Travel to New Orleans prepared to engage a city willing to participate. I humbly admit that I’ve spent most of my time traveling east & west and less time moving north & south. I love urban landscapes – tall buildings, mass movement – the full spectrum of the entire human canvas of people. Too much of any one thing limits me – or so I’m discovering, or – maybe I’m finally embracing it – or…I’m over-thinking all of it.
The perfect business trip allows opportunity to put on a pair of jeans on your in-between-time and, needless to say – I got lucky. 84 hours was long enough for me to understand that there’s so much more to the city than just the French Quarter.
Fresh off of the plane in a cab headed downtown. I started by asking my cab driver, Lillee (Lee-Lee) Why do they call it – The Big Easy? – she took her sweet time and said, Because we ain’t in a hurry to pretty much do anything – we got time. Time almost seemed to stop. Evenings seem to continue on because the music never seems to stop.
The French Quarter is the major party destination with endless bars, art galleries, hotels and adult entertainment options. It’s definitely worth a walk thru. Touristy but not in a way that makes you feel trapped. Walk four blocks in any direction and you’re in the clear (unless of course, it’s Mardi Gras). One night of cautious, guarded, slow motion fascination, led to a second night of flame throwing, red eyes in the morning suicidal dancing and alcohol enjoyment. I don’t usually operate in such extremes, but that’s just kinda how it all worked out.
Food and music are probably the two most influential exports. Crawfish, duck, dirty rice, all day long. If you’re going to eat, you’re going to need to move – and when I say move, I mean – dance. Dancing lead me to a hidden treasure – Frenchmen street.
Less than a quarter the size of the French Quarter but, it packs a powerful punch. Everyone and I mean everyone on the strip of live entertainment bars can play an instrument. Every, father, mother and child. Every doorman, club owner and homeless person. I stood next to a woman for 30 minutes who was dressed like a librarian. A minute later, she joined the band playing upright bass (later I sparked a conversation – finding out she was a French jazz musician from Chicago with a French southern accent) – I’m telling you, everyone can play. Bands of teenagers standing on the corner blowing trumpets, saxophones and trombones. Let that sink in. Kids, out at night, playing in a band. I felt like I stepped into a 1972 Miles Davis Album cover. I maneuvered back and forth between clubs all with live blues/jazz bands playing like they had nothing to lose. The better the band, the more packed the club. Grown up music everywhere you turn.
During my stay, I asked everyone the same question – what brought you to New Orleans and I discovered that many people found their way to the Crescent City by the pull of freedom. New Orleans accepts you as you are. Pack your bags and show up. They don’t care who you are – just be who you are. That’s pretty attractive quality for any city.
36 hours later I was gone with plans to return. I’ll go again and just – be.