California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Chapter 6 – The French Quarter – Part 2

First, let me give you some history on Mardi Gras.

Mardi Gras is actually only one night. Fat Tuesday. The night before Ash Wednesday. The weeks of partying before Mardi Gras is actually Carnival.

For the entire Carnival, they never clean Bourbon Street. They can’t. Since the bars are open 24 hours a day, never close no matter what, it’s impossible to clean up. In other words, when you walk down Bourbon Street, you never look down. If you drop something, it’s gone man, forget it. After Mardi Gras, you throw away your shoes.

When you walk down Bourbon, things you step on squish, crunch, slide, make little crying noises, so you NEVER look down.

Some of the people arrested during Carnival are held in jail until Mardi Gras and forced to clean the streets. Now that’s punishment.

At Midnight on Fat Tuesday, they lock all the doors to all the bars and other establishments on Bourbon, and anyone caught on the street is arrested. Once all the doors are locked, the Police come down the street. A line of three Patrol cars, followed by a line of Police on horse back, followed by three SWAT trucks, followed by three Street Sweepers.

They cruise down the street arresting people while they clean the streets.

On to the story.

Frank and I are just going from bar to bar and drinking our faces off. It’s a crazy time and I can’t believe I’m already living this life on the road. People are dancing in the streets and i feel like I’m in a scene from Easy Rider at 19 years old.

We’re in Bourbon Blues (an awesome club on Bourbon Street) and I start talking to the guy next to me. He says his name is Tim and he’s from Cincinnati. He sells Bingo supplies. We talk for a while and he offers to buy us a round of drinks. Four, thirty-two ounce Hurricanes. And these are seven dollars each, plus one for himself….Do the math.

I thank him, and he says, “No, you’re not done yet.” And proceeds to order two shots of Tequila and two shots of 151 Rum into EACH drink. Shots are five bucks each, that makes each drink worth Twenty-Seven dollars, and he bought five of them.

My idiot friends ( We just met yesterday) don’t realize what’s going on, all they know is that there’s a fresh drink waiting for them. They don’t know about the four extra shots in them.

So we talk, finish our drinks and I tell him that I’ve got the next round.

He says no, and buys another round of five, Twenty-Seven dollar Hurricanes.

And the guys I’m with still have no idea what the hell is going on. They still think it’s just a normal Hurricane.

We finish that round, and once again I offer to buy a round. And once again, he declines and orders another round the same way.

And once again, my friends have no idea what they’re drinking.

When we finish this round, I offer one last time to pay for the round, and once again, he buys it instead. Let me break this down for you. Four rounds of five drinks at Twenty-Seven bucks a drink = $540.00.

I figure this is the nicest person I’ve ever met in my life.

Then my Philly Paranoia kicks in and I figure he’s going to ditch and stick me with the bill. Until I see him hand the bartender a credit card, get his slip, sign it and hand back the receipt.

Now I know he’s the nicest guy I’ve ever met.

Halfway through the drink I turn around, and Tim’s gone. He’s like the alcoholic Lone Ranger. What a nice guy. For the next hour, I was truly planning on flying to Cincinnati and find Tim and thank him personally.

A little while later I’m at the bar talking to a girl when I feel a rumbling in my stomach. I excuse myself and proceed to puke all over the floor while sitting right there at the bar. Thankfully my friends were there to take pictures.

After I was done, I wiped my mouth, apologized and continued talking to the girl.

That was when we realized that Tim isn’t all that nice. He got us so drunk we could hardly walk. From then on he was known as “Evil Tim” and we all planned a trip to Cincinnati to kill him, or at the very least, hold him down and pour a bottle of 151 down his throat.

At 2 am, I turn to my friends and announce, “I’m leaving.”

“You can’t leave,” Juan tells me, “They haven’t opened the doors yet.”

“Why do you want to leave?” Mikey asks.

“I’m out of cigs. I’m leaving.”

Ten minutes later we’re outside the club, on the street, in the middle of an insane riot.

To this day, we have no idea how we got outside. There were bouncers guarding every door and window.

So we’re in the street, there are people running everywhere, and about thirty feet away I see a bunch of cop cars with the sirens on.

I turn to Frank, Juan and Mikey and say, “Hey, let’s go see what’s going on with the cops over there.”

And I started walking towards the ruckus.

Mikey grabs us by the arm, points down a side street and says, “Why don’t we go this way instead?”

I turn to Mikey and say, “For once I agree with the Jew.”

And we followed him to safety.

The next day Frank and I walked around the cloudy aftermath and took some pictures and then got back on the road.

Definitely and insane detour but well worth it.

 

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California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Chapter 5 – The French Quarter – Part 1

We are driving along highway 10 headed West. Frank suggests we take a little detour into New Orleans. I’m down. It’s Mardi Gras so we kind of have to go there. Should be interesting. We check our guidebooks and settle on staying at the YMCA. That wouldn’t be too gay right?  It’s situated in the heart of the French Quarter. I remember the room costing us $14 for the night!

The room was like a jail cell. Just a door leading into one room with two single beds pushed against opposite walls. There was a bureau and one window with bars on it. The walls were just cinder blocks painted light green. Best part was the parking lot was gated and they locked it at night so the van with all of our stuff was safe.

We drop our bags and head out into the over cast afternoon. A lot of cities and towns look alike in America. The French Quarter looks like you’re somewhere else. All the beautiful French architecture is incredible. But lying beneath and around all of that is Sodom and Gomorah with a two drink minimum.

We stop in the first bar we see and grab a couple of beers in plastic cups and head out to explore the madness.

After waving at the parade and skillfully dodging (sometimes) beads flying past my head we entered the most epic street of all, Bourbon Street. From there, an oddly religious themed Mardi Gras began.

I saw the Pope! Ok not the real Pope, but a guy on a balcony overlooking Bourbon Street sporting the Pope hat and robe. He tossed beads to the crowd and blessed all the sinners below in jested fun.

As we continued to go down the street we ran into the infamous Jesus group. There is always one at every “sinful” event. They were continually shouting that we were sinners and preaching their faith to all the drunks in the street. Everyone proceeded to take pictures as if they were a tourist attraction. What I would like to know is do they ever get one person to come over and say, “Ya know, you’re totally right! I’m going to leave Mardi Gras right now to go home and repent.” Now I have nothing against any religion or how people choose to practice and share their faith…but I’m not entirely sure in the middle of Bourbon Street halfway through Mardi Gras day is the most effective way to go about i

Afterwards we entered a bar with a small half circle stage in the front where about five girls were booty shaking like no tomorrow on the stage. I don’t think I could get that much of me to wiggle if I tried. Then lo and behold a large woman dressed as a tri-boobed nun took the center of the stage and started busting her own moves to the music. Then she proceeds to put her leg up on rail, thrust her pelvis towards the crowd, whipped out a cigar and started to smoke it. The scene unfolding in front of me was like Sister Act gone wrong and it doesn’t end there.

As we’re laughing at the hilarity of the situation, three topless yet painted chest girls walked on stage. One of the girls looked like she just had a baby with the belly drooping down low. That didn’t stop her. She was a brave one. Then in the middle of all the dancing came the ultimate shocker of the night. The nun went up to post pregger lady and they started full on making out right in the middle of the booty shaking.

My mouth just dropped as I was trying to process what was going on. It was hilarious and shocking and definitely a memorable highlight of the trip.

Mardi Gras is full of shocking sights and stories but it’s an experience I would definitely have again. There are a lot of brave people sporting the goods, (if you know what I mean) but you can have just as much fun observing as you can participating. Provided you do not have virgin eyes or ears and wish to keep them that way, Mardi Gras New Orleans is definitely an event that shouldn’t be missed.

The next day…

We watched the Lundi Gras parades from Canal Street. We got there kind of early to get a decent spot, and so we waited for at least an hour for the floats to arrive. Two guys selling merchandise set up behind us, selling shirts that said, “I’ll suck your titty for a dollar.” The entire time we were there, they were yelling this at people passing by. “Suck yo titty for a dollar! I’ll suck that titty for a dollar!” Entrepreneurial spirit at its best.

Some lady in her 40’s or 50’s was set up a little way down from us on the neutral ground before Endymion. She and her friends started taking shots of whisky from this contraption: a wooden plank with slots in it for shot glasses. Before too long, she was karaoking and dancing enthusiastically while her teenagers tried to pretend they didn’t know her. It went on for hours. Great people watching.

We chanced a walk down Bourbon during the day time, before it got too crowded. Frank went in to use the restroom, leaving me under a balcony that had a direct view of many girls flashing for beads. There was this old guy set up there, and every time a girl looked ready to flash, he’d run forward and take pictures of it with his camera. We saw him get about a dozen shots in 10 minutes. I wonder what he does with the photos.

Two things that give me a grudging respect for city employees:

1) watching a completely destroyed, trash-filled Canal St near Carrollton made near pristine in under an hour by the street cleaning crew. Good job, y’all. That’s some serious business.

2) Shortly after overhearing a couple of girls arguing in the bathroom line and a threat about “gettin yo ass beat in a Popeye’s!” A fight broke out at the Wendy’s next door on St. Charles. (We think maybe it was the same girls who’d wandered over there to find friends.) Swarms of teenagers started running over there exclaiming about a fight, and within a minute, a bunch of cops in neon yellow vests and about half a dozen mounted officers were there. There were shootings near Lee Circle at a recent Mardi Gras, if I recall correctly, so it was encouraging to see the police were taking crowd safety seriously.

So far I’m loving this odyssey on the road to California!

 

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California Dreamin’ – 1982 to 1984 – Chapter 4 – On The Road Again

The week in Atlanta went by fast and before we knew it, we were off again. We got on highway 10 and headed west. Our first stop was in Mississippi. Apparently Frank had another Uncle that lived there. I told him if he had enough relatives scattered across the country we could probably make it to California for free.

We stayed at his Uncle’s place in Mobile, Alabama overnight. I was never clear if this Uncle was the ex husband to Frank’s Aunt we just stayed with for a week. He was really nice and took us out to a nice southern place for some delicious cuisine. I was eating and enjoying things I’d never seen or done before. The world is such a bigger package that the little borough you live in.

We stayed the night and in the morning we were off again and headed West.

Next stop… New Orleans!

 

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