The Midwest Young Adult Guide to Surviving New Orleans

Visiting the other end of the Mississippi

I’m back on the northern side of the Mississippi!   Amazingly, I’m alive somehow.  As luck would have it the adventures of this redhead were nothing along the disappointing avenue, rather they were at times too colorful for me imagine.  Before you all start conjuring up images of me in some drive-up daquiri daze on Bourbon St., let me clarify.  I was not drunk.

And any pictures that do make their way into this blog post were taken post day one, which was so terrifying I didn’t take a single shot.

I’ll back up.  I was in New Orleans last week.  I went to visit my best friend from High School who I haven’t seen in 5 years.  Exciting, right?  Sorry to disappoint again, readers, this post will not be a blast from the past or a list of Top 10 Things To Do With Your Bestie.  I’m going to tell you how to survive on your own for a week in New Orleans living like a kinda local. 

Rule  #1:  Though you’ve planned this vacation months in advance, you’re friend will be working all week long.  So get used to asking for directions.

Rule #2:  Those preemptive extra bottles of contact solution, hand sanitizer, and 2.5 ounces of shampoo will NOT save you from the Louisiana heat wave!  Or from the constant smell of sweat and piss both inside and out.

Rule #3:  When your friend says he’s arranged for transportation, you might want to check the measurements and pack any necessary safety features that aren’t otherwise included.  For example, my friend gave me a bike to ride, but it was too tall, and made for boys, so naturally, I fell…A LOT.  I wished I had a helmet, knee pads, wrist guards, shin guards, and yes, a giant padded diaper around my ass, because I was in immense pain after day 1 and illustrated bruises I didn’t know were possible.

Rule #4:  Learn how the locals eat, and react calmly.  If timing isn’t your host’s forte’, you may want to snack in the kitchen or dig in immediately when the food is done and just be that person, because what my midwest manners did instead was wait until everything was ready and set out on the porch, which then consequently became COVERED in flies, and I don’t know if you’re aware but flies VOMIT every time they land.  It’s true.  I took science.

Rule #5:  It’s not a joke when they say there are sharks in the water.  When your friend tells you we’re all gonna go swimming in Lake Ponchartrain and how it’s a salt water lake that bull sharks go to breed in, don’t laugh, he’s telling the truth, though you won’t learn this until you later jokingly ask a cab driver and he confirms it.

Rule #6:  Don’t mess with the police.  So, if Lake Ponchartrain happens to be closed, and you have to hop a fence, trip through some thicket and steak out a hidden corner of beach to go swimming, it probably means the police will be MAD if they find you there.  Especially if they find you hiding in the thicket.

Rule #7:  Bike rides aren’t for wimps in New Orleans.  Again with the bike, you say?  How bad could it be?  It was BAD, ya’ll!  Several of our gang were falling off their bikes and hitting pavement hard. There were busy streets, scary potholes, and loose gravel.  One member got separated from the group and was run down by a car yelling obscene comments.  She walked home with her bike and a badly cut arm.

Rule #8:  If in the morning you feel like crying and going IMMEDIATELY back to the airport after such a first day in a new city and you’ve slept all night on a pillow that stinks like B.O., just know you’re not alone.  I’m right there with ya.  And I’m here, alive, with no current police record, to tell you that New Orleans was ok. Laissez le bon tou roulez!

The view towards Canal St. between the Mississippi River and Decatur St. in the French Quarter.

Stay tuned for more of my epic adventure!  What have you all been up to?  I missed you guys!

20 responses

  1. That all sounds too scary! Did you have fun though?

    1. I had some fun. hahaha. It was definitely a learning experience.

  2. Wow, you make it sound so charming. Did you at least get a good beignet out of the experience?

    1. Charming is precisely the word I would use, Mark. 😀 I did have 2 rounds of beignets and they were scrumptious. Brought back some chicory coffee!

  3. Well Jess at least you never be able to complain that life is dull 🙂

    We have missed you greatly and are very glad to see you back in one piece. Some people, and I happen to be married to one, need a full time bodyguard. Not against external threat, but against the universe which seems destined to swirl an eternal adventure around their every step and action.

    Sounds like you had a wonderful time. Can’t wait to hear the rest of the adventure.

    1. I did often think, well, I’ll have lots to write about on this trip. I’m wondering if things won’t dull down a bit now. Three adventures: the forest, the circus, the big easy. I should be done for a bit. I’ll just read about adventures for awhile.

  4. That’s terrifying! I’m in. How far am I from New Orleans? *Google Maps it.*

    Sounds like, despite the agony, it was quite an adventure, though! The important part of any trip is to come away with stories! =]

    1. Well, I’ll travel with you anytime. I absolutely think Crescent City would be awesome with a group of people, and probably less terrifying.

  5. I’ve been to New Orleans once, and I had a great time. But I also traveled with the mantra – don’t mess with the police. Why do I feel the LA police & court systems are like Mexico? 🙂 The food in New Orleans is some of the best I’ve had – and a restaurant there (Brennan’s) is the home of the Banana’s Foster, which just happens to be my favorite dessert. I want to go back!

    1. I didn’t really eat any dessert other than the beignets, and my friend made up some fried plantains and blueberries one night and that was scrumptious with homemade honey drizzled over it. Mmmm

  6. Sounds like a hellish time. The B.O. pillow was just too much for me. I am a person who frequently asks “Why?” I am sometimes too imaginative for my own good. Occasionally, the answers I come up with to the questions scare the hell out of me. By the end of this post, the germaphobia alarm in my brain had my head glowing like one of those Glo-worm dolls from the 80s.

    1. It was an experience. Really fun to see my friend, but worlds apart in our hygiene now. LOL. I’ve become a total germaphobe posting signs in the bathroom when the guys have parties that say, “Wash your hands, I don’t want to shake your dick.” You know me, all I can focus on is “penis prints” covering my doors and appliances. Ew!!!!!!

  7. Jess, sounds interesting. Did you buy any souvenirs?

    1. I absolutely picked up some of the coffee with chicory in it! And got a mug from Cafe’ du Monde to drink it in and remember sitting in the cafe’ listening to sidewalk jazz, writing post cards to my family. I bought a t-shirt for my boyfriend and some cds of new orleans jazz and zydeco music. They turned out to be awesome and we’ve been playing them at the house. And for me, I bought a book by Zora Neale Hurston called Tell My Horse, which is about her experiences in Haiti and Jamaica learning about voodoo. It’s my unending pile of “to read” books, but you’ll see a review on hear eventually!

  8. This line gave me a giggle, Jess: “was run down by a car yelling obscene comments”…They must have some pretty sophisticated cars down there!

    Sorry about the bike…I’ve felt your pain for the same reason: riding a boy’s bike that was too big for me (that, and the fact that I’m also one of the most uncoordinated people alive!).

    Jim’s cousin has lived in New Orleans for several years. Jim went to visit Nick once, and lost him while they were walking around downtown during Mardi Gras! PANIC! They eventually found each other, thank goodness!

    Welcome home!


    1. Oddly enough, I’d like to start biking again this summer to get better at it, but I will be using a bike that is my size! I’m not sure this will prevent me from additional falls though, there’s still that “user error” issue to deal with.

  9. Sara Grambusch | Reply

    Aw, sounds like stuff adventures are made of. I might be getting out that way soon, so good to read!

    1. It was really a cool city. Just the first night freaked me out. You can see my posts on the St. Louis and Lafayette Cemeteries and the swamp are all from New Orleans. Very cool history there.

  10. Valerie Johnson | Reply

    Yeah — but — did you get to eat beignets? That might make it all worth it. We arrived on the 16th after having to spend the night in the Atlanta airport because all the flights got canceled due to thunderstorms. So no BO pillow . . . no pillow at all 🙂 . . . just some sad little Delta blanket and a mini-mini toiletry kit. If you want to know the TSA announcements, I can recite them all from memory. Seriously, that was all worth it — I agree New Orleans is just plain cool — even if the drivers are rude to bike riders and the city is a bit aromatic at times. – Valerie Johnson

    1. I did eat beignets! They were wonderful, as was the sidewalk jazz playing next to me!

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