious, as a elderly black woman came on the stage, that barely legal meant something different in NOLA. The train wreck we witnessed was one of wonders and I have vowed to never speak of the events that took place on that stage – that intoxicated night. We left no tips, just tears. Lesson learned, sometimes when the entrance fee is free – you pay for it with your dignity.
Back on the street at what must have been 2am we continued our intoxicated journey, but I have to admit, I do not remember much after that. I have a few blurry memories of losing my voice and the flashing lights of what in retrospect seems like a rave, but I couldn’t tell you how true or exaggerated that story is. What I do remember is being teleported to my hotel room and time traveling to the morning after. I do not remember going back to the room – nor do I remember where I lost my shirt; but I guess that is the things memories are made of – the ones you can’t remember.
*I will be headed back to NOLA for new years 2011-2012. I will be sure to keep you all posted.