Retro Relapse: The 25 Lessons of New Orleans

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Written in 2015.

I did a similar list to this for Las Vegas a few years back after my first trip there. You can see that list here. I wrote that for another blog I used to run.

However, after my recent trip to New Orleans, which was my third, I figured that I could produce a list of the twenty-five lessons I learned while there. I have had experiences with this town before but having seen a lot of this neon glowing urban bayou, I knew that I still hadn’t seen shit and had to delve even deeper. I’ve never experienced New Orleans and not walked away with something new each time.

So let me get right fucking to it!

1. Walking places is always an adventure and you will always find a dozen or so things to pleasantly distract you on the way to wherever you are going. Never go by a clock (unless you have dinner reservations), just do your thing at your own pace and soak up everything around you. Besides, the city truly never sleeps. Well, maybe from like 6 a.m to 8 a.m.

2. The muffaletta is the greatest sandwich ever concocted. The best one I had was from the Cochon Butcher, which is right next to Cochon in the warehouse district. I was told about the legendary muffaletta at Central Grocery but they were closed the two times I went by.

3. If a person walks up to you with some sort of riddle, it is a scam. A large man walked up to me trying to display his psychic prowess regarding where I got my shoes. He told me that I got them on my feet and then sprayed a bunch of dish soap on them in an effort to hustle me for ten bucks. Fuck that guy. This is the New Orleans version of the New York City hobo who spritzes windshields with soapy water. If a motherfucker has a riddle, keep on walking – it isn’t worth the hassle of trying to be a good person and giving them the benefit of the doubt.

4. The craft beer scene in New Orleans is alive and well. My most notable stop was the Courtyard Brewery. There are a lot of other local Louisiana beers on tap all over the city as well. The Bulldog on Magazine Street and d.b.a. on Frenchman Street both have stellar selections.

5. Local girls are usually a lot of fun but some are too trusting with strangers. They need to be a bit more discriminatory with people they haven’t known for more than a few hours in a bar. I’m also assuming that the ones passing out in bars on Bourbon Street are new to town.

6. You have to look hard to find a bad meal in New Orleans. In ten days, I never had a bad meal. Well, except for hotel breakfast and that was only on one of the ten days.

7. Street musicians will heckle you. If you tip them, they will call you out for being cheap because apparently that is a way to shame people into giving out more money. White people are especially gullible.

8. Harrah’s built a giant casino in the middle of town and it seems like the most boring thing in New Orleans because the city’s nightlife and culture is so much greater than staring at cherries spinning on a slot machine.

9. Strippers go way out of their way to pull you into their sultry lair and then try to hustle you. It would almost work if their aggressiveness wasn’t so off-putting and their prices weren’t so astronomically high. Although a blind eye is turned to just about every activity in these sultry lairs.

10. The best oysters in the entire world are in New Orleans. Go to Drago’s and order the chargrilled oysters. Just don’t murder the chef afterwards like Johnny Depp from that Mexican movie. Also, every other restaurant claims they have better oysters than Drago’s. Motherfuckers are full of shit.

11. New Orleans has horrible cosplayers. Well, at least at the anime convention that was in town. I couldn’t tell what 90 percent of the people were. Although I should give props to that guy that was Jubei from Ninja Scroll because he looked like a total fucking boss. He was the only one though.

12. Fried chicken has not been experienced until it is experienced in New Orleans. In fact, experience as much of it as you can. And yes, Popeye’s even tastes better in New Orleans.

13. Cab drivers will sometimes just drive by, even if they are on duty and empty. They will also have a bloody duel with one another if they think one cut them in line while picking people up at a cab stand. Uber works great in New Orleans, however certain parishes have banned them from picking you up. Although you can be dropped off anywhere once in an Uber car.

14. Not as many people scream “Who dat!” as you would think. Also, it wasn’t football season, so my beloved Saints weren’t playing yet.

15. It is the most spontaneous city I have ever been too. At one point, a small brass band was playing on a street corner and out of the blue, the intersection became an impromptu block party and one of the greatest live musical experiences I ever encountered. There is a raw musical energy in New Orleans and it is beyond infectious.

16. Lots of people try to panhandle random shit. I bought a Miami Vice soundtrack on tape for five bucks from a crackhead, who then handed me his entire tape collection and then bolted down the street with my five dollar bill, never to be seen again.

17. Voodoo is alive and well and it is awesome.

18. Kermit Ruffins is an American icon and a true master of the trumpet. “The Sleeping Giant” James Winfield is a hidden gem. If you haven’t seen either of them live, you haven’t lived. To see them both together, on the same stage, is a life-altering experience.

19. Only assholes and tourists throw beads off of balconies when it isn’t Mardi Gras.

20. The New Orleans Pelicans have an alternate part-time mascot that is a giant king cake baby. It is the most frightening mascot in sports history. Seriously, Google it.

21. Frenchman Street may be my favorite street in the world. It has the entirety of New Orleans culture packed in tight on just a few blocks. Bourbon Street is really just for tourists and less authentic. Although Bourbon Street is still pretty damn fun.

22. A drag show in New Orleans is way more fabulous than anywhere else I have been.

23. The people of New Orleans love their city like no other local people I have encountered anywhere else. Good times or bad, they have unrelenting pride in their city and community.

24. Jazz and blues aren’t just music genres in New Orleans, they are a way of life. You can’t walk ten yards in New Orleans without passing a place billowing out amazing music. And every musician is talented. It is amazing how musically versed the people of New Orleans are.

25. I had a long talk with a Mardi Gras Indian over whiskey. He shared some awesome stories about what they do and why. He then talked about adjusting to life post-Katrina. I learned that Mardi Gras Indians are probably the coolest motherfuckers in town.

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