By The Bartender, PubClub.com’s Roving Party Animal
Okay, I didn’t exactly PLAN on getting buzzed in the middle of the afternoon. On a Monday.
But I was in New Orleans, and if there’s any single thing to know about this town it’s that a party can break out at any time, without warning, like a hurricane suddenly blowing in from the Gulf.
It’s what the city is all about, what makes it so powerful. And I could only react to the situation.
After far too many years removed, I was back in New Orleans and, as it had done before, the place sucked me in as if I were the head of a crawfish. Fer sure!
I went for one weekend of Jazz Fest and stayed two.
I had intended to go for runs a few times, but the only such activity was a mad sprint to Margaritaville Cafe to get an early jump on the line to see Jimmy Buffett play there. I succeeded, by the way.
After a week, I had drained my entire budget and was forced to run up credit card tabs.
I tried to take it easy a couple of weeknights but was introduced to a gentleman named Big Mike at The Columns Hotel who was voted the city’s Best Bartender five years running. I quickly discovered why.
Then there was Buffett. Wasted away again.
With hospitality fitting for royalty, I kept thinking New Orleans must have thought I was Napoleon brought back from the dead. The people were beyond friendly, they were always smiling and kept asking me if I wanted a drink. There was nothing special about me, of course; this is just how the Big Easy treats all its guests.
I quickly fell victim to the city’s magical spell. Was it voodoo? Bourbon Street? The gumbo? Maybe it was those hand grenades.
Whatever the reason, it was pleasing. But I was losing touch with the rest of the world. Had the Canal Place Wyndham not left me a USA Today on my doorstep each morning, I would not have had the slightest idea of any news or sports happenings elsewhere. A decade ago, a group of friends came to Jazz Fest and it was only after they got back to their hotel room and turned on the TV did they discover L.A. burning to the ground in the 1992 riots. This is how focused one can become on this town.
My first trip to the Big Easy was in high school. I was a 15-year-old sophomore and was participating in the Mardi Gras parade. Marching in a band, I was on the end of a row and girls kept running up to me, kissing me and putting beads around my neck. Talk about on-the-spot sex education!
In college, I was here a couple of times as the University of Alabama played in the Sugar Bowl. One was for the national championship. I was up late the night before that game, drinking Hurricanes at Pat O’Brien’s by the flaming fountain with a flaming redhead named Sammy Kaye Hughes. Gee, I wonder whatever became of ol’ Sammy Kaye.
Since that time, the city kept whispering in my ear to return. Finally, the calls became too loud to ignore and I headed to Jazz Fest.
I had originally intended to attend the first weekend and hang around a few days to try and get into Margaritaville for the near-private Buffett show. But Jimmy was also playing Jazz Fest the day I was scheduled to leave, and in a bit of midweek inspiration and libation, the thought of missing it became unacceptable. The next available flight wasn’t until Wednesday, but so be it, I reasoned. After all, in New Orleans, it’s always Hurricane season.
People wondered how I could manage to spend 10 days in New Orleans. But hey, I’ve spent three weeks in the Greek Islands and survived that with no problem, so I was confident there was nothing New Orleans could throw at me that could be all that damaging. Somewhat surprisingly, only got “I-Gotta-Go-Home-RIGHT-NOW” drunk one night, when I literally got wasted away in Margaritaville after Buffett. Well worth it, I might add.
Like Greece – and other places I visit – I took the time to experience the local culture. I walked endlessly through the French Quarter, couldn’t get enough of the spectacular cuisine, went to the outstanding D-Day Museum and took a swamp tour. All these activities were immensely enjoyable.
It was with some sadness that I finally departed. Yet, within hours of returning home, I had run five miles, cracked open a cold beer and was ready for the next big adventure. Fer sure!
Next Stop On The New Orleans Party Bus: Hit Hard By The Hand Grenades On Bourbon Street
PubClub.com covers nightlife, bars, festivals and party events around the world. The Bartender has been to New Orleans many times.