Corner of Bourbon and Toulouse, Nawlins.

I guess every newbie to Gumbo City that checks into a hotel in the French Quarter stumbles out the door and down Bourbon Street, looking for whatever freak show and flesh for sale photo opportunity is in your face: I did.

This interesting highly decorated man buttonholed me with what I took to be complaint about “that guy down in that door, you see him, the guy with black jacket?” and how he had suggested to my much facially pierced new friend that could he please perform an indecent act on him? I listened as politely as I could and wished him well.

It was deadly humid and the street kinda stank of something, like expired desire and cigarette butts, stale beer and weird longings to be transported to hell maybe, just for a look over the edge. Plenty of neon invitations to go there, under the cover of Love.

I took a few of these pictures, along with everybody else and watched the street artists leaping, dancing and hawking for trade. It had to be like this, you felt, a kind of human zoo that remembered a lost carnival somewhere, took you out of middle class America into a vanished voodoo world of old Louisiana back whenever – and probably never.

It was colourful, engaging and exhausting – but you know, it’s a privilege to be here and eat some some of that Jamabalya in The Gumbo House. All those old songs and images: coming in over the swamps with their hidden hordes of alligators, it was Waterworld below. Where could you stand? The earth was liquid and shiny with the veins of the delta reflecting the sun.

Passing the famous Superdome on the way to this hotel, memories of the way the media presented the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina rose up in me – did such human tragedies ever really happen, inside such a bright and shiny postmodern mega-structure plastered with the images of its sponsor Mercedes Benz and their luxury cars?

Hopefully I can get to meet Pastor Mel of the Bethel Colony South homeless shelter and ask him just what it was like. I know he knows, and I know he picks up and cares for the people that Bourbon Street chews up – and spits out.

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About paparoa

Writer and researcher.
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