The Big Easy can be described as many things. Muggy comes to mind. Certainly spicy. And always, always as slow and easy as the blues from My Baby Done Left Me .
But New Orleans is not, by any stretch, a "Positive Place For Kids," which is the battle cry for the Boys & Girls Club of America.
I spent a couple of days last week in New Orleans attending the Boys & Girls Club national convention. I'm a member of the local club's board of directors and was part of a contingency (others included Cathy Blankenship, Mark Jacoby, Brian Hutchins and Brenda Robertson) who made the trip to join more than 3,000 convention-goers from more than 2,000 clubs.
Notes from New Orleans:
- Turtle soup isn't green.
- Shrimp sauce won't come clean with a pack of Shout It Out.
- Bourbon Street makes the Las Vegas Strip look like choir practice.
- Don't eat a dozen oysters when traveling alone. Even if they are from the Acme Oyster House.
- A sign out front of a strip joint reads, "Live Love Acts." I think they have love confused with something any two (or three) people do on stage in front of people who pay to see something they know has nothing to do with love but don't particularly care.
- If I had breasts I wouldn't flash them for some cheap beads. A 10-dollar-bill, maybe.
- At the end of the tourist section of Bourbon Street cops warn you against going further. They say there is evil down there. Once you've made it the six or eight blocks of the "clean" part of Bourbon Street, however, there is very little left on earth you haven't seen.
- Choices are simple on Bourbon Street. One bar boasts of having "Big Ass Beers," for example. None of that micro-brewery sissy stuff for Bourbon Street. "What kind of beer ya got?" the visitors ask. "Well," says the barkeep. "We got Big Ass Beer. You want a hot one or cold one?"
- You can buy an alligator head for as little as $29.95 from a gift store. A large one costs more, but could create problems when they tell you to store your carry-ons beneath the seat in front of you on the plane ride home.
- The famous "Hurricane" drink they boast of in New Orleans tastes like Kool Aid and Vodka. I thought I learned not to drink that in high school.
- Next time stick with the Big Ass Beer.
- You can drink and walk on Bourbon Street because they wash the street down every morning by opening the fire hydrants. I think it all ends up in the Bayou, where alligators drink the washed-down Hurricanes, die and become souvenirs. The Circle of Life Cajun Style.
- Child labor laws are relaxed on Bourbon Street. A kid maybe 8 or 9 with no shirt is tap dancing for money on a corner. I watch him tap for 10 minutes straight and he's still dancing when I return an hour later.
- A man hands me a pamphlet reminding me that life is short, death is sure, sin is the cause and Christ is the cure. I plunk the Hurricane into the trash can, hoping that I have cheated death. I tell the man to go to the place where the "Live Love Acts" are being performed. If what he says is true, those people won't see daybreak.
- The morning Times-Picayune has a page one story about 32 percent of the students in New Orleans flunking the basic skills test. Another story details plans for teachers to strike if they don't get more money. They say they can't attract quality teachers without better pay. They say nothing about the fate of the bad teachers once money is paid to bring in the quality teachers. All of it sounds very familiar.
- That same newspaper showed three-month crime stats for New Orleans. From Jan. 1 through March 31 there were 51 murders and 1,730 auto thefts. That's roughly 20 stolen cars per day. The $25 I paid for the cab ride from the airport suddenly seems like a bargain.
- Uh oh. A page three story says there was a mixup that put sewage into the city's water supply. The alligators are safe, but the rest of us brushed our teeth with washed down leftovers from Bourbon Street.
- People are buried above ground in New Orleans because the city is actually below sea level. That's probably best, considering what's in the water.
- The Super Dome is home to the New Orleans Saints. From above it looks like a flying saucer that crash-landed, which explains the Saints' performance over the years.
Jeff Ackerman is publisher and editor of the Nevada Appeal.