Difference is, everyone seems to love New Orleans, but you can’t have everything.
So it was with much excitement that Kate and I arrived in the Big Easy, just ahead of Mardi Gras.
I’d forgotten this rumbustious, anything-goes city had been given this nickname, but at one point a big SUV stopped to let us walk across the street.
As we scuttled on our way, the SUV drove past and through the open side window a sizeable, smiling African American chap yelled out: “This is the Big Easy. Y’all take your time.”
Other parts, it must be said, are poorer, rougher, like they haven’t recovered from Hurricane Katrina and maybe weren’t in mid-season form even before the winds and floods came.
These areas, neighbourhoods like Crescent City and Treme, have wild chickens and feral cats roaming around. The pretty but down-at-heel houses have a lot of their residents sat out front who are hugely friendly. Almost makes you forget that this is one of the most murderous cities in the United States.
“Y’all come from LONDON?!” an incredulous elderly chap yelled out as we got out a taxi. And as we walked through the streets, people lounging about on their porches wished us a happy carnival.
The costumes on display were pretty cool. At the top of the page you’ll see me with a couple of guys in full on Breaking Bad meth lab gear. And I came across giant green soldiers, just like the ones I had when I was a boy, which I really enjoyed seeing. If only I’d met these chaps when I was eight…
Now here’s a collector’s item – the Naked Cowboy, usually seen in New York’s Time Square, but clearly on his holidays along with his wife, seen below.
I spotted her having her picture taken with a number of guys who were fondling her bottom while their friend photographed the moment. She seemed to be quite enjoying it and stuck her bottom out even further. Clearly a good sport.
But it’s not just the musicians who claim the streets. This is Cubs the Poet who sits on Royal Street, across from the Court of Two Sisters, and bashes out bespoke poems on a 1912 typewriter.
He did one for Kate and me called Two Nikons after he spotted the cameras around our necks.
I’d never heard of them before but soon Adventurous Kate was sternly forbidding me from having two sessions a day at Cafe Du Monde, a staple of this magnificent part of the city since 1862 and which sells the best beignets and coffee in town.
Beignets are also served covered in a liberal explosion of icing sugar, which amusingly gets everywhere – across the floor, all over the tables, over the staff and you too, no matter what precautions you take. Be aware that you may emerge from the premises looking like a drug lord who’s sneezed into a bag of his latest shipment.
Now then. Let’s talk beads. At this time of year, they’re the lifeblood of the city. Money, sex, food and drink take a back seat. When it’s Mardi Gras, it’s all about the beads.
This is how it works. People stand on balconies and throw beads to the crowds below.
The aforementioned crowds then go nuts when the beads are thrown down to them, as this lady is doing above. This moment you see below actually captures a feather boa being chucked down, just for a change.
There’s so much mess, child labour has to be employed to keep on top with the cleaning effort.
While in town I managed to rattle off a few SOTMs. This one was a highlight – the excellent Israel told me a fascinating story about an elderly, long-standing customer at his bank who gave him this advice one time. Israel told the story brilliantly too, and you can hear it via his audio clip – click on his photo to go to his page on the SOTM site.
Finally, here’s a bit of trivia from a city teeming with remarkable facts. This is the house that Richard Simmons grew up in.
If you’re not American and don’t know who he is, go ahead and click that link. He’s like a camper Leo Sayer, only a fitness instructor for those who aren’t good at exercise. Simmons, incidentally, went to the same New Orleans school as Lenny Kravitz and Lee Harvey Oswald. Not all at the same time.
Next time, I take off on a Deep South road trip. Oysters and grits ahoy!