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Friday, July 29, 2016



     I just returned from my first trip to New Orleans, and I think that qualifies me to write a visitor's guide, as a public service. After you unpack your bags, get right out and enjoy the sights and sounds of the French Quarter. You can smell Bourbon Street all the way from Decatur. It smells a little like a dead animal that passed away from drowning in a vat of Long Island iced tea. But once you get there, you become part of a party that no one is excluded from. There are no velvet ropes, no VIPs, and every age, color and religion are represented.
     Live music is held in high esteem here, which is refreshing. We stopped into several taverns to listen for a while. There were comely-looking girls roaming around with alcoholic shots served in a test tube. I don't know what experiment was being conducted, but if it was not successful, no one seemed to care. Some people looked as though they may have been drinking all night from an Erlenmeyer flask instead of a test tube.
     At Pat O'Brien's we sampled the legendary "hurricane," which contains four shots of rum. The recipe is a well-guarded secret that tastes suspiciously like Hawaiian Punch. In New Orleans you can take your drink with you and sip it as you walk down the street, which saves bouncers the trouble of throwing you out.
     The buildings in the French Quarter look pretty nondescript from the street, with their shuttered windows and doors. They are Spanish style, not French; the Spaniards were in power when most of the Quarter burned during devastating fires in the 18th century. One door is usually bigger than all the rest, the one the horse carriage went through to deliver people and goods into the pretty courtyards, where the actual front doors of New Orleans are found.
     Take the trolley over to the National World War II Museum. It's a world-class interactive journey back to a time when uncertainty and fear were a nightmare you couldn't wake up from. Here, through a series of kiosks, you can follow the very intimate story of a soldier specifically assigned to you, as he or she navigates their way through the war. You learn from their own un-minced words about their lives and personal details, until finally their families take out a restraining order on you.
     At the Jean Lafitte National Preserve, we toured the swampland in a 15-person hydrofoil. We were able to observe, in their natural habitat, any species of animal that was completely deaf, since this boat raised a cacophony that sounded like a DC-10 taking off from your living room. Alligators don't care, and they will do anything for marshmallows, which our guide lobbed prodigiously off the starboard. I asked him why marshmallows, and he shrugged his shoulders and drawled, "They'll eat anything, marshmallows, humans... marshmallows are cheaper." FYI, alligators can run up to 32 MPH on land in a short sprint, and swim just as fast. I feel certain that I could beat one at tennis, but I doubt you get your choice of athletic events when push comes to shove.
     Like a bayou magician he produced out of nowhere a baby alligator which we passed around like we were in "show and tell," thank god it wasn't still breastfeeding or anything. I held it for a little while, but I didn't know if I should pet it or not. It had lots and lots of teeth, even if they were small- so does a saber-saw.
     If my brother Mike had been there he would have waited for a lull then grabbed me on the leg in the vise-like grip of a mother alligator, and I would have pitched the little beast 20 feet in the air, and we would have all watched in horror waiting for it to come down to see whose hair it would land in. My brother was famous for doing things like that when I was a kid.
     Everybody seemed to be expecting me to be the one to say it, so I finally said, "See you later, alligator!" Passed the smiling critter back to the guide, and we all moved on with our lives.

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