Let’s talk New Orleans!
When I flew back from Louisiana’s little French/Creole/Spanish swampy party kooky culture-fest last night I felt like I was heading back to Maryland from a completely different country.
New Orleans, whilst it might be described as the ‘adult Disneyland’ (especially by those who work there), and whilst one is encouraged to ‘make bad decisions’ (like drinking Hurricanes all day, and boy those things are VILE!), and although you can spend your time, if you wish, just looking at boobs (strip clubs in abundance), getting your boobs out in the street (if the cops don’t catch you!), getting beads for doing so (if it floats your boat!), throwing down beads from the balconies (and being a little bit leery about it), or just having booze and more booze (there were plenty of those!!), there is more to it than that.
But before we go into all that other bit, it is time to get this topic out-of-the-way. Here it is….
Beads, Boobs and Booze
I honestly did not know that you’re supposed to flash your boobs to get some beads in New Orleans. I felt kind of a fool not knowing. How did I not know this?!! And, FYI, I got some beads….
This is a video about the bead thingymabob.
However, a lovely Southern Gent called Dwayne told me that this was not tradition and not in tune with Mardi Gras.
‘As a fifth-generation New Orleanian, let me say this was never and is still not a tradition. Saying it is “tradition” is like saying that people who get drunk and pass out on Bourbon Street are following tradition as well.
Thankfully, this does not occur everywhere in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, but just in the Bourbon Street area of the French Quarter. That’s also an area known for its strip joints, where those interested in this sort of thing can see it year-round.’
Yes, it is sleazy, of course it is. BUT the party in Bourbon Street was fun, hysterical, the atmosphere was banging. And whilst you are there day is night and night is night….
As Dwayne said, there are a few strip clubs in the area. For those of you who are interested, this is an amusing review of those dens of iniquity!
And with that bit of the NOLA visit complete, and entirely necessary, of course, let’s talk about….
New Orleans crime rate
‘In 2011 there were 16,761 crimes in New Orleans including 200 murders, 163 forcible rapes and 14,013 property crimes. With a murder rate of 57.6 per 100,000, New Orleans had the highest murder rate of any U.S. city with a population of 100,000 or more in 2011 and ranked 21st in the world.’ (Wikipedia).
However, people in New Orleans are celebrating because this year the city dropped in the rankings and is now only second to Detroit. Honestly, this is a big deal. Plenty of folks told us this statistic.
I was well aware of the sirens in and around the city, but I was also very well aware of a large police presence, on their horses in Bourbon Street, and on foot in and around other areas.
I have to say it. I felt safe. Sure, I didn’t venture on foot out into areas that were not in Frenchman Street, the French Quarter and other more ‘touristy’ areas (I didn’t get any direct warnings, but others have been told where to avoid), but I did drive out and see some of the other neighbourhoods. Yep, those places are poor. I don’t really know what else to say about these areas, because I haven’t fully digested the landscape and scenery that I saw there, but some of the pictures will give you an idea.
However, credit for the supposed drop in homicides is in part due to the ‘NOLA for Life’ anti–gang violence initiative, a program where cops make contact with gang members citywide and offer them the carrot of job-training programs, midnight basketball games, and the like, while also threatening them with prosecution should any of their cohorts act violent. The program has reportedly helped indict almost 80 members of various street gangs on racketeering charges.
Prior to going to New Orleans, I’d been doing some research on the city and its gun violence. This report from website Vice got me….
‘This year I joined the ranks of New Orleanians who have seen a dead body in the street. It was in February, outside a car parts store in the section of town that real estate agents these days pass off as “New Marigny”, a bloody man lay shot dead beneath the SUV he’d been trying to fix. Weeks later, a thug robbed the dollar store at the end of our supposedly gentrified street (which also features a sweets shop and a wine bar with live jazz), shot the police officer who showed up on the scene, then fled. For the next three days, helicopters hung low over our corner of Bywater. My friends posted photos on Facebook of SWAT teams trampling through their backyards in the early-morning dew. These days the show The First 48 is camped out here, documenting New Orleans’s authentic and still horrifically robust murder culture.’
Someone will surely be the first to say on a blog comment to this piece ‘all areas have their bad places and crime and violence, and so do Manchester and London and Glasgow etc’. This is not a comparison piece, it’s simply a commentary piece about the city that I fell in love with over the weekend, and how it has sometimes been defined by its dark side which I, fortunately, did not catch a glimpse of, but that I am well aware exists.
So, that’s the two ‘difficult’ topics out the way. Sex and crime, hey?!
Next up…the food, the music and the eclectic culture!