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A Shiny Night in the Big Easy


We flew into New Orleans late on a Saturday afternoon in April, where we were meeting our good friends Toni and Tammy-two sisters from Jacksonville, Florida and their good friend (now ours too), Julie.

Toni and Tammy are two of the most generous people you’d ever meet. They both have a zest for life and like all of my friends, love a good time.

The three of them arrived a day before us so they had ample time to shop and drink before our arrival. I gave them one assignment “to have a cocktail waiting for us” and they accomplished this with flying colors.

 Our welcome present

I refer to this particular group of friends (myself and Anthony included) as the “Queens of Shiny Things”; meaning whenever we’re together, we become easily distracted. It doesn’t matter what it is; a pretty ring, a happy puppy or something as simple as a dandelion, if one of us sees something that intrigues us, we follow it like Dorothy and her entourage on the yellow brick road. We also become very focused in our conversations and once we get deep into a topic, we don’t hear or see anything going on around us.

After a delicious meal of traditional New Orleans fare, we decided it would be fun to walk around the French Quarter until we found just the right place for music.

That weekend happened to be The French Quarter Music Festival, so there were even more live performers than usual in this city known for it’s music and food.

As we started our journey, we came across an amazingly talented street violinist, who played the electric violin. We stood around with a small group of fans listening to her until we decided to find something else shiny.


Street Performers and Tammy

Making our way along the French Quarter, with Toni and I in the lead, someone in the back must have seen something exciting and decided to follow it, splitting our group in two. Toni and I were chatting about how hair color dictates fashion when we realized we were separated from the rest of our group. “Where did they go?”, I asked, knowing full well Toni didn’t know any more than I did. “I don’t know, but I have to pee”, Toni said with a little dance. And I did too, so we found the closest and least of the undesirable bars to stop into.

This is where we met Bob.

Bob was a shirtless and very colorful homeless person adorned with many necklaces, peace sign earrings, and dark sunglasses. He had gray shoulder length hair tied into pig tales with weaved flowers across the top of his head (think Frida Kahlo meets a skinny, drugged induced Santa Claus). And Bob was as eccentric inside as he was outside. His tales were interesting and sincere, and he exuded wit and charm.  And he took a liking to us, especially Toni.

Along with being one of the most gracious and genuine people on earth, Toni is truly interested in people’s stories and what brings them to where they are in life. But along with her genuineness comes a slight bit of naivety, and what she didn’t realize was that for Bob, this was love at first sight.

“Now tell me your story of Katrina”, Toni asked of her new friend. Toni loved to hear locals retell their stories of surviving the most devastating hurricane in U.S history. After hearing Bob’s long first chapter about how the storm rolled in, Toni wanted more, so she went on by asking “how did you survive the storm living in that box”. Bob was thrilled someone had taken an interest in him and although he seemed harmless, I could tell by the look in his eyes that he was becoming more and more infatuated with his love interest.  “Oh Bob, it must have been terrible having nothing but cardboard between you and the water”, she continued. Bob was in heaven as he kept telling his heroic tales of riding out the storm in a U-haul container. Not to stereotype, but I’ve found one of the problems with striking a conversation with Homeless Bob’s is that they don’t know when to stop. To them, the line between standard social homeless etiquette and wanting a lifelong commitment is blurred. This was proven when after about ten minutes of chitchat; Bob invited us over to his box for a nightcap. I had to think fast because Toni was clueless that she was only moments away from a marriage proposal.

 I knew I couldn’t do it alone, so I decided to step aside and call Anthony. “Where are you?” I whispered through clenched teeth. “Oh, we’re in a store” he said, “they have the cutest coasters, I think we should get them for the island”. “I don’t care about your stupid coasters”, I snapped, “get your ass here now, we met a homeless man named Bob who has fallen in love with Toni. She won’t stop asking him questions about Katrina, he thinks they’re dating, I think he plans to make her Mrs. Bob and bare his children and I can only hope they have her genes. I need you guys to get here fast before I end up a bridesmaid at a toothless wedding, HURRY!”

After giving him the name of the bar, Anthony assured me he was on his way, but said I should try to get Toni away from Bob as soon as possible. After I hung up, I returned to the happy couple. “So, Bob, Toni and I are going to head off now to find some good music, it was nice meeting you”.  “Oh, I know just the place”, Bob said, “follow me”. “Thanks, but our friends are on their way and I think they have other plans”, I said as I tried to end their affair. “But, Jeff, if Bob knows of a great place, we should go there”, Toni interjected. “Yes, but I think Tammy already has a plan”, I gently disagreed. “No she doesn’t, she was hoping we’d meet someone that would tell us where to go, remember”.  My exit strategy obviously was not going to work, so I had to get Toni away from Bob so I could let her know what Bob’s intentions were. “Can I see you for a second?” I said in my high-pitched voice as I pulled her aside.

“He has a huge crush on you”, I began “so unless you have a thing for unstable men that call a parking lot home, I suggest we get away from him”. “Oh no, he doesn’t, he’s just a lovely man”, Toni said. “Really, then why is he picking flowers from his hair and making you a bouquet?” Toni looked over at Bob, who, as he was carefully putting flowers together, caught her eye and blew a kiss in her direction. “Oh-no, Oh my, what are we going to do?” Toni asked in a panic. “Just do what I do and follow my lead”, even though I had no clue what that was going to be.  

“See you Bob, take care”, I said as I began pulling Toni toward the door. “Wait, I made something for you”, said the desperate stalker as he came toward us with his floral arrangement in hand. “Look, isn’t it pretty”. We were almost out the door when the shiny thing struck again. “Oh, yes, those are beautiful, where do you get your flowers”? “TONI”, I demanded, “focus, don’t ask him anymore questions, we are trying to get away, remember?” “Oh yeah, I almost forgot, let’s go”.

We almost made it too; but Anthony, Tammy and Julie arrived just as we were making our getaway. “Hi guys, where’d you go”, Julie asked, followed by “who’s your friend?” SERIOUSLY???

Toni and Bob

I decided to give up on my mission to save Toni from her “husband in waiting” and went with the flow. We ended up being escorted by Bob to the bar where his favorite band was playing. “They’re really good”, Bob said as we stood outside the door, “but we’ll have to listen to them from here because I’m not allowed in”. Sensing there was a story there, I grabbed Toni by the hand before she had the chance to ask him about it and pulled her inside while bidding farewell, “oh, that’s too bad Bob, but we really need a drink, I gotta pee again and it’s supposed to rain.

Lessoned Learned: When in New Orleans, always have an exit strategy.

One thing I can say about Bob is that he did have good taste in music. Although it wasn’t typical New Orleans Jazz or Cajun, but something called Zydeco (think bluegrass with a combination of country and Hillbilly), I really liked it.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve found in every group, no matter the size, there is an adult; meaning the person who makes sure everything is under control and that no one wakes up in the morning in a stranger’s bed. In our case, it was always Tammy. Tammy has an incredible amount of common sense and knows when it’s time to leave the party. She’s the first one to buy a round of drinks, but also the first one to make sure we stay hydrated.

The bar was packed, but we got lucky; a group of people had just left and we found ourselves sitting in the front row. I love watching people dance, so it was a perfect seat.

Julie, Toni, Anthony, me and Tammy

Anthony is a great dancer, so when Julie dragged him on the dance floor, it was no surprise that he jumped at the chance. Next up was Tammy. This surprised me; Tammy was the adult and was supposed to watch over us as we stumbled around, not be one of the stumblee’s. Toni and I watched in horror as our designated adult grabbed a washboard vest from one of the performers, strap it on and begin playing it on stage. “Oh my God, we have to go”, I said to Toni, “Tammy is out of control, who’s going to watch us?” It was then that I realized something disturbing; I was the evening’s adult and it was frightening. I’m usually the one kissing strangers at the bar or the first one naked at a pool party; this was simply not a role I was familiar with. So I did what any other adult would do, I got another drink.

Upon my return, I found myself being pulled onto the dance floor. No one ever believes me when I say I can’t dance. But I really can’t. I can tap my fingers in rhythm, but the minute I add feet, I look like a drunken windmill on Ecstasy. It just isn’t pretty. “Oh, no, I can’t dance”, I said to the stranger. This was answered with a loud screeching “Woot-Woot”. And tonight’s attempt was no different. It didn’t take long, however for my mullet headed dance partner to realize I made Elaine from Seinfeld look like a pro before she walked away. This type of dance floor abandonment used to humiliate me, but now I find humor in watching the look on my partner’s face as they begin to realize what they’ve got themselves into. It’s funny to watch the terror in their eyes as they move one way and I mimic them until our heads collide or when I twirl them around and end up twirling myself in circles until I fall down. And it always ends with me saying the same old thing “See, I told you I can’t dance”.

The beauty of my lack of rhythm is that once I’ve proven to the entire bar that I’m a hazard on the dance floor, I’m usually not asked again.

After I made my way to the sideline, I watched for a while as everyone took turns wearing and playing the washboard vest. “Come on Jeff, it’s your turn to wear it”, said Anthony, knowing I wouldn’t. “No thank you”, I said, “you’re wearing it just fine”. It may have been jealousy because I didn’t know the first thing about playing a vest, but it just seems wrong to be wearing an old fashioned washing machine/musical instrument that’s cleverly disguised as the newest trend in fashion.

After a couple more cocktails, I decided if I was going to be the “adult of the evening”, I had the right to announce that it was time to go. So, I did, and they followed. “Wow, that was easy”.

“Where to next?”  Toni, Tammy, Julie or Anthony asked as we made our way down the street. I just continued walking, knowing they couldn’t possible be asking me this question. “Do we know where we’re going yet?” one of my entourage inquired after a few more blocks of walking aimlessly. I am not good at planning and I was quickly realizing that the adult of the evening was not only is in charge of getting everyone home safe, they are also responsible for determining the agenda. This was definitely out of my comfort zone; I’m a follower.

Not knowing the city at all, I wasn’t sure what to do, but my followers were in desperate need of direction. So, I had to be brave. I channeled Jim Jones, took a deep breath and blurted out “let’s go to Bourbon Street”.

My posse was now happy, we had a plan and their fearless leader was going to take care of them.

Not having a clue where Bourbon Street was, I hailed the first cab I saw and demanded he take us there. “Dude, I’d be happy to take you there, but it’s right behind you” said the slightly sarcastic cabbie as he pointed to a street sign above my head with the word Bourbon on it. “Oh, well, then thanks”.

“Now, lets all stay together”, I dictated as we made the turn onto a very loud, seedy and somewhat sticky road with thousands of our closest friends. And in under a minute, I was alone, my people were M.I.A. and I was being stalked by a large creepy kitty cat.

Beware of the Kitty Cat

I started to walk back from the way we came and found Toni walking by herself. “Where is everyone”, I asked her in which she replied, “I don’t know, they were here a minute ago”. I told her to stay put while I go look for the others. The first one I found was Anthony and he seemed oblivious that he was alone “where did everyone go?” I asked and his reply was exactly the same as Toni’s “I don’t’ know, they were here a minute ago”.

“I took him by the hand and led him to where Toni was, only now, she was gone. “Doesn’t anyone do what they’re asked?!" This was seriously like one of those dreams where you’re running and running but you aren’t’ getting anywhere.

“O.K, you stay put and if you see Toni, make her stay with you, O.K?” Anthony agreed. So, again I made my way down the street searching for my easily distracted friends. This time I didn’t see them, but Toni found me. “Where did you go?” she asked. “Where did I go? Where did you go?” I yelled. Realizing none of this mattered; I grabbed her by the hand and led her to Anthony. “Now, we need to stay together or we’ll never get out of here, just stay with me”.  I assumed that by now, Julie and Tammy must have passed us up, so we moved forward along the Mardi Gras route. “There they are” I heard Toni say as she broke away from us, disappearing into the crowd. Anthony and I walked in the direction where we last saw Toni, but she was gone. “Oh my God, how does this keep happening?”

 We had no choice but to keep moving, the crowd was getting larger and larger and everyone kept moving forward. It was like we were a part of a flock of birds flying south, there was no way out.

We finally made it to an intersection and we stepped aside to get our bearings and I lost it, “I just can’t be Dad anymore, I suck at it. So far, with me in charge, Toni nearly married Mr. Cardboard, Tammy bought a washboard vest on Amazon and I’m sober. I’m just not good at it, I'm supposed to be the lost drunk talking to strangers!”

And with that, Anthony assumed the "Dad" role and within a matter of seconds, he found our wandering friends. “Look, there they are, see Jeff, everything is just fine, I don’t know why you got so upset”. I wanted to kill them all! It seems my three amigos found entertainment in watching a man do funny tricks with a folding ladder in the middle of the street, “Isn’t he great?” asked Tammy, followed by Julie asking “don’t you just love him?” I couldn’t believe it, all this time and effort we spent looking for them and they didn’t even realize they were missing; they thought we were with them the entire time.

After reuniting, we decided it was time to head back to the hotel for a nightcap before something else captured our attention. We found a taxi large enough to fit all of us and we instructed the driver to take us back no matter what we say (or see).

Other images from the rest of the weekend.


Rumored to be the largest wine cellar in the south

Street Band in the Big Easy


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