On the Stabby Side of the Street

IMG_0460For the short time I was in the mixed up mayhem of a city that is New Orleans, I witnessed several car crashes, a bomb scare on Canal street, and a police car crash into a electrical pole knocking out service to a section of the storied Charles Street line. The usual homeless here and there, the drunks staggering down the sidewalks or in the French Quarter right in the middle of the road since they had paid cash money fo that Big Ass Beer(tm) and had earned the right to do so. The Crusties, a subset of the traveler species that is given to Ablutophobia and usually is found around Frenchman and Decatur and their feeding grounds include places like The Abby and Bywater. Tourist New Orleans is indeed its own city. This city exists all over in places worth seeing or seemingly worth seeing (yes, you kids who rent a bike to “take a look at the 9th ward” are still tourists). The New Orleans tourist is not a uniform character, but seems to be divided into species, such as the Hoteler, those who take hotel rooms, go on tours, form in groups, the Festivalist, such as the Crayfish, Jazz, Halloween, the Foodie, who goes to Acme and then is told not to since everyone goes there and no one goes the place across the street, which is what the Foodie does the very next day, and then the lowest order to tourist the Show us Your Titers, those who fling beads drink, fling beads, say “show us your tits” and congregate on Bourbon Street for Mardi Gras packed together so tight you need lubrication just to break up the crowd… or a crowd sized can of mace. Then there is the merchant class to the Tourists, those who have shopes, little stores, and sell “I Got Street Faced on Bourbon Shit” tee shirts and VooDoo candles and beads, and coins, and tee shirts depicting beads or coins. The lower orders of this class sell the beads and tee shirts. The upper orders sell French antiques. There are the performer class too. Those who perform once in a while, the concert performer who people know and do to see and are willing to take a cab to go and see. Then there are the nightly performers who crank out some kind of music, some are quite good, and nothing wrong with a regular gig, but these are not generally folks who are known. Then the lower rungs. The cover bands. The guy singing Margarita Ville in the “restaurant” of the same name. what was the chance that the one time I passed by the place on a Friday afternoon he’d be singing… wait for it…. Margarita Ville? Perhaps about 100% chance since that’s just what he does. Then, maybe in an even lower if not random class there are the buscers. The chick with the tap shoes was cute and she wasn’t bad, the other chick with the fiddle was not bad either, the dudes with the brass band sounded tight, the Crustie with the guitar, well, are those really buscers? (That may have to be content for a future discussion.) These classes make up another city. The network of musicians and their castes, the associations of merchants and their specialties and interests.
IMG_0334The residents seem to be either very rich or very poor, the poorer ones somewhat colour coded by historical circumstances as are the richer – however, a slight influx of new people into the area seem to be changing that, at least the shade of person, not the gap between very rich and very, very, very poor. These cities overlap, co-exist, and exist in all cities, but in New Orleans the tourist is such a heavy industry, such a presence in so much of the city, and seems to bring in a great deal of money into restaurants, bars, bar-restaurants, delis that sell beer, pharmacies that sell liqueur, and the infrastructure of hotels and of course those street cars, so beloved but I think that I have finally found some public means of travel even slower than the city bus so I question their utility to the indigenous population, that the places without tourists seemed absent also lack people of all sorts. I did not expect to hang out with the locals – it was a series of work days after all – but I still managed to chat with several shopkeepers, the merchant class for the tourist industry, since I didn’t feel the need to jump in a cab and get over the Home Depot by the rail station to chill with the assistant manager or shift leader in the gardening department. These merchants were very hospitable and, unlike so many in New York City, given to chatting and seemed to welcome it. Those I talked to told me stories about how the city had recovered, how it was getting better than before since “more people” are moving in, tricks they had for business, issues they had in repairing houses, and other stories of retaking the city from blight. I was told by one shop owner that what we think of as Marti Gras is incorrect and there is no boobie showing outside of Bourbon Street, and certainly even there, several strip clubs aside, the event is more drinktastic than boobalicious, if you enjoy being squished together with every asshole ever invented with no escape in sight and all these yelling drunks screaming WOOOOOOOO andtossingbeadsandthisassholespillinghisdrink andthisbitchthrowsupjustfuckingthrowsuprightall overlikeherheadjustexplodedintopuke…. I think… I think I just gave myself a panic attack….
USAUSAUSA 114There was a great deal of talk at the hostel about going to places “filled with locals.” Restaurants, bars, gin joints, music venues, bar-gin-music venues. Few seemed entirely successful. Larry, who had come to New Orleans from Atlanta had been somewhat more successful in making contact with the elusive locals. He went day drinking and an older woman started chatting to him, asking if he was old enough to drink, talking about her five (5) kids at the ripe age of forty-two (42) and how she was shutting her phone off since “mommie was taking a break” which Larry said she was perhaps deeper into her “break” than she knew, being at least five (5) drinks ahead of Larry’s one (1). Also, strangely, her husband worked behind the bar.
“You know my husband and I got drunk and wandered into a gay bar last night. The bartender says to him [editor’s note, the woman’s husband], ‘Hey, remember me, I fucked you! Yeah, I fucked you, you’re the guy with the huge foreskin!” to which the husband of the story, the bartender, calls over to add to the story “That sort of thing never happens to me!” to which the wife (the potentially unreliable narrator) exclaims “well, I told that bartender that this man doesn’t have a huge foreskin, he has a normal one, and I should know because I’ve been down there enough…” So perhaps locals day drinking on a weekday aren’t going to provide a Creole experience or have personally known Charlie Mingus…
IMG_0456It is no wonder that we tourists have had a tough time finding the locals. Some of the largest towers (that are not hotels) are completely empty as are several houses, even those close to the hostel. Perhaps a symptom of the Detroitization of American cities, perhaps just changes in certain needs of our economy that consider it redundant to have such towers filled with office workers and as of yet, the condo market as strong as in other areas and we have yet to have any strong attachment to buildings built post-war and up to the late 1960s, or perhaps like the Plaza Tower, the third tallest buildings in New Orleans, the structure is plagued with black mold and full of asbestos and other toxic building materials (which is for sale for $250,000) or the World Trade Center, formerly the ITM Building which is not only vacant up to the 33rd floor, the city has bought it and is considering tearing it down. The smaller abandoned houses were simpler to explain. The hurricane, the constant moisture, the city overrun with drugs and a murder rate that is slowly recovering to early 1990s levels, with over 47 people killed this year – this puts the Crescent City beating champion award winning murder capital Newark, NJ for the forth year in a row, however it may be too soon to call this year’s Most Dangerous City. “Atlanta has a lot of real stabby parts of town,” compared to those places, nothing here scares me,” a young traveler told me. Yes, the stabby parts of town are in every city, but in New Orleans, outside of the shuffle on Bourbon Street and general coming and going in certain quarters, like the French Quarter, there seemed an underwhelming number of people on the streets to stab and yet, a high number of people killed.
True, I did not venture out at night alone to verify this for myself.

2 thoughts on “On the Stabby Side of the Street

  1. My old not exactly friend but he did call me three times then not at all for ten years Ray Davies of the Kinks got shot in NOLA for (PR edit) defending a lady friend from a mugger. True Story.

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