Yeah baby! My French may need a little brushing up on, but my memories of Sugar Bowls past dance like a mudbug on a hot skillet.
As official adjunct member of the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce, I've been sent to rehash some of my previous visitations, probations, and libations in the heart of the city that never dries up.
I've been to several Sugar Bowls (all victories), and I can honestly say, I've never missed a kickoff because I couldn't post bail. I was at the 1989 victory over Auburn (The one where Deion actually went through a man without touching him). I was at the 1998 thumping of the team that beats us every year they don't play us (according to their fans). And, of course, I was at the 2000 National Championship game where I sat in the midst of the Virginia Tech fans and lost three teeth through osmosis.
Listen close, because what I'm about to tell you is for your own good. I tell you this only for your benefit (Okay, it was part of my plea agreement in 2000).
It is my goal to make your stay in the Big Sleezy as fun and citation-free as possible. Let me start with some of the "do's" while visiting New Orleans:
First and foremost, make certain you sample some of the local chow. If you're smart enough to go to bed early, or you're just stumbling in as the sun rises, try to grab a cup ‘o Joe and a dozen beignets at Cafe du Monde. It's a tourist trap, but the beignets are so covered with sugary powder, you'll walk out the door looking like the Pillsbury Dough Boy farted in your face. Coffee ain't bad either, even if it is Folgers.
Somewhere, in New Orleans, you HAVE to eat mudbugs. Call ‘em crawfish, crayfish, tiny lobsters, or whatever, but try them. You can find plenty of "joints' outside the quarter. I won't give you a specific recommendation, but look for a place where there aren't a thousand light bulbs in the sign out front. If they have to get your attention to get you in the door, the food ain't that great. And don't just eat the tails. You haven't lived until you've had someone ask you to wipe Crawfish brains off your chin.
At the corner of Canal and "C" street (I think), is the spanking new Harrah's Casino. Although going to a casino THAT close to the French Quarter is kind of like going to a strip club because you like to drink beer. The best thing about the place (If you ask me) is its location. If you're staying outside the ‘Quarter, Harrah's is about half way between all the bars and the main collection of hotels. This means it falls in the maximum bladder potential zone, if you know what I mean.
Here's one for you... GET A ROOM prior to arriving. "Someone" we all know and love didn't bother for the 2000 iteration and ended up lugging his suitcase around the French Quarter until all hours of the night. Today, that "someone" would probably be accused of being the Beignet Bomber Martyr and arrested on sight. One good thing about having your suitcase near by is your ability to "freshen up" at a moments notice. After ruining a pair of shoes and a pair of pants in the grog flowing through the streets, "someone" was able to do his Superman imitation in a cramped stall in Fritzel's. Not to mention the hygienic brushing of his chops in the Burger King on Canal Street.
That brings us to the biggest "must do" of all: Slosh through the gutter of Bourbon Street on New Year's Eve. Of course, that "Must Do" leads me to a long list of "Don'ts" that you must abide by (Trust me on this one) or risk having to scalp your tickets to a five-dollar an hour Guard, just outside your cell.
When imbibing Hurricanes in the Pat O' Brien's courtyard; Do NOT jump into one of their fountains. They don't like that and will escort you (with your feet barely casting a shadow on the ground) from said courtyard and into the street, all the whilst insisting you know "How much that fountain costs!" It is NOT a good idea to tell them how bad they got screwed on the deal lest your landing in the street be one point, opposed to four.
The next "don't" on our list is actually an extension of the previous. Once you are removed from the premises, do NOT go back to your hotel, change clothes, and sneak back into said establishment. Given your "altered state," you are just as likely to, once again, attract the nice bouncers' attention. Your next landing on the street is usually much softer, as it is in the hands of one of New Orleans' finest. At this point, your only hope is the "That wasn't me" defense, and a lot of prayer.
The best advice I can give you is; Know your limitations. The unfortunate thing about this advice is, given the "sneaky" nature of a Hurricane or Hand Grenade, you will likely be well beyond your limit before you know you're there. Singing "You Don't Have to Call Me Darlin'... Darlin" at the Tropical Isle at 4:30 in the morning is usually a spiffy sign. Watch for it. Learn From it.
Do NOT try to break up the myriad fights you may encounter. A friend of mine, trying to impress the young minx he was harassing, attempted to play Miles Lane, only to become a participant (Hope he wasn't planning on support from moi). This led to another New Orleans commandment, once my friend was pulled from the heap (by someone else who didn't listen to me).
The original antagonist inexplicably took a swing at the police officer as he approached the scene. Take special note, of the following, if you listen to nothing else I say. Do NOT, for ANY REASON, take a swipe at policemen who, for the most part show great restraint, given the environment. It provides the opportunity to release some infinite reservoir of steam. To put it mildly, they beat this guy like a barrowed Pinata. All the while, my friend, who'd stupidly jumped in where he had no business, screamed "SHOOT HIM!" The whooping administered by these "gentlemen" would make Rodney King blush.
Do NOT fish around in the hotel lobby fountain (What is it with me and fountains?) at 5:00 AM for thirty-five cents to call your buddy back home. It seems they don't like that either, even after you explain that you threw seventy-five cents in earlier and just needed change from the wish-fairy.
Despite its reputation, I found New Orleans to be quite Puritanical in its approach to tourists. Be on the watch out.
There you have it. A survivor's guide to having fun in New Orleans. Follow them and enjoy, or don't and I'll make you a "reasonable" offer on your tickets.