Along with a few other friends, my wife and I recently took a trip to New Orleans. We booked flights together and all stayed in the same hotel on Toulouse Street for four days. For those not familiar with the area, Toulouse is a cross street which is approximately puking distance from the main Bourbon drag.
I’ve visited all manner of tourist traps in my short time on this Earth, and I can confidently say that I’ve never seen anything like Bourbon Street. It has the ceaseless ambiance of a yearlong, open-air frat party. On busier nights, the streets are awash with discarded beads, souvenir cups, urine, vomit, and shattered human dignity. In the wee hours of the morning, a street-sweeping machine that I imagine looks like something out of Soylent Green travels the length of the street to pick it all up so it can begin anew the next day.
It is a seemingly endless row of neon signs promoting bars, strip clubs with “live sex acts”, and cheap souvenir shops. Plus, there are apparently no laws preventing public drunkenness, nudity, or open alcoholic beverages. Nobody even batted an eyelash at some shirtless bumpkin with his souvenir “Big Ass Beer” bucket and less than ten-year-old daughter in tow who was soliciting beads from the drunken frat boys at 1AM on a Friday. It was a small consolation that they weren’t clamoring, “Show us your tits!”
I was not shocked that one of the first things I saw was one of those “end of days” Christians standing in the middle of Bourbon Street with a giant crucifix handing out Jack Chick tracts and doing his best to shout, “REPENT!” at the oblivious revelers. A place like this is enough to make you see reason in that kind of mania and, likewise, the opinions of the Westboro Baptist Church.
Only if they’re correct, God doesn’t just hate fags. He hates us all.
Other than the universally-known and unfortunately-named Hurricane, there are many other novelty drinks sold on Bourbon which are apparently vying for the title of “Drink Most Likely to Make You Shit Your Pants on a New Orleans Street Corner in Broad Daylight on a Tuesday Afternoon”. Most are frozen daiquiris, which I’m not a big fan of to begin with. But I am a fan of getting drunk, so that should qualify my expertise in the following reviews.
The first drink I sampled was a daiquiri called “The Jester”. I only had a sip, and I couldn’t really decipher the ingredients other than a shitload of powerful alcohol and the vague flavor of the melon-scented toilet cleaner they must use to color it. I don’t know if some evil genius included that to make the vicious diarrhea my friends experienced after “enjoying” the drink clean itself more effectively from the inside of their toilet bowls, but if that’s the case, kudos to him for ingenuity.
Anyway, “The Jester” is allegedly just a rip-off of another novelty drink trademarked as “The Hand Grenade”, which comes in a gigantic, neon green plastic yard glass, with a bulbous bottom that looks like an anthropomorphic, smiley-faced hand grenade. The first one I had was on the rocks, wasn’t very sweet, was extremely potent, and was not unpleasant enough to prevent me from drinking five more of them over the course of my stay in New Orleans.
It’s basically a melon ball for sociopaths. I highly recommend it if fistfights or contracting venereal disease are on your trip itinerary.
The last novelty drink I had was the famous Hurricane from Pat O’Brien’s. In my estimation, it’s like 10 parts rum, 1 part gin, and 1 part red. Red, as in the flavor of those cheap Little Hug drinks parents used to give to their kids before they were legally obligated to give a shit. I’m not sure what the big deal about the drink is, but I did enjoy the giant racist Irish leprechaun caricature outside. All he was missing was a bag of potatoes and a thought bubble referencing how his “dear departed Ma” thought that the Hurricane was “magically delicious”.
Me: “So they’re fried bread and powdered sugar?”
Living NOLA caricature: “Zhey ah petit flat donuts, mon ami! Ils sont délicieux!”
Me: “Fuck yourself, Pierre.”
I can’t possibly complain about the food offerings in New Orleans. Seriously, fuck everything else about this city, but they definitely know how to cook.
That aside, the only reason you should come here is to visit Treme and go to Willie Mae’s Scotch House Restaurant.
Without exaggeration, Willie Mae’s fried chicken and red beans and rice are the best things I’ve ever eaten. My friends had to stop me from taking a piece back to the hotel to fornicate with. Yes, it was that good.
The Best for Last: Fuck You, Jean Lafitte
So we’re down to the real reason I started writing about my trip.
On day two of our trip to New Orleans, I began with a terrific omelet at the Corner Oyster Bar & Grill on Decatur Street. It was accompanied by the Chuck Norris of Bloody Marys. It was spicy and delicious and had whatever the state minimum of tomato juice is supposed to be in an alcoholic breakfast beverage. I’m still puzzled by how they can flavor a drink so strongly when it contains little but alcohol.
Anyway, that was the only substantial amount of solid food I consumed the entire day.
The rest of my day was spent walking around the city with an ever-present alcoholic beverage. This continued through the afternoon and evening. The only water I was consuming was in the ice keeping my beverages cold.
Stumbling down Bourbon Street with my wife and gang of friends around 9PM, we came upon Jean Lafitte’s Old Absinthe House. When my friends beckoned me inside, I was thinking about the time I purchased and consumed an imported bottle of Absinthe years ago. I figured I was an expert compared to the rest of my crew who had never tried it before.
Before I continue, let me describe Absinthe for those of you who have never tried it. It’s a dark green, 90-150 proof liquor that tastes like licorice and extreme jeopardy. Once popular with artists and filthy, turn-of-the-century French, it is made with green anise, sweet fennel, and the leaves and flowers of the Artemisia absinthium or “Grand Wormwood” plant. Wormwood contains thujone, which is a ketone (like acetone) and monoterpene (like turpentine) that is known to cause convulsions leading to death in high doses. So it’s basically a poison.
Because of that, Absinthe was banned in the U.S. in 1912. When the ban was finally lifted in 2007, the ATF decreed that any Absinthe sold in the U.S. must contain less than 10mg/kg of thujone. In other words, you would have to drink enough Absinthe that the alcohol would kill you before the thujone did.
As an aside, Nature magazine once published an article noting the similarity in the molecular structures of thujone and tetrahydrocannibinol, the primary psychoactive substance in marijuana. …The more you know.
So we walk into Jean Lafitte’s, and I start perusing the list of 10 or 12 different Absinthes. The only real difference between them was the steep increase in price and proof. The first one I tried was somewhere in the middle, about 105 proof. It’s so potent and awful-tasting that it is prepared with a sugarcube and a 3-to-1 ratio of water.
We received our drinks, and in the time it took my friend to take his first sip, I had finished mine. This resulted in looks of astonishment from the bartender and my crew, especially from my friend who looked like he had just tasted news of his impending death as he was preparing to take another sip.
And with the bar raised and gauntlets thrown down, I was perusing the list of Absinthes once more. This time settling on the $20-a-shot, 145 proof variety.
My drink was poured and gone as quickly as the last. And…
I woke up alone in a strange room, and it took me a good ten minutes to comprehend that it was morning, and I was in my bed at the hotel. To say, “my shit was all fucked up” is a mild understatement. I literally have no recollection of anything that happened after that second Absinthe.
While I was still laying there getting my vital signs, name, and basic statistics in order, my wife walked in. She looked at me like I was a dog who and had just shit on the carpet despite being old enough to know better. I asked her what had happened, and she started filling in the blanks about my further adventures the prior evening.
We left Jean Lafitte’s and moved through another few bars, finally ending up where some kind of wedding party, replete with shitty DJ, was in progress. I continued drinking and at some point decided I would encourage the shitty DJ by dancing. I’ve maybe danced five times in my life, and all of those times involved attempting to build enough good will with a reluctant young lass to coax her out of her undergarments later in the evening.
Another friend who had the self respect, common sense, and low enough blood alcohol level to abstain from dancing described the scene for what it was: cracker-ass awful.
At some point, I went to the bathroom. It was pouring rain, and the bar we were in was partly outdoors, so I’d like to believe that the Looney Tunes-style banana peel slip I performed was on rainwater rather than in someone else’s piss. In any case, some bystanders who had witnessed my folly came to the rescue and delivered me back to my wife and friends.
The only way I knew this was accurate was the extreme back pain I was experiencing in bed as my wife recounted the tale.
Luckily, there was a single picture our friend took of my wife and I in the aforementioned bar (which I can’t publish here for obvious reasons). I’m not sure if it was taken before or after my fall, but, in keeping with the cartoonish nature of my behavior that night, my eyes had that far away look of “nobody’s home” that could best be represented by X’s.
So, with my liver’s stamina and dignity all used up, I guess it was plainly apparent to everyone that it would be best for me to get back to the hotel and go to bed.
Of course, not before I could tell a far-too-kind NOLA police officer in front of his paddy wagon my opinion and rant at the top of my lungs about going back to the hotel to smoke some pot. Of course, that opinion was, “fuck you, pig!” Genius plan, that.
I guess I was just one of many belligerent drunk assholes that poor cop has to deal with on a daily basis. Whomever you were, Mr. Officer, I thank you and hope you get to crack some other asshole’s skull in retribution someday.
So we returned to the hotel with my wife and our friend basically holding me up the whole way.
I was ready for bed. But not before I could perform another spectacular slip on some piss (my own, this time) and pull down a towel rack in our hotel bathroom.
And I never drank again.