For those of you who don’t know, I just spent my spring break in New Orleans, LA enjoying Bourbon Street and doing local service projects. I went with a group of 39 people from the WSU Center for Civic Engagement, most of whom I did not know entering the trip. We spent 5 days and 5 nights in the French Quarter and witnessed everything from the still-damaged Lower 9th Ward, to a St. Patrick’s Day Parade, to a beach in Mississippi, to the crazy nightlife on Bourbon Street.
If only this blog entry could do the trip justice…It was undoubtedly the best trip of my life, and I am already missing the people, parties, weather, food and general culture that we encountered down there. Honestly, if anyone has not gotten the chance to experience New Orleans yet, I highly recommend spending a few days down there. (Upcoming: New Orleans Jazz Fest – look it up!) Here is my recap of the trip:
Monday, March 14, 2011:
Monday in NOLA, I dub thee: The most ridiculous night of my entire life. Let me pause and post a disclaimer real quick. I’d like to thank all my friends, fellow students and trip leaders for a couple things. First, for making Monday (and the whole trip in general, but specifically Monday) night so…much…fun. And also for helping me piece together the events of the night in order to make this blog worthwhile. It’s tough to do when almost everything after 9:00 p.m. is missing from memory…
Now that I’ve sufficiently reduced my Mom to anger-riddled anxiety (I expect a phone call any minute now), we can begin to recap this wonderful day. First, we all met in the hotel lobby and walked as a group to a park at the waterfront of the Mississippi and did group-building activities. We talked and did games and what not for about an hour. It was definitely fun and helpful, but in all honesty, it was bonding on Bourbon Street and through Project Green Light and all our other activities that was the most useful when it came to getting to know each other. Either way, we were all enjoying the warm sunshine and the sights of the waterfront. We immediately met a couple from Moscow, ID and chatted with them for a bit (the first of many locals and/or Cougs we would meet on our trip).
When the group activities broke, we had our first few hours of reckless exploration ahead of us. A small group of people I was with broke off and headed toward the French Market area for lunch. The place was teeming with people and horse carriages and street artists or musicians. It was apparent very early in this trip that not only would we meet some cool people, but that New Orleans would be chock full of talented street performers. On this walk to lunch alone, I heard a really good saxophonist playing on the water front for tips and saw a painter by the French Market selling his amazing portraits of local scenes for cheap.
The line for the actual Market and Café du Monde were too long for us, so we continued a couple blocks in the opposite direction and found a small hole-in-the-wall bar with nobody in it. After scouring the menu, we decided it would work due to time constraints. What a find! We got seated in the sunny patio in back and basically had personal service with the cook and waitress, who obliged when asked if they would do interviews and sit and chat with us for a while. My friend Amy got a lot of good video for her documentary and we got everyone’s stories about moving to New Orleans, experiencing Hurricane Katrina, and their general feelings about the region (all very positive!). Not to mention the $3 basket of amazing, fresh, glazed sweet potato fries.
When we left after lunch (to the sight of a very intoxicated young blond woman dancing on the bar at 2 p.m.), we went back to the hotel to meet up for our first service projects. We had the options of helping fix up a house that needed a lot of work in a local neighborhood, or helping a woman whose house needed to be fortified with dirt to protect against the next hurricane. Unfortunately the latter, which I intended to do, was canceled due to a timing mix-up on their end. So half of our group went off to the house restoring project and my roommates and I decided to hang out in the hotel and prepare for the ghost tour we would be going on later.
I wish words could describe the general giddiness that had engulfed our group as the first day passed. Everyone absolutely loved the warm weather and the amazing city we’d landed in. People came back raving about the service project and the energy level was at an all-time high. I personally can’t remember the last time I was so excited about something – we were on cloud nine! Little did we know it would get even better! Around 7:00 p.m. (remember, we are two hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time), we were supposed to meet down at a local tavern to buy tickets and have drinks before the ghost tour. This was everyone’s first experience with the Hurricane. I don’t mean the 2005 disaster; we will get to some information about that later in the week. I mean the drink – all I know is it had some kind of fruit juice, ice, and 151 rum. It is a mix that both works and tastes delicious. Plus it was cheap! So when I strolled in around 7:30, everyone was already working on their second. Naturally, I had to catch up. Which I did, and fast. I ordered two, downed them by the time everyone had finished their second, and then the group got ready to roll to the ghost tour. Most of us grabbed a couple more Hurricanes for the road and set off. Immediately, Bryan and I got the attention of the tour guide who could just tell that we would be “trouble.” (“There’s always that one guy that is going to have to pee right away.” Proceeds to look at me, standing in the back of the group, drinking out of one straw of each drink simultaneously. Oops.)
I don’t remember much of what was actually said on the ghost tour, because I was busy snapping candid pictures of everyone. All I know is there were spilled drinks, obnoxious chatting by myself, scolding from the tour guide and public urination at some point (NOT by me this time, Mom!). One thing I do remember however, is stopping midway through the tour because pretty much everyone had to go to the bathroom. One girl was the first to go to the bathroom, and the last…small bladder syndrome? Anyway, our midway point ended up being the same place that we started at, so naturally we got another Hurricane to tide ourselves over. Five Hurricanes in just over an hour on partially empty stomachs is all that a few of us needed to forget the rest of the night.
What I’ve gathered through my friends’ stories, text messages and phone calls and pictures from that night, this is what ensued from about 10:00 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. Monday night:
– We bought Grenades, another standard Bourbon Street liquid delicacy (why are all the drinks named after something dangerous? Oh…that makes sense.). And they were absolutely delicious. AND had cool little plastic grenades in them that we could play with after – see Amy Hjelt’s video…
– We bar-hopped to almost every place imaginable and tore up the dance floors, stages, tops of bars…whatever we could get our dancing shoes on.
– I got kicked off a stage because apparently my drunk mind thought entering a booty-shaking contest with a bunch of random girls would be fun…I lost.
– A roommate who I won’t name (Bryan) got cuffed for being far too intoxicated, but was let go without a ticket because of more dire circumstances the cops had to attend to. One guy had a broken collarbone and another had severe alcohol poisoning.
– The same unnamed roommate was helped to an aid van, although he didn’t necessarily need the aid. He was just…imbibed (look it up!). Proof of this little escapade will follow in tomorrow’s blog.
– We met Will, a rapper/poet who spit some lines for us. Apparently I was best friends with him (“Man, I’m a creative writing major, so I can appreciate this!” as he’s doing his poetry for us).
– A group of us spent part of the night up on a balcony throwing beads and doing the typical New Orleans thing. You can imagine the craziness that ensued.
– Bryan called me around 2:00 a.m. to tell me he had gotten arrested, then proceeded to lose his phone to the madness of Bourbon Street. I feel honored to be the last phone call made on the old phone.
– The “group of 3” rule quickly dissipated, much to Charlie’s dismay (and rightly so). But luckily, like previously mentioned, the locals of New Orleans are extremely friendly and a random one walked me back to the hotel from wherever I had wandered off to. AND even more luckily, we all made it back just fine that night.
– Apparently I was too tired when I got back to the hotel to take my clothes off like a normal person, so I just ripped my pants off, belt still attached. That was an interesting discovery in the morning. Oh, and Bryan’s drunken attempt at finding my phone around 5 a.m. when got back to the hotel to call his own phone, which was still M.I.A. (If anyone’s wondering, he never found it. R.I.P. phone!)
I left out a few details here and there for the sake of certain people’s privacy, but let’s just say that what I just described will not do justice to the amount of drinking, dancing, partying and general corruption we were involved with our first full night in New Orleans. The moral of the story of Monday is that New Orleans is absolutely crazy (none of this bars closing at 2:00 a.m. crap, or this no walking around with containers crap) and we were all having the time of our lives. Please see my pictures on Facebook for visuals on how insane this night was, and feel free to ask me about any of it, I’d love to share!
Tune in tomorrow for my first service project, a swamp tour, classy dinner cruise, and of course a little more madness! NOLA for life.