Tuesday, January 27, 2015

walking to new orleans

My wife and I just returned from New Orleans, sneaking back from the 60 degree weather to the Philadelphia area in between two winter storms. It was our first trip to The Crescent City and, while we had a good time, I will be the first one to admit that we don't vacation like most people. Mrs. Pincus and I do not drink. As far as eating, I am a vegetarian and although Mrs. P eats meat, we observe the laws of kashrut, so no meat unless it is certified kosher*, no shellfish or any other shit-eating bottom-feeder, thus eliminating a good portion of the cuisine for which The Big Easy is renown.

One evening, after a full day of exploring a couple of New Orleans' famous cemeteries, Mrs. P was bushed. She headed back to our hotel room. I offered to go out to pick up dinner. I had read about a place called The Gumbo Shop that offered a vegetarian version of the signature Creole dish. The restaurant was close by, just off of Jackson Square. Mrs. Pincus curled up under the blankets and I set out on my mission.

I'm going to make a confession. I am not the most patient person that ever lived. Especially when I am walking. I am a determined walker. I do not stroll. I do not meander. I do not saunter. In the morning, when I exit my train, I proceed with a purposeful gait. I am not on a happy jaunt with a Straw Man and a Tin Man towards The Emerald City. I am headed to work. I don't like to get behind someone who is weaving unsteadily across the sidewalk like they are already drunk at 8:30 in the morning. You wanna take your morning constitutional? Save it for the early dawn hours on a beach somewhere.

I crossed over to Canal Street making my way towards Bourbon Street. I dodged a few of the many homeless that littered the narrow thoroughfares of the French Quarter. The sidewalks were beginning to fill with inebriated tourists, reeling all over the pavements, some stopping indiscriminately and for no apparent reason. Grrrr! Sidewalks should be treated like highways. Move to the right lane if you're going to move slowly. The left lane is for passing. Look, I realize that the New Orleans tourist area is filled with tourists and that tourists are in no rush because they are on vacation, but please! How about a little courtesy for other types of tourists. Like me.

I made a right onto Bourbon Street. I immediately thought, "So! This is where they moved Sodom and Gomorrah!" I was practically the only person who wasn't currently draining a container of alcohol. Don't get me wrong. I don't mind if people drink and make merry. But do they have to do it while they imitate a ball in a pinball machine? The French Quarter sidewalks are narrow, but, luckily the street was closed to motor vehicles. Pedestrians (those that could still walk), taking full advantage of the traffic situation, staggered and careened from one curb to the other.

I weaved in and out, carefully avoiding bodily contact with the hoards of drunkards. Just ahead, I spotted The Gumbo Shop's sign and located the entrance. A long queue line of potential patrons had clogged the entrance way. I cut an uncompromising path to the hostess podium and inquired about placing a take-out order. After a brief wait, the smiling bartender appeared with a plastic-handled bag stuffed with steaming, fragrant gumbo and a full, crusty baguette. I exited and rerouted myself to the wider, yet just as congested, Decatur Street parallel to the Mississippi Riverfront. I threaded my way through the tipsy crush of people, none of whom were moving in anything close to a straight line.

The foot traffic thinned out as I crossed Poydras Street. I could once again walk my normal walk. Quick. Straight. Determined.

Yeah. I know it's me.

*Please don't even start with that "blessed by a rabbi" bullshit. You have the internet. Look it up.

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