A Night in New Orleans
It’s strange to visit a city that I’ve been to the Disneyland and Las Vegas replicas of. When you see it in real life there’s an echo of those bright, fake places that ghosts around. The streets are both familiar and unfamiliar, their names like vague memories; Bourbon, Frenchmen, Canal.
After arriving, we took a long walk through the French Quarter, to the central business district and then to the warehouse district, passing through packed streets, then empty streets, rain threatening overhead but never falling, the air heavy and sticky. We passed hipster coffee shops and jazzy bars, kitchsy art and souvenir t-shirts, multi-colored houses, hanging gardens on second-story wrought-iron balconies. We were treated to blasts of air conditioning as we passed the open doors of shops and music began trickling out of bars as bands began to play.
For dinner we visited Seed, which serves plant-based versions of New Orleans classics, using mostly local and organic ingredients. We enjoyed a sultry vegan gumbo with a dash of Lousiana Crystal hot sauce, vegan “Po’ boys”—a sandwich of soft french bread smeared with mayo, slender slices of tomato and a leaf of lettuce under a pile of battered and fried tofu, followed by a vegan version of the New Orleans classic, beignets, a freshly made hot fritter dusted in a heavy layer of powdered sugar.
As it got dark, the day cooled and the city began to light up with neon night promises, women calling from doorways on Bourbon Street, the Quarter teeming with tourists and street performers, street kids, locals with their pit bulls, sundresses floating by, everyone in their sweaty New Orleans best, out to catch a piece of the magic and a good story to take home.
The “hipsters” here seemed a little more grunge and less nerd than their Austin counterparts, more circus ragamuffin than quirky vintage. Although we still saw hand-silkscreened t-shirts with leaves of kale printed on them for sale in the marketplace on Frenchmen Street—kale is cool everywhere.
We listened to a few bands, sitting in cramped bars, their old wood creaking.
We woke to the sticky heat of New Orleans in the morning, the houses shut up and sleeping, their bright shutters blinking in the bright sun, multicolored bikes chained to their fences, streets stained and sidewalks crumbling as trees and roots pushed through.
We went to Seed again for lunch, then we headed toward Mississippi, our bellies full of hot beignets dusted with a snowfall of powdered sugar that sifted over our plates, table, noses, fingers, lips, a bit like of the magic of the city, crumbling all over everything.