I hadn’t visited New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina. Walking across the French Quarter one would think it hadn’t been only five years since the city was a disaster area and might have instead been struck by Hurricane Disney. That part of the city with its charming architecture and a different world class musician on every street corner is a spectacular and beautiful wrinkle on the planet. But with all the souvenir shops and middle aged tourists snapping photos it breathes of artifice.
But then a few blocks away I suppose was a realer New Orleans. On Canal Street instead of locally owned tourist traps you had real conglomerates like McDonalds and CVS and real homeless vagabonds puking real vomit. All of a sudden I felt a longing for the pretty phoniness.
A friend of mine who just moved back to New Orleans gave Handsome and me the royal tour. He showed us other sides of New Orleans away from Bourbon Street and even a bar where I could get a barbecue tofu sandwich that I’m still salivating over.
Handsome’s train left the next morning at seven where he was off to his next destination. I had much of the day to myself to wander.
That night I was excited about a new travelling companion flying into New Orleans Airport. She coined a great term for our relationship which I’m going to steal by dubbing her the Love Interest (as part of my agreement not to call anyone out of the public domain by their Christian name).
The Love Interest had to ask permission from her boss to make the drive with me. Her boss wanted to resume her control over employees, by giving her an itinerary of New Orleans spots she had to see. Fortunately many of these places my friend was able to show us, so she would not get her pay docked at work.
The next day The Love Interest and I walked throughout the city. We took the streetcar and checked out the riverboats and the rustic old shops. We had been pegged by a taxi driver as Frenchman Street type people, which I guess meant we seemed more the hipster type. It is the more Bohemian part of town where countless musicians are battling over control of your eardrums.
While walking down Frenchman Street we heard a bicyclist say my three favorite words. Free vegetarian food. In a little park was a Hare Krishna festival. I ate up their slop which we were quite convinced might have been spiked with LSD because all of a sudden we were really into the dance contest the Hare Krishnas were having. Two dreadlocked hippies and two robed, shaven headed Krishnas were competing to see who could dance freakier. The Love Interest and I were picking favorites, but the worst of the four won the contest. We cheered wildly for him, but rued how unfair it was that there could only be one winner.