Halloween in New Orleans
Halloween: the only night of the year when girls can look like whores, boys can dress like girls and the gay boys can get about in their undies and angel wings.
I have always been majorly jealous of the northern hemisphere and this amazing holiday of fancy dress, witches and ghouls and candy. What is not to love?
In New Orleans, or 'Nawlins' if you haven’t a trained ear, it is yet another reason to celebrate and get crazy. For the most part Nawlins is rough as guts. The beautiful French Quarter is bursting with characters from all walks of life – tramps, drunks, hobos, artists, tourists – from the downright classy to the plain down and out. The famous Bourbon Street, once the home of jazz is now the home of neon. An outdoor club as booze is sold “tigew” or “to go” again, if you don’t have the trained ear, in plastic cups. Cocktails, daiquiris and hurricanes are the local speciality typically come in a 30 ounce novelty-shaped plastic cup with discounted refills.
Apart from its violence, its semi-dodginess if you will, New Orleans is one of the most amazing cities in America because it is wholly un-American. Coming from Vegas, to me the quintessential American city, to New Orleans a little European outpost, its difference is highly noticeable. The quarter has cute little streets and double-tiered buildings with big balcony’s and iron work, a skill bought by the African slaves. The city was once French, then Spanish, then French before becoming American with the Louisiana Purchase. New Orleans was also a port city, the second biggest for immigration after Ellis Island so thrown into the Creole mix were Germans, Irish, Native Indians as well as a huge population of Africans, both slaves and "free people of colour" making it a veritable melting pot of cultures.
Famous for its food, Louisiana tradition uses French recipes as it was a French colony but given the slave trade the cooks were usually African so it became French food in an African cooking style. The influence of the other cultures integrated into the Creole food, with ingredients like herbs and bay leaves from the Indians, sausages from the Germans, tomatoes and chillies from the Spanish all being added to the mix. Food like gumbo, jambalaya, shrimp, crawfish and oysters, red beans, bread pudding, pecan pies and the odd alligator sausage are all Louisiana specialities.
As an old city it is of course, the most haunted city in America making it a perfect place to spend Halloween. All sorts of colonial ghosts wreak havoc on the streets. The city is also famous for Voodoo; the magic with its origins in Africa came over with the slaves and is very much a part of the New Orleans people. Our swamp guide, a guy who spends his time skinning gators and pinning their teeth to his hat refused to tamper with a swamp graveyard where a famed voodoo priestess is buried, because as he put it, as is the general consensus, "you just don’t mess with that shit".
We did a ghost tour, didn't see any ghosts for no lack of trying. A city forever plagued with epidemics, yellow fever and cholera and the like, the city is practically built on a graveyard. There are a lot of haunted happenings in such an old city. The LeLaurie mansion, one of the nation’s most haunted houses was once the home of an upper-class socialite who it turns out had taken a shining to torturing her black slaves to death in a rather sadistic manner. One was a little girl who was seen by a neighbour being chased by the mad woman through the house and fell from the upper roof to her death. Her ghost is often seen falling. LeLaurie was discovered and ran out of town but continues to haunt the beautiful colonial mansion in the French Quarter. Nicholas Cage bought the house and was eventually evicted for tax reasons, but rumour says Madame LeLaurie is responsible for his cursed film career.
And surely plain bad taste cannot be responsible for all those rotten eggs on his CV.
It was my first ever Halloween and I was pretty excited. I wished I had a child to go Trick or Treating with but for some reason people kept guarding their offspring. Being late to get a costume I had to get somewhat creative and spent a bit of time drawing on an Angel dress I managed to find and dying it with the filtered coffee (amazing, I found a use for American coffee) and tied fake cobwebs to individual fake spiders. I was going to be a corpse bride but I wanted more face paint so landed on being some kind of Mexican skeleton bride and utilised some face paint sticks and a black eyeliner to my university level arts degree abilities.
The Mexican skeleton bride hit the tizzle of New Orleans. Bourbon St was abuzz with revellers, most tipsy but not yet shitfaced. We watched all the people pass by in costume, some amazing, some hilarious, some stupid and others just plain crap they didn’t deserve to be outside. Halloween brings out all walks of life. It is an interesting little insight into the person. Some people look like nothing in particular, some come as football player by putting on a jersey from their cupboard or just in their pyjamas, these people are what we call uninventive. Some girls just painted their boobs as their costume which does nothing but bring out the perverts who take photos, no honey it’s not because you are hot it’s because you are topless. These people are what we would call closet whores; they wait until Halloween because they think they can get away with it. The aforementioned perverts are those dressed in a half-assed costume with a sign that says “free shot for a boobie shot”. I saw a dirty old man with this sign and even stranger, his wife was carrying the promised tequila bottle. Then you have people who are amazing and clearly spend all year on a costume instead of going to Wal-Mart. I appreciate people with these kinds of life priorities.
We enjoyed the revelry of New Orleans in costume, I liked seeing people sit in restaurant dressed up and many people dress their baby or dog to match them which i love and hate at the same time. One lady brought her two small children down Bourbon St, not suitable at the best of times and the poor child stood frozen on the spot, terrified of the people around her. I could see her staring at me and I smiled but I still would have looked terrifying to a 3 year old. There were tears. Everywhere you look there is oddness. You have drunken human chicken sitting in a gutter, zombies carving up the dance floor and Cruella DeVille just walking a Dalmatian down the street.
In all the hoopla on Bourbon Street that night it turns out there was a shooting, because that’s how some people over this way settle arguments. Banning guns is one thing Australia got right. So one was killed in the shootout on the corner of the busiest tourist strip in New Orleans which meant eight others were injured as they passed by in all the merriment, no doubt highly intoxicated and unaware they were in the way of stray bullets. Of course being Halloween with all that fake blood it would have been hard to tell who was shot.
There were 5 shootings in Nawlins that night, well it might be a little European town but your still down the trigger happy south.