Leaving New Orleans is a somber experience. After a week full of excitement flying to anywhere else doesn’t sound appealing. At first I was not excited about going to New Orleans because I had been there before on a similar trip. But one thing is for sure, every trip is different. I could go to the same place twenty times in NOLA and each time it is a tad bit different.
The city itself is engaging. Locals and beggars invite you to join in on their act. Usually at the end hinting, not so subtly, that this is their livelihood. That line always makes tourists jingle their wallets and little harder. I could spend days in the heart of the French Quarter feasting off the entertainment and talent of New Orleanians.
There are bad sides too. I smelled more weed, alcohol, and unusual body odor than I would ever like to again. I got a lot of unwanted sexual attention and comments from not so friendly looking men. Homeless people are scattered on each corner throughout the city.
I hate looking them in the eye and walking on, but some of them I recognized the year before. Doing the same trick year after year. I don’t know them. I don’t know their story, but if I did that would feel more comfortable giving them money. I never really know what they will do with the $5 I give them. There are some honest musicians, magicians, and artists. There are also thieves, beggars, and criminals. I am just careful and aware and I am just fine.
On Bourbon Street, there are several things to stay away from. First, people will try to coerce you into giving them money. A girl wearing little clothing and a ton of makeup grabbed my elbow hard. She said, “Come here, baby. Don’t be scared I am not going to rape you or anything. Come to take a shot with me”. She forcefully tried to pull me into the closest bar. At the time I was not twenty one and eagerly refused. I walked on with my friends, but the way that she pulled my arm was intense.
Another girlfriend of mine was not too far behind me and the same girl pulled the trick on her. Next thing I knew she was taking shots with a strange girl with little clothes and a lot of makeup. The real kicker was when the girl made my friend buy her shots also. The total was $26. The girl threatened to get the cops if she didn’t pay.
A similar time one of the guys in my group was surrounded by about eight guys. One of them was trying to sell his mixtape for $15. It was terrifying. Of course, he didn’t want the mixtape but he also didn’t want to get a black eye so he threw him a twenty. I say all that to say, walk away immediately. I have learned to spot these people. If they ask you to “come here” or “take a picture with me” just walk away. They also say lines like ” I don’t sell anything”. Yet, they hand you a hat and try to tell you to make a donation of $15. If anyone tries to hand you anything does NOT take it. They will try to make you pay for it. A man puts beads around my neck, the tried to make me pay $2. I hurled it off my neck and into his hand.No thank you.
A manipulation can start off innocently. I am always on full alert to who I talk to, but some people may surprise you. One lady worked a store we entered. She made a joke about me singing an Adele song. She said she would charge me a dollar for singing in her store. But when we got to chatting I learned that she was born in South Africa but had lived here for fifteen years. In fact, she was a student just like me except she was finishing up her law degree at Tulane University. Not everyone is trying to target you and take your money. Some of the conversations I have had with random people have been incredibly enlightening.
Last night a cross-dressing man with eye winged makeup, a bright blonde wig, and a stuffed bikini for a top tried to get me to take a picture with him. I refused but thanked him for the offer. I never want to be rude, even if the person makes me feel uncomfortable. My friends, new to NOLA, got caught in the trap. After they took the picture he harassed them for a tip. Which is ridiculous. He was the one who asked for the picture. I grabbed both of them and told him we had to leave. He yelled some profanity about me being cheap, but at least my friends weren’t manipulated into giving money.
Stay away from the majority of the drinks sold on Bourbon Street. A lot of them are high in sugar and high in alcohol. Two combinations that could lead to a bad hangover quickly, and you definitely don’t want that while traveling. If you don’t know exactly what is in it or its alcohol and sugar content. Don’t drink it. Drinks can easily be laced with dangerous drugs also. I don’t really like to drink, but if you do, just don’t do it on Bourbon.
Bourbon street is also incredible. I walk down the street staring at all the faces of businessmen, respectable people, girls I think to be hookers/strippers, the elderly, and college students like me. It is full of all different kinds of people. I felt like an anthropologist or ethnographer. As I walk down the street music is blasted and I can’t help but bust a move. My friends and I laugh though we are sober. Bourbon street has filled me with some nights I will never forget and the ones which I definitely remember. Many funny stories come from visiting the world renown Bourbon Street. Like the time I got proposed to. Yes, proposed to. I was proposed to by a man I have never seen before in my life. It is hilarious to this day.
There are some traditions I find intriguing and others I find appalling. The usual tradition of girls showing “what there Momma gave them” to get beads kinda makes me sick. But when my guy friend proudly lifted up his shirt and beads came hurling at his head we all cracked up laughing.
One evening I took my hungry stomach to the restaurant Remoulade, a restaurant knows for jambalaya and turtle soup. Afterwards, I sat with a friend at an outdoor jazz cafe. We ordered Shirley Temples and sat there for hours. The jazz and live music in New Orleans is like nowhere else I have ever been. The cafe was small but inviting with a fountain in the middle. People kicked up their feet and relaxed. Overall Bourbon Street is an interesting place to visit. I would recommend visiting, but know what you are getting into. Have fun my darlings.