I love New Orleans. Everything about the city pulls me in, like a magnetic force. When I’m in New Orleans I imagine a life that I may have had-a life lived in the night, in the jazz-filled bars that spill out into the streets, the hot air filled with aromas of dozens of amazing restaurants, Creole and Soul food, drinking a concoction of different liquors and hunting for the best dancing that night. A life that is maybe a bit slower, or maybe livelier, something not better than what I have, but just different.
I’ve never had a bad time in New Orleans. Something wonderful always happens when you least expect it. And sometimes you don’t have the best camera to document the experience. So, here are 5 pieced-together photos and stories from my three visits to this city.
Story Number 1
It was about 9pm in the evening and I was on a ghost tour. My friends were drinking hurricanes and I was drinking water, because it was hot. I’m not a fan of horror and scary movies, but I’m also a bit intrigued by the hidden secrets and going-ons of a city as famous as New Orleans.
My glitter hat and matching black t-shirt declare me a bridesmaid, and everyone wishes my friend good fortune as we listen to stories of torture and murder and deceit.
We come to a stop on our tour, and just as our guide begins describing another haunted scene, a man, who appears to be homeless, rides up on a bike with something that resembles a washboard. Our guide and the man greet each other like old friends, and the homeless man (although I’m not sure if he is or isn’t at this point) talks about the great city of New Orleans, and how we have the best tour guide in the city. He then proceeded to take his silver washboard and sing and play for us. Proclaiming that he is famous, and he has been in books and on tv. That man had a great rhythm, and we got an impromptu concert.
It reminded me that all walks of life mingle together in this city. And, to never judge a book by its cover.
Story Number 2
I was on the hunt to find some good dancing music.
I’d been to New Orleans before and know that Bourbon street isn’t my flavor. So, I went to Frenchman street and tried the Spotted Cat and another well-respected music joint. Not feeling the vibes of either of those places, I went outside to smoke a cigarette.
In the window of a bar, I saw a woman who looked like a mix between Lizzo and the lead singer from Alabama Shakes, Brittany Howard. I had a good feeling. So I dragged my friends into a Jamaican looking bar and joined the crowd.
This woman could sing, she could dance, she interacted with the crowd and made us dance. She started out with some Bob Marley covers and then morphed into taking requests from the crowd. My favorite song was “Let me Hold You.”
By the end of the night I was sweaty and exhausted from dancing. This woman’s amazing voice and the coffee liquor drink I had earlier had kept me going. I stumbled into the hot air, and walked home in a bra and jean shorts. The long dress shirt I had been wearing was soaked through.
Story Number 3
It was 11 pm at night, and the night was kind of a bust. I didn’t want anything to do with the sloppy, drunk tourists on Bourbon street. Men called me to come into their clubs and restaurants and bars and I wanted none of it. I was dragging my friend down the road, trying to find a bar with some good music and not top 100’s pop. I was on the verge of giving up on the night, but I was hungry.
As luck would have it, there was a quiet restaurant just a few steps away. We went in, and the noise of Bourbon street was blocked out. Then, we made our way up the steps onto this amazing balcony. We ordered drinks and beignets and people watched below while the stars watched us overhead.
And we spent an hour talking and eating and settling in to the moment. I looked out on Bourbon street, and for some reason, the view from up here was so much sweeter.
Story Number 4
I was a senior in high school, in New Orleans during New Years to perform at the sugar bowl. Although, I had not yet been struck by wanderlust, but something about being in a new city invigorated me. I wanted to drink the whole city in, walk on every street, eat all of the food.
We went everywhere in a group, with a chaperone. Our chaperone wasn’t super adventurous, but I was determined to have an adventure. We were all hungry, debating on where to eat. I stood quietly, content to let the group decide, trying not to be too pushy…until the subject of Burger King was brought up. I put my foot down.
“We can find something better.” I proclaimed and marched my group down a side street in New Orleans. I led my group of 17 and 18 year-olds into a bar.
It was my first time in a bar, I wasn’t even sure if we were technically allowed to be there. It was dimly lit, the walls and ceiling covered with currencies from around the world. The bartender grinned at us as we took our seats, like she knew our secret.
We all ordered gumbo. I doubt it was the best gumbo in New Orleans, it probably wasn’t even very good. But the flavors were new, and I was happy.
Story Number 5
I didn’t have anything on my agenda for the day besides wandering the French Quarter. I was stumbling along Jackson square and the French quarter, watching houses and street performers in the afternoon heat. Occasionally I would wander into a shop to get a bit of cool air, and then tumble back out onto the street.
Every house was so beautiful. I took a picture of each one, lovingly storing them for future reference. I suddenly heard a brass band. A parade.
The tubas sang, the dancer’s danced, the costumes glittered, and I was in the middle of it all. Someone must have had a bubble machine because the air was light with shimmery bubbles. There was so much joy in that moment.
When the parade passed and I wandered down my hundredth side street of the day, a tiny band was performing right on the sidewalk. I loved their music right away, a mix of folk and rock and a little bit of soul thrown in. Sitting down opposite them, I watched their concert for about 30 minutes. I bought their CD at the end.
A day where I had planned nothing turned into a great display of music and fanfare and beauty. This is why you can’t plan too much, you’ll miss some of the fun.
And that, is so New Orleans.