“It’s the wild, wild west out there. I have seen people commit the most heinous crimes and not get prosecuted for it.”
These are the wise words that a convenience store clerk gave us upon arriving in New Orleans the Sunday before Mardi Gras. Experience was written all over his face; he did not crack a smile or even hint at the possibility of making a joke. He had seen some crazy, horrible things in his tenure as a convenience store clerk in the French Quarter of New Orleans.
New Orleans was like no other place I have visited. It is overflowing with unique culture, with clear French and Spanish influences all over the place, with some of the coolest streets and restaurants I have seen in the States. There are balconies everywhere overlooking the narrow streets, and they were all decked out in Mardi Gras decorations giving the city a very festive feel. It is such a neat city, and it is seemingly a city without rules. Anything goes! People are naked in the streets, drinking all kinds of alcohol, and throwing all sorts of things at each other (not just beads).
My friends and I were lucky enough to see the Thoth parade, which really ended up being a fight for beads and other meaningless trinkets. It was oddly the most fun we had all day. People in masks on floats would just chuck whatever they had at the crowd as hard as they possibly could, and everyone was happy about it. They threw bags of beads, bouncy balls, hats, cups, trash, and my most prized possession, rubber duckies (he now has a respectable place on my desk, he’s my co-pilot).
This was our view of Canal Street and the parade. (Excuse the quality, I was not about to bring my camera to New Orleans!) If you look closely, you can see the sign for Bourbon Street. Bourbon Street is as wild as it gets at all hours, but definitely don’t bring your kinds out to Bourbon Street at night (you would be surprised by the amount of parents who did not heed this advice; they quickly wised up). The street is chalk full of cool bars and very strange places that I won’t mention. Religious picketers filled the streets after dark to inform all those indulging in the local culture of the sins they were committing. It didn’t seem to stop anyone.
As you would expect, the streets were filled with all types of crazy people, but there were also a lot of normal people (like ourselves, I think) who were from far away places. Beads were a form of currency in many ways; giving someone beads was the best way to start a conversation. I met some of the nicest girls from New York City (shout out to Emma and Anna!) because I was tired of my massive hunk of beads and tried to give them all to Anna, who declined vehemently, but then we quickly became friends. Even in the most absurd places there are wonderful people everywhere, you just have to lift your eyes up from your phone to see them.
New Orleans is a wild, unique town and I truly hope it never changes so everyone who has the urge to experience it has the chance to. If you ever have the chance to go to New Orleans, or just anywhere new, say yes and embrace the experience!