On the Train 11 – New Orleans (Part 1)

New Orleans, LA
2/17/2011

The French Quarter of New Orleans is a wild place. It’s certainly not safe for young, solitary explorers like me. The lure of exotic, sensual pleasure does little to mask the danger that really exists out here. Despite all that, people are friendly and good-natured. Bourbon Street during the day has a wholesome attraction, much like the food you can find out there. I was warned not to venture far, so my miles walked were in circles, around the various Rues, each with their own handful of galleries, shops, and locals. Street performers entertain and artists create art in Jackson Square, in the midst of loud music and people, and everything is bubbling with activity.

Eventually I went to the riverfront, where a man was playing a famous blues song I’ve heard so many times before. A full moon was rising behind him, and casting a line of light across the rippling river. It was a perfect moment. I took a picture of it and gave the man a couple dollars, thanking him. A drifter sitting behind him stood up as we began talking about the little beauties of this town, and he said “I’ve lived and grown up here all my life” as he held out his hand to shake mine.

He took my hand and held it with a strong grip, preventing me from letting go. There was a moment when we locked eyes, and his friendly smile took on a more serious tension. I tried to let go. He had my hand and pulled me towards him. My heart was fluttering and I knew I was in danger. The guitar player simply sat there, looking up at me with a sad sort of look on his face that said, “What the hell are you doing, kid?” He didn’t interfere, even when the man exposed a broken glass bottle in his other hand. Things were in slow motion. I aggressively shook my hand free before he had the chance to try anything. Without making a scene, I left the riverfront, making sure I wasn’t followed, and returned to all the tourist attractions.