breast fetishishists' Hajj
Thursday, February 19 2004
setting: Upper West Side, New York, New York
Just because we were in Manhattan and it was close by, Gretchen and I went with Mary Purdy to a Burritoville late this morning and ordered burritos to go. The place wasn't open yet, but when they saw how desperate we were, they happily let us in and fixed us burritos. Despite the fact that they were covered with X-ray-stopping aluminum foil, we got them through airport security without difficulty. We could have smuggled guns that way.
It was the first time I'd ever flown out of La Guardia Airport. It was also the first time I ever landed at Washington's National Airport (we were mercifully and unexpectedly spared mention of its official name). Promisingly, temperatures at this stopover were in the fifties. (Flights between New York and New Orleans are rarely direct.)
As usual, Gretchen had done all the logistics for this trip, and for this reason everything about it presented itself like a movie whose plot I didn't know. After we landed in New Orleans, we rented a smart little 2004 Dodge Neon and headed off towards New Orleans, getting briefly lost in a delightfully swampy stretch of US 90. Then we drove to our first temporary residence, the H.H. Whitney House on Escalade, just outside the French Quarter.
We didn't wait too long before setting off for the French Quarter on foot. Initially we kept on the fringe of things, but gradually we circled in on some of the Mardi-Gras-related craziness happening in the streets. I'd been in the French Quarter before, back before I had much to compare it to. Now, though, I can say it looks a lot like Old Town in Montreal, but the French Quarter of New Orleans comes with palm trees and is only 60% as old. Some parts of the French Quarter bear witness to the period of Spanish rule and look a lot like the Los Angeles community of Venice.
We ended up down on Decatur (near the Mississippi). I looked up at one point and saw we were walking past Tujagues, the oldest restaurant in New Orleans. I pointed up to the sign and told Gretchen about the things that had happened up there four years ago.
Soon thereafter Gretchen showed me a place across Decatur that she knew about from a previous visit to New Orleans, Café du Monde. It's a big, mostly outdoor café that sells nothing much except for beignets (French donuts) and oles (milky coffee). The beignets are brought to the table with a liberal dusting of powdered sugar, and it is impossible to eat a beignet without getting the sugar all over yourself and everything else. (I'm afraid to know what they do to keep the ants away.) Beignets are more delicious than I can possibly describe, other than to say that they bring a whole new dictionary definition to the word delicious. It has something about the harmony of the carbohydrates and the pig fat (or whatever it is they're deep fried in). As with Chinese restaurants, in the South it's best not to know.
Later we had a mediocre dinner at The Crescent City Brewhouse, mostly because there were no vegetarian options listed on the menu. I mean, they didn't even really have a salad. But Gretchen was eager for me to enjoy New Orleans cuisine even if it meant negotiating for a makeshift vegetarian entree. She ended up with a mostly inedible plate of pasta for which she was charged a most unreasonable $20 - the same price it would have been had if it had come with the shrimp of the reference dish. As for my food, I don't really remember it being that great. The beers were good though. But then again, it was my first beer since early February.
Eventually we wandered up to Bourbon Street, parts of which were teeming with young adults engaging in a spectacle of public alcohol consumption. Many of them had the baseball caps and incurious looks of people who had come here simply because it's legal to drink in the streets. That and the tits. I didn't see any, but I saw lots of teeshirts that made references to them and urged their owners to expose them. I began to wonder if New Orleans Mardi Gras was something of a breast fetishishists' Hajj. Nobody seemed particularly interested in asses or legs, though there was one gentleman who, after passing Gretchen, turned around to exclaim "Damn!" At the time she was wearing a short skirt, something not often seen on rowdy Mardi Gras streets.
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