As Katrina hurled herself toward New Orleans this weekend, I couldn’t help but reminisce about my trip there with a bunch of friends in April 1997. I find it so hard to believe that it was eight years ago, and me a mere 25 years old. It cost us $80 per person for the whole trip for lodging and transportation. Although for me, the trip was much more expensive. Our ringleader, Donna, got our reservations at a hostel and rented a 15-passenger van. On a Wednesday night, 12 of us – consisting of 11 consenting adults, nine of whom were coworkers, and 1 underage daughter – piled into that van and left at around 9 pm for the big easy. We arrived in the Big Easy a little over ten hours later, found our youth hostel and checked in.
It looked a lot better inside the rooms than this picture showed. After all, we were barely there, and after the first night, I didn’t go back. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
After putting our bags down, we were off to find food and then we wandered around the Garden District for a couple of hours, where I found that my sandals were a very poor choice for walking. Yeah, yeah, shut up. We found Anne Rice’s house, but I’m not posting that picture in case she’s all Barbara Streisand about stuff and end up suing me for invasion of her privacy. There was a limo in front of the house with a personalized license plate, and my Rice-fan friends totally freaked out and started taking pictures of every single angle of the front and back yard. One of the guys made friends with her dog. Once the celebrity stalking was over, we wandered around some more, and I took a bunch of pictures of nifty looking houses like this one:
Then we went back to our rooms to get ready for our first night on Bourbon Street. Ah, the debauchery. Seven of us once again wandered around for a while and then came upon these hot dog vendors who were giving out 2-for-1 drink coupons good at two different bars – one was The Funky Pirate and the other was Tropical Isle (or Island, I forget the name, but the drinks were unforgettable.). Each one of us got two coupons, but the policy was one coupon per person per bar, so we took turns going in, getting drinks and bringing one to whomever was splitting the cost. That was when we were introduced to The Hand Grenade, aka New Orleans’ strongest drink. Oh. My. God.
We were wasted, blitzed, smashed, stumbling ass drunk. We ended up sitting (a couple of us laying) on a street corner across from one of the Bourbon Street hot dog vendors. Bums came up to us to see if we were okay. Well, one of them came up to swindle one of us out of five bucks. You know, the I-Can-Tell-You-Where-You-Got-Your-Shoes Scam.
Finally, we made our way back to the trolley stop by holding hands and sometimes walking single-file, other times as if we were playing Red Rover. I think it was 2:00 am or in that vicinity. The trolley car was virtually empty, and our buddy Chris took a seat at the front of the car. Danny warned Kelly that Chris was going to get sick. Kelly doubted it, but when the trolley came to a stop, Chris’s feet never touched a step. He literally leaped out and took off running. We kept up with him for a few paces, but really it was a good thing that we fell behind. Still, we were close enough that we could see him turn his head and puke in midstride. The next morning, as Chris recounted his upchuck truck from trolley to hostel, we found that he had thrown up on the steps of a synagogue. And no, thankfully, I don’t have a picture of that.
But Chris was back up the next morning going out to eat breakfast with us and ordering crawfish gumbo. Now that, my friends, is a breakfast of champions.
The next day, five of us went to the riverboat casino, the aquarium and the IMAX theater. The casino visit was where I took these photos:
Notice the stylish black, leather vest on the gentleman on the left. At the time he was obviously single. Now, thankfully he has a loving wife to correct his fashion sense and keep him from being teased for years after wearing an outfit that showed his complete lack of style.
Then came the fateful second night. We were back on Bourbon Street again, and the one of the hot dog vendors recognized us. Out of thousands of people who drink their way up and down this avenue, who pack themselves during Mardi Gras and who dance around during the jazz festival, this hot dog vendor remembered us and asked if we had made our way back to our hotel okay the previous night.
We all got our obligatory Hand Grenade, but we were in the mood for something different. We also had to pee, but all the places required you to be a paying customer to use the facilities. We picked this oyster bar decked out in wood from floor to ceiling and for our required patronage, two friends and I split a shot of goldschlager.
As some of you may know my first experience with goldschlager was bad enough, and I wasn’t even drinking it. So I should have known better than to down the third of that shot, and I really should have stopped before I halved another shot with another friend. But I didn’t. And I paid for it.
We decided to call it a night earlier that second night and started making our way to the trolley stop. I wanted to catch a cab, but they were having none of that. As we crossed the last street to the stop, I could tell that the traffic we were walking in front of was about to get the green light, so I tried to pick up the pace to make it to the curb. My right ankle began to give out, and when I tried to catch myself with my left leg, that ankle twisted underneath me, and I sat right down on it.
I knew. Oh god, did I know that I had broken my ankle. I didn’t even have to see Chris look at my ankle and say, “That fucker’s broke.” Someone called an ambulance. I was transported to the hospital. They took x-rays. They operated. And I stayed in the hospital until Sunday afternoon, when my buddies came to pick me up on our way out of town.
Don’t you just love Kathleen with her gloved hand there in that photo? They passed my x-rays around the van as we drove back to South Carolina and marveled at the plate and six screws that now held my ankle together. Then I became the only one of us who came back from New Orleans having been screwed six times.
Surprisingly enough, I still want to go back some day. My mother still thinks it isn’t a good idea, but I’ve assured her that it would definitely be different this time. I’ll take a cab everywhere.
So anyway, that was my trip, which I still remember fondly, even though I have a couple of scars. I hope the scars left in New Orleans are able to heal as well. My thoughts are with you all.