Let’s All Go to New Orleans

Posted: April 6, 2009 in Jeff Holland, Threat Quality
Tags: ,

(Being the adventures of a young man, sent to a conference on nonprofit at-lafittes1organizations in New Orleans last week. In an effort to keep this poppy and not freakishly long, I’ve whittled it down to some pictures and amusing anecdotes.)

Day 1:

Good god, how can a place as loud and neon as Bourbon Street be so damn boring?

Granted, these are the type of bars I generally avoid at home – the only place that’s my speed is the Jean Lafitte, down at the far end of the strip, candlelit, wooden and anonymous. It’s comfortable and warm, and last time I was there, it was quiet. Not so much this time (blame the out-of-town crowd).

What strikes me as odd is how similar every place is inside. Same drunk tourists, same Blues-Hammer (see “Ghost World” if you don’t get the reference) type faux-delta bands – hell, same basic layout. Oh, sure, it’s not all bars. There’s plenty of kitchy voodoo shops, too.

Which is more unusual to me on this visit. I don’t begrudge the stores’ existence, they are often among the oldest establishments in the quarter. It just adds to the strange Disneyfication of an area that is, historically-speaking, far weirder than the watered-down image Bourbon St. propagates.


Day 2:

the-riverTwo observations:
1) Nonprofits professionals are not a bad-looking bunch. Nattily-dressed, attractive women in their 20’s and 30’s are a hell of a change from the doughy safety managers in Hawaiian shirts I saw at my last company-sponsored conference outing.
2) The downside to a city that prides itself on its local cuisine – there are NO quick fast food joints to hit if you just want a quick late-night snack. I respect it and all, but damn it, French Quarter, would it KILL you to have a Wendy’s somewhere around here?!

Favorite exchange of the day:
In line at the convention center cafeteria for the breakfast special, watching the line get held up by one guy who didn’t want the biscuit, but couldn’t grasp the serving lady’s explanation that the cashier wouldn’t ring it up as a special otherwise.
Finally, he muttered, “Fine, but I’m going to throw it in the trash immediately afterwards.”
Amazed by his apparent pique, I looked behind me and saw three other onlookers, eyes wide and mouth agape at this man’s anal-retentive refusal of a biscuit.
The serving lady’s feelings weren’t exactly hurt by this, but she was as aware of the growing line as we were.
“Sausage or bacon?” she asked neutrally.
“Bacon,” he answered, then quickly added, “But only the crispy pieces!”
When he finally slid away, the guy behind me chuckled, “Man…that guy needs a massage.”


Day 3:

Three things I am insanely sick of: Dixieland jazz, zydeco music, and the ironically named po’-boys.

my-view-of-poitierOne more example that I’m living a slightly-more-interesting life than I was a year ago: I got to see Sidney Poitier speak. Now, ignoring the fact that his voice is absolutely hypnotic, he’s also really freaking funny. He spent his first five minutes imagining our reactions to him: “I know what you’re thinking. ‘He’s TALLER than I thought he’d be. Older, too. Older than Harry Belefonte and Bill Cosby COMBINED! That’s ooold. I’ll bet he’s wearing a corset.’ I don’t take any offense. Except to the part about the corset.”

To kill some time between seminars, I popped into the Museum of the American Cocktail. It’s a modest affair, with the same selection of glasses and books you could find at your average flea-market, but anything devoting two whole display cases to tiki glasses deserves my attention. The short version of the history of drinking in America: Americans Like Drinking.

At dinner, my waiter turned out to be a clearly-attention-starved kid from Manchester who talked to me at great length about his granny and her deaf, loudly-farting best friend. The fact that he punctuated his story with a line cribbed from “Family Guy” (about when Stewie lived with Marley Matlin) made me wonder if maybe he was just putting on a show to alleviate boredom, but that accent (along with complimenting my suit) got him a pretty good tip, regardless.


Day 4:

I’ve decided not to find it sad that despite four days away from home, I’ve missed practically none of my regular TV. Thanks, central & mountain time!

The cemetery tour was, as hoped, informative, bizarre, and entertaining. The tombjaunty tourguide gave a spirited narrative of the early history of the French Quarter, culture and race relations, geography, and of course, the wonderfully strange inventiveness of what you do with bodies when you live below sea-level. He also floated a theory that Dennis Hopper had desecrated a couple of tombs during filming of “Easy Rider.”

Though that does seem pretty reasonable where Hopper’s concerned, my skepticism is a little higher now, having learned that apparently Philly tour-guides routinely lie just for the hell of it. (I should note that New Orleans tour-guides do, in fact, have to be licensed. Our goodly guide Ernie had a degree in History – or so he claimed.)

And to my delight, I got to catch an old lady singing and presenting an offering to Marie Laveau’s tomb, while her family watched, solemnly. Thong jutting gracelessly from behind one daughter’s jeans. Thongs in a graveyard pretty much summed up the French Quarter for me. Why, yes, I did take a picture, why do you ask? (NOTE: Because this is a respectable-type site, underwear photos on my Flickr site, link below.)

And popping in for a beer on my way back to the hotel, I struck up a conversation with a nice young bartender who was reading Sandman and Preacher, and wanted some further recommendations. I jotted down a few names and titles into her notebook (Transmet for Ellis, Torso for Bendis, and We3, the most entry-level Morrison I could think of), warned her against reading “Wolverine: Origin” just to prep for the movie, and popped off, having done my good deed for the day.


Day 5:

The airport terminal is empty except for one other guy, jabbering on his cell phone in the windowed corner, making sure his voice reflects everywhere.

Later, when the room is more crowded and chatty, another delayedman sits in the same spot, doing business-talk of his own. “My god, can he talk any louder?” I hear to my left – it’s the original corner guy, miffed at the noise level of the new guy. “I was over there, and I’m sure I didn’t talk that loud.”

All I can think to say is, “Well…you were the only person in the room talking.”

This shuts him up. For a while. Until he makes three consecutive personal calls. And is, amazingly, the loudest man in the room.

Come on, airplane.this-is-what-a-delay-looks-like

(At this point, I spent about three hours waiting for a new, non-warning-signal-flashing plane, and then suffering through a rain delay. All the while dwelling on what I missed back home. My first stop when back in town: Wawa, for a hoagie. On a nice Italian roll – NOT a French roll, which for some reason no one in New Orleans ever realized is not an effective sandwich roll. Good to be home.)

Many more photos can be viewed here, at my Flickr site. Be prepared for a lot of cemetery stuff. And also, the aforementioned girl’s thong. Because I’m classy like that.

  1. threatqualitypress says:

    Oh, man, she’s got a tattoo on her butt, too.

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