Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Beads

She looks good, the old girl. We cross the Pontchartrain Causeway into Canal Street, fretting a bit, feeling like kids come to visit an old aunt in the nursing home—will she look unwell? Will she be unkempt or confused? Will she remember us? But by the end of our visit, Husband and I settled on the belief that on the surface, New Orleans seems okay. No fresh wounds, and she’s done well to cover her scars. Below the shiny plastic surface, however, is a whole ‘nuther story.

On the balcony overlooking Bourbon Street, we ate oyster po’boys at Johnny White’s and watched the second half of the UGA game. Husband watched the TV. I peeked over the edge of the wrought-iron balcony, ogling the clusters strollers below. If you visited even before Katrina, you know Bourbon Street long ago shifted away from the historic jazz-and-blues nightclub format that made it famous. Now it has all the charm of a frat house bathroom: drunk blondes, cheap porn and lots sticky fluids.

Still, I love to watch people. Even on a Saturday night in the middle of November, middle aged women seemed willing to forgo dignity in favor of a set of plastic beads. I sipped my beer and watched an older woman in stiletto boots wobble along the center of the street, gripping her beau’s arm. He wore a mullet and white jeans. They walked with their heads tilted back, scanning the balconies for permission for what they seemed to come here determined to do anyway. As soon as someone hollered at her, as if calling on an eager pupil, she popped up her top to reveal her goodies. After some modest yelling, someone tossed down some beads. The couple continued their evening stroll, and I turned to Husband. “I don’t want any beads the whole time we are here, okay?” I said to the side of his face. “Mm,” he said.

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