Lou Pickney's Online Commentary
New Orleans 2K4
February 17, 2004
"That's a Michael Jackson mime! Not only do I hate Michael Jackson, I hate mimes."
-Overheard from a passerby outside of the Corner Restaurant in New Orleans, Louisiana this past Sunday
To properly tell the story of this year's trip to Mardi Gras 2004, I need to begin with the events that lead up to the departure to the Big Easy -- in particular, my experience with the spray-on suntan (the "Mystic Tan") at Malibu Rayz in Tampa.
I met up with BTLS Executive Producer Brent Hatley at 7 AM, where we both underwent the spray-on tan procedure. Brent and I were arguably the palest looking people in the greater Tampa area, which was the whole idea behind the tanning deal. I gave play-by-play on the air as best I could (and later I came into the studio where Bubba gave his analysis of the results).
|This is how I looked about two hours after my Mystic Tan experience.|
Thanks to the winning Dramamine/Xanax combo, I slept peacefully on my flight to New Orleans. I did snore loud enough at one point to wake myself up, which I promptly tried to cover up by coughing. As if I was fooling anybody with that. Once in New Orleans, I had an hour to kill until my Coast Guard friend James (who I was meeting up with from Charleston, SC via Atlanta) arrived. So I decided to have a nice cocktail and play the waiting game until he got there.
We took the Airport Shuttle from Kenner (which is where the Louis Armstrong Airport is located) into New Orleans. I was disappointed that the Shuttle company had raised its price from $20 to $26 roundtrip, though we talked the woman at the counter down to $24 since we both had the same pickup time for Monday.
Unlike Tampa, New Orleans on Friday was cold and rainy. Luckily James had mentioned to me on the phone the night before to expect that, as otherwise I would've quite possibly been locked in my Florida weather oblivion and packed without bringing long-sleeved clothes and jackets and the like.
Despite the rain, after checking in at the Marriott we took a quick jaunt down to Bourbon Street, which was roaring with life despite the fact that it was a rainy Friday afternoon. We passed a bar that advertised "Three For One" drinks, and that was enough to get us out of the cold and the rain.
Inside a cover band played classic rock tunes to a somewhat older crowd. We watched that for awhile, but then I encouraged us to keep moving on. James wasn't sure about leaving the 3-for-1 behind, but I promised that there would be more on the way. And, of course, I was right.
At the next bar (which had a name, but these bars on Bourbon Street all seem to run one into the next) a white guy on stage tried rapping along to early 90s songs with fair-at-best success. But he did get over well with the crowd by doing shout-outs to the various cities in the audience -- Miami and San Antonio and Seattle and Tampa and West Palm... you get the idea.
|It's appropriate that I wore a Ned shirt on Friday night.|
The most memorable part of that place was a comment made by some guy who James and I met from Tennessee who told us that he caught a girl in the men's room with some guy with the girl wetting the guy's whistle, so to speak. My investigative skills kicked in, and I went to check it out. As I walked there, a couple walked past me, with a ditsy blonde looking thoroughly embarrassed. The restroom was vacant when I entered, so draw your own conclusions.
At my prodding, James and I had dinner at Popeye's, a chicken restaurant popular in the southeast. Now there's Popeye's elsewhere, but Popeyes in New Orleans is a real treat, something different. And the spicy chicken strips were damn good, I must say. I even got James to put them over.
Friday night in the Big Sleazy... well I had to show James a good time in his Bourbon Street debut. With many places I hold back on the build-up, lest there be a disappointment or something not like it was in years past. But with Bourbon Street, there's no fear of that. Short of a Tropical Storm hitting, I think it's about impossible to stop the good times from rolling.
Looking at my notes from Friday night, I wrote "Popeye's dinner, hurricanes,
Cats Meow insanity." And that's a good way to put it. Pure, drunken insanity. Keep in mind that we had been drinking since mid-afternoon, and that we had the rush of being on Bourbon Street fueling things.
Things began to get blurry... I do know that within a five minute span, I went from being, umm, rather friendly with a redhead chick whose name I never found out to nearly getting in a fight with some asshole Korean guy. Now I'm not normally inclined to fight, but this jackass decided to try taking James' camcorder and pushing me in the back. Bad idea. I turned around and pushed him hard. Spending the weekend in a New Orleans slammer was not on the agenda, but I wasn't going to let some punk front on me like that. Then, in a truly ridiculous moment, his friend stepped up as his backup. His friend, incidentally, was wearing a preposterous curly black wig. It was like a dark version of a "This Is Sportscenter" promo. Cooler heads prevailed, and the clown patrol (i.e. the other guys) left. All in a good night, I suppose.
|James' t-shirt drew a variety of reactions on Saturday.|
My sense of time became all thrown off, as I left my cell phone in the hotel room for the duration of the trip. With roaming charges, I wasn't going to be getting pulled into that trap. But since my cell phone doubles as a timepiece for me, I lost all sense of time (or maybe that was the hurricane influence). The incident with the Korean dickhead soured me to the Cats Meow for the night, so James and I made our way to some more nameless bars for random encounters, music and such.
Saturday morning... Ahh, the revenge of the hurricane. I was in no particular hurry to go anywhere, considering my exploits of the night before. But, finally, it was time to hit the city.
It was still raining, but the forecast called for showers to taper off as the day progressed. James pitched the idea of us taking a bus tour of the city, but at $24 a pop I thought that was a bit steep. Then, in the paper, he found a listing that the woman at the concierge desk was unaware of -- the home debut of the expansion Arena Football League's New Orleans VooDoo.
We caught a taxi over to the New Orleans Arena, which is an indoor arena located adjacent to the Superdome. Tickets were nearly sold out, but we managed to buy a pair in Section 305 for a very reasonable $12 per ticket. Once inside, there were giveaways galore, from schedules to posters to even "I Love Hooters" stickers from the lovely Hooters girls. One of the Hooters girls was offended by the crude message on James' t-shirt (which he had purchased on Bourbon Street the night before), and she put a sticker over the "C" in the word (that stayed on there for all of five minutes). I got a sticker for myself, and promptly put it on my crotch for a photo op. In case you didn't notice, I was a real class act this past weekend.
|Down where? Down here!|
I'd been to one Arena Football League game before,
Arena Bowl XVII, so I knew what to expect... at least sort of. The atmosphere wasn't the championship level of the game I attended in June, but the nearly full house was excited for the first-ever home VooDoo game. I was just ready to laugh at Indiana Firebirds QB Adrian McPherson, though unfortunately he was on the injured list and didn't participate. Damn.
The game itself was great: the VooDoo lead most of the way, with the Firebirds charging late to take the lead. The finish saw the Firebirds, up 40-34, called for three consecutive defensive pass interference penalties. That lead to a one yard TD run by the VooDoo, and with the extra point New Orleans squeaked out a 41-40 win. The fans erupted in cheers.
James pointed out that it was bad luck to have umbrellas open inside, but I explained that it was just part of the New Orleans tradition. There are many things unique to that city, which is part of the charm of visiting.
From there, with a brisk wind blowing, we made it back by cab and decided that it was time to go gambling. James' casino debut came at the gorgeous Harrah's casino (conveniently close to the Marriott, I might add). We found a roulette table, and I did my best to teach James that maddening, yet amazingly fun, game of chance.
It didn't take long for me to find myself down $60. Yo! Not what the doctor ordered, plus I was getting frustrated trying to play and teach the game to James at the same time. I pulled out another $20, which is not what I had wanted to do, but I wasn't ready to get punked out just yet.
Then something funny happened: I started winning. $10 on black and $10 on even on the same spin, and what do you know, 28 (black). I was back in it.
James finally got the gist of how the game was played, and so he threw a Benjamin down on the table and got in on the action. I played it conservatively, wanting more than anything to keep playing long enough to get some fun out of my money. I tried playing the inside numbers without a great deal of success. Then, on a whim, I threw three $1 chips on 24, the day I was born.
At that point, the waitress came up with my crown and diet coke. I looked in my wallet, but my smallest bill was a ten spot. She didn't have change, but said that a chip would work just as well (I told her I wanted to give her a dollar -- she wasn't trolling for it). This brought good karma to yours truly; the moment I handed her the chip, the ball on the spinning wheel popped in on, you guessed it, 24. I won $90.
Suddenly I was ahead of the game, and in roulette that is a DGC Rarity (I threw that joke in there for Josh Tenisci, though I doubt he'll even read this). I wanted to cash out, but big pimpin' two seats down from me was pulling huge cash. My $90 win looked like chump change compared with what he was winning. Of course, his $75 losses on one roll went unnoticed (not by me though), but such is the nature of gambling. Meanwhile, the roulette guy was trying to get me to tip him, but he had done a couple of things to piss me off before (slighting me when I ordered a rum and diet coke earlier by mentioning "rum has sugar in it, you know") and then giving me the business when I didn't let it ride with the three chips I had on 24. Sebastian Janikowski Lou might've made some rude comments, but luckily I was only mildly tipsy at that point. I won $10 on red, then cashed out up $60.
|We started Saturday evening off with Jägerbombs, thanks to James.|
James, on the other hand, didn't fare so well. He ended up down $97 on the table for the evening. A real buzzkill for him. He kept trying to play by the numbers most recently rolled, but I pointed out that the odds are the same on every roll: if posting the numbers gave players an advantage, the house wouldn't do it. That's why it's not done in blackjack, for example. When I play, I do it by intuition and feel; there's no better or worse chances that way, but you'll go mad trying to outsmart the vertical number board.
On our way back to the Marriott, we encountered the Sparta parade. I ended up with a Sparta cup (always a nice souvenir)... and also a bag of six dozen beads. I guess the revelers were tired of opening bags by that point.
When we got back to the hotel, I had a voice mail message waiting from an unexpected friend: Andrew Farnum. As you'll recall from New Orleans 2K3, Andrew (or Andy as he's also called) was one of the players involved there. This time around he had his girlfriend Alexandra with him, which had major danger potential. First of all, Bourbon Street is heathen central, with temptation all around. I mean, when you have an actual phone conversation that ends with an agreement to meet "outside of Larry Flynt's Barely Legal club", you know that you're in a very unusual place. Second, he introduced her to me in Drunk Lou mode. I'm never one to hold back on speaking my mind (as if you couldn't tell from what I write on here), but when the drinks are flowing... it really doesn't matter who's listening. But I give it to Alexandra, she was very cool and friendly and didn't feel the need to admonish me for some of the more outlandish things that I was saying.
|From left to right: James, Lou, Andrew and Alexandra.|
Other highlights from Saturday night included a guy with no legs begging two girls walking by to let him suck on their tits (which then gave me an in to start up a conversation with them about how surreal and ridiculous that exchange was), another night of revelry at the Cats Meow, and a conversation with a cute blonde named Megan from Oregon who wouldn't shut up about three things: that her dad was a politician, that her boyfriend was good looking, and that she loves to smoke pot. She put me over and all (which most girls did -- maybe it was the suntan, maybe it was confidence, maybe the shaved head, but it was a GOOD weekend in that regard), but then she talked about having a pierced nipple and wouldn't show it. At the Cats Meow on Bourbon Street! Not that I didn't see enough of the goods that weekend, but it was a matter of principle at that point. Especially when the girl herself was saying how a guy like me should be out there going after the single girls. So off I went.
|I'm not even sure what caption to put with this picture. How about: where is Lou's left hand located? (Look closely)|
One of the most frightening images came at 4 AM early Sunday morning, as James and I stumbled back down through the French Quarter. Outside one of the clubs with no name, two cops were arresting a guy. I can only imagine what the suspect did to get arrested, and what he was saying to the officers. But all I know is that the guy was handcuffed behind his back, and one of the cops punched the guy square in the jaw. The officers then hauled the drunk over to the waiting squad wagon, as a small crowd of people gasped, shouted and expressed dismay (but not so loud as to bring the wrath their way). I treat the police there with respect: they have to put up with a ton of nonsense, and I'm sure their collective patience for stupidity is about nil. And if the stories I've heard about corruption are even half true... well I'd rather just keep my distance.
|The Corner had good food... at a price.|
On Sunday afternoon, after sleeping in (and fighting another hangover), James and I went down to the Riverwalk section of New Orleans. We had a tasty lunch at a restaurant called "The Corner", where I had the cajun tradition of red beans and rice. The waitress was a gorgeous blonde with some nice Diacos (or just very nice natural talent, if you follow me). However, the restaurant was as stingy as they come: no free refills, no free water, gratuity automatically included, etc. In a related note, the hot blonde waitress didn't exactly give it her 100% effort (but looking good can go a long way in the "entertainment" category).
Outside of the restaurant was another scene that can only be described as bizarre. There was a Michael Jackson mime. That's right, a mime dressed up like Michael Jackson. And with James being James, he decided to start messing with him, asking him when his next court date was, etc. Now that was funny. Then the Wacko Jacko imposter started talking (which kind of kills the mime thing) and tried to get James to come over there (presumably to goad him into a tip), though we had places to be. As we walked away, the MJ mime called James an asshole! That set me off, so I went back and loudly announced to James that I had to take a picture to have to go with the story for LouPickney.com. The mime then covered up like a bitch, as if that was going to stop me from snapping my shot.
|The LouPickney.com paparazzi strikes again.|
James and I hit a flea market, which was an interesting experience. Mostly it was overpriced crap, though I did get a cool t-shirt for just $5. That was some sweet action. Also we took in an unusual street performance show at Washington Artillery Park (I'll put those pics in my forthcoming Mardi Gras 2004 pictures section). And, after a great deal of searching, we found a place that had on the Daytona 500: Hooters. Even though I'm no NASCAR fan, I was cheering for Dale Jr. to win it. But you'd be surprised how many bars/restaurants didn't have it on. Pat O'Briens: nope. Hard Rock Cafe: negative. Dive Bar #50,000: okay, they had it, but it was on one TV way up in the corner that we could barely see. And besides, why not take advantage of a good excuse to go to Hooters?
At James' insistence, we headed back to Harrah's. He tried his hand at Roulette again, and unfortunately had similar poor success. He wouldn't tell me how much more he lost, though I have my guesses. Meanwhile, I played the nickel "Press Your Luck" slot machine game, which was a really fun game (since I love that old game show). I played for about an hour and won $5 net. Though, in a heart-wrenching moment that even got me sympathy from the couple sitting next to me, I had four "Big Bucks" in a row... next to a "Cruise" in the first spot (which means I won nothing). Five "Big Bucks" would've been a really nice windfall. But such is life; I was just happy to come out ahead. From there, I took the $20 I put in the machine and the $5 I won (which all came out in nickels), changed it in, and then put it all on one hand of blackjack (at a $25 minimum table). I got a Queen, dealer got a Queen. I then got... a second Queen. Of course I stayed on 20. The dealer flipped over his card, revealing a 4. He hit... and it was a King. 24: BUST. My $25 became $50. True to my word (I told him I was playing one hand and one hand only), I snatched up the two $25 chips like Tim Roth at the end of Four Rooms and walked away. I came away on the winning end from Harrah's.
Sunday night was the grand finale at the Cats Meow. There's few places in the world as fun to be at on a Sunday night than on Bourbon Street. I met Noelle from Philly, a girl with plenty of piercings and no problems earning her beads. Her boyfriend and I later worked together to get these two shy girls who were hiding out by a pole on the other side of the street to come over and flash for beads (my strong voice helped on that)... Then, to top it all off, James and I met these two really cool girls from DC. Like us, they were in for a weekend visit, and we really hit it off. All's well that ends well. And, as I promised them, I e-mailed them the pic of the three of us.
|He who has the gold makes the rules.|
Overall, New Orleans was a fantastic trip. There are a thousand stories within the stories... Like the great red fish dinner I had Sunday night at the Red Fish Grill (and James' terrible roast, which he could barely eat because of it being too salty). All I can say is: you order roast at a fish restaurant in New Orleans, these things happen. For me, it was an early meal of the year candidate.
Overall, the trip lived up to the billing of what a Mardi Gras season adventure in the Big Easy should be. And there's something to be said for that. If you've never been to New Orleans, you really owe it to yourself to go. Even if you have no desire to party or see the French Quarter, there are so many little nuances and differences and architectural sites and historic landmarks that are really worth your time. And if you do like to party... well if the above didn't convince you to go, then I think nothing will.