Theyʼre Ripping Up Bourbon Street!
Yes, they are, and I’m not exaggerating this time. Block after block of the actual street paving from curb to curb is being taken up, and a large section of Bourbon Street has chain-link fencing covered with black cloth for several blocks. While we were there recently, we watched the street being ripped up by large backhoes. The sidewalks are still there, and all the stores, restaurants, and bars. However, the street with the backhoes and chain link fencing takes away some of the New Orleans French Quarter mystique.
Well, you just might think a sewage line put in about the time Andrew Jackson was battling the Brits might need replacing, and you would be right unless you want the French Quarter to float off to the Mississippi River in a flood of sewage. Well, we were trying to have a late lunch at Galatoire’s Restaurant, and had to walk two blocks around the fencing just to get there. Of course, a trip to Bourbon Street is on most folks lists of things to do when in the Big Easy, and I can tell you that the construction is going to put a crimp in a lot of folk’s trip.
Vertis and I went to New Orleans on our honeymoon, and since then we’ve been back many times. Yes, things have changed, but Crystal Hamburgers is still there, which is where we ate several times on our honeymoon. However, on our last trip, when I suggested we have dinner there, you know, for old times’ sake, I got a frosty stare and a comment that wouldn’t be allowed on a TV talk show Unless it was Jerry Springer. But let’s don’t talk about food except to say, I think New Orleans has the best food in the good old USA. It really hard to find bad food in New Orleans. But other than food, why do we southerners flock to the Big Easy?
I think most southerners go to New Orleans to get
away from the day to day boredom that is the real south. Actually, I kinda like being boredmost of the time, but a couple of times a year, I get the urge to escape., and we head for New Orleans, which is almost always hot and muggy, and it’s little dangerousuh, maybe a little more than a littledon’t go by yourself for a midnight cemetery walk.
Of course there’s Mardi Gras, and I think everyone should go at least once. That probably enough for at least 95% of us. I’ve been, and yes, the floats are amazing. Of course everyone wants to catch some beads, and I have still have a sack full from my trip. You will find out the beads lose some of their attractiveness when you get back home. You can’t even give them away. But if you really want some beads—and this for guys—-gals always get beads thrown at them, but who is going to throw beads at some nerdy guy from Smackover. nobody, not even the drunks on the floats. Guys need a gimmick. First, it will help if you are over six feet tall and have long arms to go with that height. This is what you do: look for great looking, and this is important short girls, and stand right behind them. You will be able to pick off the overthrown beads thrown by drunk float riders, and unless the beads are thrown at the gorgeous girl’s feet you will be able to catch them before they do. Well, if that seems a little crass to you, here’s another way. Just get a baseball cap that says something foreign like Canada in big letters, and point to it when the drunk float throwers come by. Foreign tourists are going to get 10 times the beads a redneck from Boca Chita is going to get.
But New Orleans is a different than the city where we went for our honeymoon, and I think for the better. On our last trip we noticed a big change is in the making. It’s an accelerated move back into the center of town. Of course, folks have always lived in the French Quarter, but adjacent to the Quarter around Magazine Street where it intersects Poydras Street, there is an upper floor residential building boom taking place. It’s difficult to walk down that street, which is toward the World War Two Museum, Emerial’s Restaurant, Peche Seafood Restaurant, and about 20 other great night spots, bars, and clubs because of the blocked off sidewalks for building construction. Several multi-floor new buildings are going up, and scads of upper floor remodeling into apartments is under way.
Actually, as I travel to almost every major city, I see a ‘back to the city center’ migration taking place. It makes a lot of sense, and it does two very positive things: Of course it cuts several hours a day off a person’s commuting time, but it also is the best way to renovate America’s downtowns. According to a recent study, each new resident brings as much as $ 50,000 per year in gross sales to downtown businesses. Adding people to a downtown guarantees a revived and active downtown.
Of course, there is a lot more than eating and drinking to a New Orleans visit. That’s probably a surprise to some people. So for the sippers and teetotalers, here’s a few things to do: Be sure to visit the Zoo, to see the wonderful giant Live Oaks and the flock of Flamingos, and they do have a bunch of other animals, but the Live Oaks and Flamingos are the reason to go. Of course, the Aquarium is a must and then take in the adjoining IMAX Theater, where you can see Hurricane on The Bayou——great document about Katrina, and while you in the area you can shop the big discount mall called RiverWalk. I picked up three Tommy Bahamas $80 shirts for $29 each.
Well that’s my quick take on the Big Easy, and if we’ll really be honest, New Orleans is really not part of the South, it’s an appendage to the south that has evolved as a tonic for bored and hungry Southerners.
Richard H. Mason of El Dorado is a syndicated columnist and author and former president of the Arkansas Wildlife Federation and the state Pollution Control & Ecology Commission.