Lou Pickney's Online Commentary
New Orleans 2K3
March 20, 2003
"The electric slide will never get you laid."
-Brook G., on Bourbon Street, March 14, 2003
There's a certain excitement involved with any trip to New Orleans. The Big Easy is a place unlike any other, for a variety of reasons. The atmosphere, the Creole-cajun influence, the delicious seafood, the laissez-faire attitude, the unique layout and designs, and the little things, like the above-ground cemeteries. And, of course, there's the French Quarter, which may be the wildest party area in America.
In a related note, New Orleans is one of my favorite vacation locales. You know the trip will involve great food, copious amounts of alcohol, and a wide variety of adventures waiting to be enjoyed.
On Friday I worked for a few hours before my flight. Had a nasty message from someone on the west coast angry about us sending his station a promo package. Of course, that just makes me want to send out twice as many promo packs to California, Oregon and Washington.
The trip to New Orleans was quick, thanks to sleep. Once there, I discovered that Brook G.'s flight was actually arriving earlier than planned. We met up and got in line to ride the Airport Shuttle.
If you travel to New Orleans, use the Airport Shuttle. It's the only way to go. $20 round trip, compared with $28 each way via a shady taxi.
On the shuttle bus, I met this cute brunette chick named Alex. She said she was from Boston, and we talked about the Patriots and the snow and what not. It was a nice start to the trip.
Brook & I arrived at the Marriott, dropped off our stuff, then hit Bourbon Street. And even at 2 PM on a Friday, that place was rockin'. We hit a few bars... and then ran into Alex again. She bought each of us a Heineken and we talked some more. We finally had to go, as Nimesh Patel was about to arrive from the airport.
Nimesh was waiting for us when we finally made it back to the Marriott. We went back out to Bourbon Street and enjoyed some 3-for-1 beers. It seemed that most bars had their "happy hour" specials going on, which was some sweet action for us. A couple of hours later Bob Lonergan arrived, and we had our quartet for the night set.
When we originally booked this trip, we didn't realize that it was the same weekend as the SEC basketball tournament. This turned out to be a great thing, as there were tons of college b-ball fans in town, to go with the spring breakers and the people in for the St. Patrick's Day festivities.
On Friday night we hit a variety of bars and clubs. There was this place called Razzoo's with some knockout hot shot girls. Double-Ds in the house. Plus they had this amazing setup with a fountain that had fire going through it. I'm not sure how they pulled off the fire-and-water combo, but it looked really nice.
The funniest moment of the night came when we spotted an LSU fan who looked remarkably like former Detroit Lions head coach Wayne Fontes. We laughed about it... then the guy walked over and asked us if we were laughing at his teeth. There was a moment of awkwardness... then he took out what turned out to be a set of fake, Austin Powers like crazy crooked teeth. We laughed long and loud.
At another bar, which may have been the Big Bad Wolf (I don't quite recall), there was an absolutely ridiculous amount of shot girls working. More shot girls than regular girls, as Brook noted. And they were being super-aggressive. It was difficult to enjoy the 80s cover band playing up on stage, as every 15-20 seconds there was some shot girl trying to hustle us for shots. They were being borderline rude about it, including this one girl who literally shoved me back into a corner and tried to use intimidation and implied sexuality to sell me a shot. But I was drinking a beer, and I didn't want a shot then. Finally, after like a minute she got the idea that no meant no. At this point I was starting to get angry, so we left.
The SEC excitement in the air can't be downplayed. The Kentucky fans were out in the largest number, and they were wearing their blue in full effect. On Friday night we met some AGDs from Lexington over at the Cats Meow. Good times.
At some point we made the switch from beer to hurricanes. Those hurricanes are great. When you're out with friends, you can tell a distinct difference after they have one of those. It's different than being under the influence via beer. Hard to explain, but it adds to the atmosphere. The perfect drink for the Quarter.
As the night went on, the girls became a bit more willing to do their part to earn beads. I was regretting leaving my huge stash of beads behind in Tampa, but such is life. Plenty of fun scenes for everyone though. There's a reason it's called "The Big Easy".
At some point we managed to lose Bob, who I discovered has an uncanny ability to disappear in crowds. You wouldn't think it'd be that easy, given that he's normal height and has distinctive hair (more on that later), but he would seemingly disappear into thin air. It was amazing (especially after a few hurricanes).
Unlike my last trip to New Orleans, on this one I didn't partake in the strip clubs. There was enough flashing to make up for that on the street, for free. There were also random acts of craziness, like an impromptu "electric slide" dance session on Bourbon Street. Yes, I'm serious.
At the Marriott, the shower setup was rather tricky. It seems like every shower is designed differently -- what's up with that? Seriously, I think through the years I've seen hundreds of different setups. Anyway, in this shower the water began on all cold. Unfortunately, it didn't automatically start out of the faucet. I received a not-so-nice surprise when I was blasted by a jet of cold water from the shower head. Freezing cold.
On Saturday, we went to Harrah's Casino. It's a New Orleans favorite of mine -- as if public drinking and naked girls weren't enough, there's a frigging casino in walking distance. I found myself down $60 after a streak of bad luck at roulette and the $15 blackjack table. So I stopped and waited.
Most of the low stakes blackjack tables were full. We scouted out a $10 table that was about to open, but then another $10 table opened up. Bob, Nimesh and I sat down and pressed out luck.
After a so-so start, I hit my zone. Kept winning and winning. Brook finally joined in, but he did nothing to stop my hot streak. The $10 chips piled up. Then, suddenly I realized I was ahead and had the urge to stop. I counted up my chips and found that I was then $40 up from the time I'd walked in the door. I quit playing.
Sadly for Bob and Nimesh, luck then turned the dealer's way. They began losing. An old lady joined in and ended up berating Nimesh on one particular bet that she said was a mistake. Bad times for him.
After our gambling fun, we went back to the hotel and then our friend Andy Farnum arrived. He and Nimesh went on a year-long world trip in 2001, putting my traveling history to shame. I hadn't seen Andy (or Nimesh for that matter) since the spring of 1999, when my brother Matt and I visited Brook up at Princeton.
We decided to hunt down the St. Patrick's Day parade, which was going on down near Magazine Street and St. Charles, not too far from the interstate. We rode down and were dropped off in a conspicuously non-parade looking area. In fact, it looked like they were clearing things off from the end of a parade. Not good.
Meanwhile, Andy (who I've learned is a loyal reader of this website) was extremely hungry. But we didn't see any restaurants as we walked down Magazine Street. The closest thing was a Starbucks Coffee.
We had nearly given up when we discovered... a parade route. Perhaps the parade started on Magazine and then wrapped around and back down to another part of the street -- I don't know. All I knew is that we'd found the parade, and that we could collect some beads. That was what we wanted.
Bob turned into a scavenger, finding beads like crazy. And of course he'd disappear for stretches of time (the whole disappearing Bob phenomenon). The floats were all St. Patrick's Day themed (as you might imagine). But strangely, along with the beads, they threw food. There were little moon pies in wrappers (I gave one to Andy, though I'm not sure if he actually ate it). Then they were throwing small bags of baby carrots, one of which hit Bob. I was puzzled.
Then there was the cabbage. This might've been the high point of unintentional comedy of the trip. Apparently it's a big deal to catch a cabbage in this parade -- but I wanted no part of it. I mean, a cabbage? I don't even like cabbage, let alone one thrown to me from a float. But at one point a girl threw one in my direction... only for it to not make it over the barricade. I looked over at it, head cocked, quizzical expression on my face. And the girl started screaming "Cabbage! Cabbage!" I looked up at her, confused, then looked back down at the cabbage lying on the ground. If I didn't want one I caught, do you think I'd want one picked up off of Magazine Street?!? It was only later that I found out how "special" it was to get the cabbage. Though, if I were doing it again, I think I still would've left it there.
The cab ride back was like something out of a circus. The five of us piled into a taxi cab. Brook had smooth sailing in the front, but the four of us were crunched in the back. Poor Bob was halfway sitting on his door. And the cab driver taking a roundabout route didn't help things, either.
Andy finally got his food at Popeye's. Then later we had dinner at the Creole Cuisine restaurant on Bourbon Street. I ate some really good food during my visit.
Saturday night was wild. Bill Simmons of ESPN.com's Page 2 wrote that after two hurricanes a person "turns into Sebastian Janikowski". I think I had four that night. Yeahhhh... I know I took two rolls of film worth of photos. We'll see how those turn out...
Andy had all gold beads for his trip out, which was a great gimmick in getting women's attention. One of the guys recited a quote: "Remember these rules. Rule #1: Girls love money. Rule #2: Girls are very stupid." Hey, that's what was said, I'm just repeating what I heard... This one hot shot girl over at Razzoo's was enamored by Andy's gold beads (and you've gotta think how many beads she's seen over the course of the past two months).
There are so many random moments from the night... Like when Andy threw his one strand of gold beads that had a medallion without realizing that was the one he grabbed. I saw it from about 15' away and ran, trying to stop it. It was like in slow motion: "Nooooooooo!" But I was too late. The medallion bead strand was gone. And at some point we decided to counter all the various SEC school chants (like "Go Cats Go!") with one of our own. For some reason, and don't ask me why, we settled on USF, a school in Tampa. "USF, USF, USF!" Hurricane-inspiration all the way there. Speaking of which, a common phrase from the trip was "Rock you like a hurricane." Okay, this is starting to reach a senior class will level of inside joking -- time to move on.
Brook began pointing out to people how much Bob looks like Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill, complete with the hair. The resemblance is striking. He was holding up a $20 spot and showing people the similarity. At least two people (not including me) took a picture of Bob with the bill as a means of comparison. Funny stuff, for sure.
At one point, Nimesh stole Andy's gold beads. Brook told me he did it "with a gleam in his eye". Hahahaha, Nimmy let Andy carry the beads, then snatched them for his advantage. Well done, well done! Andy also told me that I must see the movie "The Game". So next chance I get, I will.
We ended up on the balcony of the 711 Bourbon Street club, where they had this strange way of clearing everyone off the balcony every 15 minutes (which did help in bringing out new participants). Things became fuzzy for me around this point...
I do know that at one point I ended up going into a women's restroom and using it. About all I remember of that was walking out and a girl passed me coming in, stopped, and said "Hey!" as the absurdity of the situation hit her. But, hey, unlike one of my cohorts, at least I didn't piss in the sink in there.
On Sunday we caught up on adventures from the night before. Andy was not doing so well (the hurricanes got him). We watched basketball and recovered as best we could from the previous evening. We marveled at the two MACs (Mid Atlantic Conference and the Mid-American Conference), the MAAC and the MEAC.
At one point we had a discussion about the impending war with Iraq. I was the lone dissenter in favor of the military action. Finally we decided to agree to disagree, and moved on to other topics, like the stripper from Scarlett's who kept calling and if Texas Tech would make the tournament and what not. Priorities here, people. This is New Orleans, not CNN's Crossfire.
We did have a good time poking fun at Duke, claiming they were part of the Axis of Evil with Iran, Iraq and North Korea. Nimesh (I think it was) asked Brook who he'd cheer for in a game between Duke and an Al-Qaida intramural team. I think that came out to an advantage: push. Almost reminded me of that "Da Bears" SNL skit from back in the day. "Ditka would find a way."
Nimesh lamented the BCS (as most true college football fans do) and suspected that the NCAA would now find a way to screw up the NCAA basketball tournament (with the stupid "pod system", the play-in game, etc. already tainting it). The "tentacles of the BCS" finding its way in, as he put it.
The selection show itself drug out forever. I miss the days when both CBS and ESPN would have head-to-head shows and the info would come out quickly. CBS managed to take 20 minutes to show them all, those bastards...
Sunday night was wild. Probably the wildest Sunday night I've experienced in my life, and that says alot. Bob left early Sunday morning, and Andy took off Sunday evening. So it was Nimesh, Brook and I.
We intended to only have two hurricanes... but Bourbon Street sings a powerful song. The 711 club was the place to be again, and we were spitting game like mad. This one really attractive brunette was a one-woman Girls Gone Wild on the street; she became dubbed "Eyeshadow Girl" thanks to her makeup. But she looked really really good, and showed everything. And many of the girls up at 711 got in on the act as well. Did I mention that I love New Orleans?
But sadly, all good things must come to an end. Nimesh had a ridiculously early flight, so he just stayed up and went directly to the airport when the three of us got in at 3:30 AM. Right before that we stopped at Krystal for some quick food, and the woman at the counter told us that "White Castle sucks" when Brook (I think) mentioned other comparable restaurants. Anyway, Brook and I had similar early afternoon flight times, and we both took the Airport Shuttle to Louis Armstrong airport that morning.
Overall, the trip was well worth my time and effort. Getting to hang with old friends, having fun in the Big Easy, and enjoying some quality basketball. It doesn't get much better than that.
Looking ahead, Las Vegas awaits in August. I've had several people tell me that they really look forward to the commentary from that trip. Something tells me I'm going to love that place, too...
Growing queasy in the Big Easy - Bill Simmons
Black hat of the Bayou - Bill Simmons
New Orleans 2K2 - My column on last year's trip (which I was told by some that I kept "too tame").