reporting from new orleans – now that the rain has stopped, how do you get the boubon street smell out of your fine washables?

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I don’t actually have fine washables, and if I did, the little Korean man at my laundry across the street in Greenwich Village would be charging me a fortune to wash them.  I do like him though, he does love baseball and football [soccer], and will engage me in a ten minute conversation about one or the other, a conversation in which I comprehend in the neighborhood of 15 to 25%.  Still, it’s always a good time.  Depending on the weather, as I leave, he will always say “keep warm cool day” or “keep cool warm day.”  These two phrases have become our standard good-bye verbiage.

Bourbon Street is a phenomenon.  Where else can the inside of the belly of frat culture vomit itself out onto the street for everyone to see – and smell – on a nightly basis.  And when I say vomit, I mean that literally.  In a city that allows you to bring your drinks from bar to bar and sells fish po-boys and alligator sausage, I suppose this is to be expected. 

If you haven’t ventured to New Orleans yet, you must.  Not only will you be providing much-needed support for the local economy, but there are some fantastic places to eat and dozens of live music venues.  If you want to sing your karaoke heart out attempting a rendition of the Oak Ridge Boys “Elvira” or Eric Clapton’s “Layla” – that can also be arranged.  Glee covers are not welcome here.  But the most recognizable New Orleans icon is clearly Bourbon Street.

Bourbon Street is not as long as one might think, only about nine real blocks of activity, but Bourbon stretches fourteen blocks from Canal Street on one end to Esplanade on the other.  Bourbon is a hodgepodge of live music venues, store-front liquor places selling cheap daiquiris in every color and flavor, strip clubs, and a few hotels, frequented by those who don’t mind the decibel levels that the crowds often manage. Further toward Esplanade you will find the gay disco that has been there since the 1970s – and the clientele often looks like they’ve also been there since the 1970s as well. 

You will run into curious first-timers who are amazed when someone will expose a body part for a set of cheap Mardi Gras beads; local street entertainers, many of whom paint their entire bodies gold and stand there like a statue to earn a few bucks; a man who looks and dresses like Santa Claus; sorority girls with their short skirts, blond bob haircuts and risky business Ray-bans; over-tattooed steroidal macho men with their über-tight wife beaters and trophy girlfriends; and a sprinkling of horrified parents trying to cover their children’s eyes.

Your eyes will feast on some homeless relieving themselves behind parked cars on the side streets; the occasional drug dealer; gay bears on their way to committing some questionable act on a pool table somewhere; the New Orleans policemen and women keeping an eye on everyone from horse-top; and barkers of all sorts trying to get you to come to their establishment and spend your cash.  You will also see a smattering of conservative religious groups protesting the sin of the city and carrying signs examining important theological questions such as “Are You God’s Barf.” 

Now that I’ve painted a bucolic portrait of Bourbon Street, perhaps I should submit an application to be a freelance writer to the New Orleans tourist board.  I guess I’ll see about that after I get the smell out of my shirt.  In this regard, tropical storm Lee was a welcome help.

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