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:
Friday, March 18, 2011:
On Friday, we were supposed to have a “coast clean-up” project in Mississippi. Well, we still went to the coast, just didn’t do much cleaning. We drove about an hour to a beach in Waveland, Mississippi (just outside of Port St. Louis) and soaked in some rays and chilled in the water for a few hours. It was very relaxing after a long week of working and partying. We spent a long time in a big group chatting in the warm, ankle-deep water and took naps under the Southern sun. After a couple hours, we decided to go to lunch downtown.
Marina, our trip leader and van driver, was craving some real Southern BBQ, so we headed in that direction. We found a little drive thru diner called BB’s BBQ. We got the rib plates that came with two sides. Mine had baked beans and cole slaw and of course, a biscuit! The meal was unbelievable. I’m almost willing to book a flight to NOLA right now and get some more…and the coolest part of the whole meal was the real down-home Southern hospitality we received.
We spent a good 30 minutes just talking to one of the cooks (Brett, I believe?) who was really digging Maggie! 😉 Anyway, like I said, the food was amazingly delicious and we had really nice service from everyone there. The servers were great, and Brett spent a good chunk of time explaining how Hurricane Katrina affected him. He told us a story about how water was so high on his house that it busted through his second story window and carried his surfboard out to sea.
After a little more time at the beach, we drove back into New Orleans and did a driving tour of the Lower 9th Ward. For the time we had, it was a very emotional, effective tour. We saw tons of houses that looked like they were about to fall over or implode. A bunch of them were boarded up and “X’d out.” I wish we could have gotten out of the car and talked to the people around the neighborhoods but it was too dangerous. But, if I do get the chance, I’d love to go back and interview people and do some service projects in the Lower 9th. It was strange because the Garden District is literally across the street and it is full of mansions and fancy yards. Still, the short trek into the Lower 9th really gave us a good idea of what Hurricane Katrina did to the area, even 6 years later. It was pretty emotional, just seeing the damage that was done and the potential for destruction that can come out of nowhere and just ruin a person’s life.
After the Lower 9th tour, we just all started getting packed up because the Spokane group had to meet in the lobby at 6:30 in the morning. Most people hit the sack afterwards to make sure they would wake up on time. Bryan, Tim and I had different ideas. Our mindset was: This is our last night in New Orleans for who knows how long…let’s go crazy. So, we took on Bourbon Street again.
First of all, we realized this was our first real weekend night on Bourbon Street. And it was insane! We could hardly move down the street, and there were multitudes of attractive Southern women everywhere! We thought the night was going to be a bust at first because everyone else had gone to bed. But, we stayed out all night (yes, past the 3 a.m. curfew – sorry, Charlie!) hitting the bars and the balconies. One balcony in particular we spent a good two hours at and met a girl who was doing a bachelorette party. I got one of those cool plastic microphones from someone, that when you talk into it, the sound echoes out. So we were yelling at people down on the street with it and throwing beads and sipping fishbowls at will.
We also saw a fight in which, to be blunt, one drunk guy knocked another drunk guy to the ground (you could hear the nose crack from the balcony) and his face was covered in blood. When the knocked-out drunk stood back up, the knock-out drunk took his belt off and began swinging it like a club. When he got pulled apart from the guy he was fighting, he waved his penis in victory at him and stormed away. It was…interesting.
Then when we were leaving the bar around 4:30, we ran into a couple new friends: Sarah and Olivia. They were 41 and 38 years old, respectively, but to be honest they looked to be 30 at the most. Their husbands were at the bar, and they didn’t seem to care that their wives were being very friendly and flirty with three young men. Bryan, Tim and I each had one bead left for the entire trip. When Sarah suggested that we “see Olivia’s chest” to put it nicely, because she had “the best boobs ever,” we were surprised when she obliged. Thrice…one for each bead. (Really, I tried to censor this, but it was really impossible) Let’s just say it was a fitting way to end our trip.
After that, we hit up Daisy Duke’s for the last time on our trip. We ordered double cheeseburgers, which were basically two steaks surrounded by cheese and buns. Somehow we managed to scarf them down still (it sucked for the rest of the day, trust me). Plus, we got to spend some quality time with our favorite server, Gabriel. After our meal, we went back to the hotel, hung out for about a half hour, and then limped down to the lobby at 6:30. We were all still in our clothes from the night, smelled like Bourbon Street, still a bit drunk and very tired and full of burger. To give a slight example of how bad the situation was, I put my arm around Amy and whispered, “I should’ve showered.” She was not digging that too much, but at least she smartly held her breath.
I’ve never been so uncomfortable, especially on such a busy day, but it was well worth it. We had a fantastic last day and night of our break, and can’t say we ever cut any corners or went easy on Bourbon Street. We represented the Cougs in every way possible. For tomorrow, the last entry, check in for the most ridiculous, uncomfortable, sleep-filled travel day of my life. And of course, general reflections on the trip!