Steve Meador is the author of Throwing Percy from the Cherry Tree, a poetry book that was an entrant for a National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. He is widely published in online and print journals. He has been a real estate broker since the early 1980s and currently lives and practices in the Tampa, FL, area.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

I recently visited New Orleans for the first time. It was a Saturday night and the crowd was thick, bumping, zigzagging and raucous. I guess I am not sure what I was expecting to find on Bourbon Street, at a time other than Mardi Gras.  Perhaps a cozy, homey strip of businesses where one could take the family to buy trinkets, bobbles and sno cones, then enjoy a quiet supper. Maybe that is how it was at one time, but I found just the opposite. Hopefully, folks from that area will not be too offended as I offer my observations.
I am not worldly, more of a small-town-country-boy-turned-metro-man savvy, which means I have seen, and partaken in, my fair share of odd and peculiar events. And it takes a fair amount of the odd and peculiar to shock me. I found there, in The Big Easy, the seedy, the greedy and the needy. I inhaled and smelled the musk of depravity, piling garbage, spilled beer and food deep-fried in stalest grease. I saw breasts, boobies, hooters, tits of all perkiness and droopiness, taut and wrinkled, golden tan and sunless pale. I witnessed homelessness, drunkenness, senselessness and numerous other words ending with  –ness that describe what I think is wrong with our country today. I found truth in the saying, “Stay on the main drag.” I found young teenagers roving in areas, and at hours, they should not have been roving.

I found a permanent carnival, complete with sideshows, hucksters, hookers and people who want to sell you something they shouldn’t, or buy something from you they shouldn’t. I suppose I am no different than most people. As I age I do lots more shaking my head in disgust, as I develop a growing intolerance of some things. On the other hand, I have become more tolerant of some things. We kind of balance the scales that way. I was not shocked by any of it; I could write on and on about all the negatives, but I won’t.

New Orleans is certainly a city under repair, everywhere. Nearly six years after Katrina there remains ample evidence of the destruction, in both the commercial and residential areas. I followed the news during and after the storm, and, to be honest, I was one of those individuals who thought the whole city should be abandoned, leveled, never rebuilt. Why subject the residents, the taxpayers, those of us who pay homeowner’s insurance (our rates reflect the overall liability) to the likelihood that another calamity would cause billions more in destruction? I was wrong in that knee-jerk reaction, and that is clearly apparent after my visit. (Not like that was even a remote possibility.) Once I scratched beneath the obvious I was impressed and amazed. The crowd was mostly young people; maybe the average age was 25 years old. Most, at least those I talked to, were local people. There were a few foreigners. I detected what I thought was German, French, possibly Russian and some New Yorkers. (One of those snapped at me, as I stood near one corner, “Look at you! What are you going to do, photograph the breasts?” She scurried in disgust when I asked her to flop her hooters out!) People were there to eat, drink and enjoy time with friends. They were stimulating the economy, themselves and others. They were listening to talented street performers and bands on the stages at numerous bars. I don’t believe I heard a bad note waft from the whole singing lot.

There was no evidence of  concern or worry about hard times, high unemployment, skyrocketing prices for food, wars, or any of the other ills encasing America. The farther I traveled down Bourbon Street, the more I came to appreciate who we are as a country. I came to realize that however long it takes, whatever the costs, New Orleans is a place that is unique, and it needs to always be there. It needs to be there for Friday and Saturday nights. It needs to be there for the rest of the days of the week. It needs to be there because it needs to be rebuilt so that we can thumb our noses at the world, in American fashion, and say, “Not only can we rebuild you, but we can continue to rebuild ourself, and have a good time while doing so.”  But most of all, it needs to be there so that Americans like me can visit and say, “Holy shit, what a terrible place this is. But, I love it!”

So, leave a candle in the window 


and a drink on the table.

 I'll be back.


  1. You capture my sentiments exactly. It is disgusting, it is another country, it is ugly but it is also beautiful. It is music and it's here to stay. Great job!

  2. Thanks for the POV. I guess I also thought it was only like that once a year.

  3. Steve: In 1983 I moved to NOLA and lived in a ground-floor apartment on Dante Street, in an area known as "Uptown." It's near the Camelia Grill and Cooter Brown's. The Maple Leaf Bar, home of traditional and indigenous Louisiana music is on Oak Street, west of Carolton. Audobon Park and Tulane are within walking distance. There are neighborhood bars and restaurants, big oak trees and magnolias. It's a lot different than Bourbon Street. In 83, the city was coming down off an oil boom high. There was a lot of money around and early career boomers would snooze awhile after work and head out to the night life - mostly not on Bourbon Street.

    There were always things in the French Quarter that, if you saw them anywhere else, you'd call the police or an ambulance.

    Tennessee Williams was from "Norlins." So was Lee Harvey Oswald. It's a mixed up place. I do miss it sometimes.