True Story©… A Street of Bourbon

 


     When I was a kid I only travelled outside of my home state a VERY few times, and never outside of the time zone I was born in until I was an actual adult.  Never set foot on a plane until I was 20.  Everywhere we went was driveable distances.  It became such a “thing” that even in adulthood, I will sooner drive out trips that many people will fly.
Kid me, having only been to Williamsburg and the beach in VA, then Atlanta after that – outside of visits to grandma’s family down in the sticks in SC – used to think that the lines one saw on a map would be visible out in the world as you travel.  Like there would be a white line marking the exit of one state and into the next.

     Adult me, as soon as the constraints of being a broke child were off, got the fuck out and around the country even if to be inconvenienced by the habit of driving instead of even CONSIDERING flying.

     One such trip transpired and the young age of 21…
I rented a car because I was driving an absolute shithole at the time, threw a few days’ worth of clothes into a duffel bag and hit the road with some printed mapquest directions to New Orleans.

[Phlip note: fuuuuuck, I’m old]

Did I, at the time, know anyone in New Orleans?  Not a fucking soul!  All I knew about the place was what I had learned from music and movies.  Bear in mind, though, that a more-than-half-a-lifetime-ago me at 21 was still basically a kid.

     Missing from this early-2001 trip as well was the ability to just sit down at the computer and spend an hour brushing up on history and/or making a whole-ass itinerary.
This means, as well, that my ignant ass thought at the time that Bourbon Street was so named because of Bourbon liquor and not because New Orleans was a French colony and the streets were named after Catholic saints and French royal houses and this particular one is named after the house of Bourbon.  In my mind this meant I was apparently supposed to spend the time getting loaded on Bourbon while I was there.

  I was also FAR less well-versed at handling my liquor.  More on that in a few.

     So here I am, freshly of age and in the first of many a city/state I had never yet endeavored.  Tired as SHIT from an 800-mile drive on which I did not stop for anything other than gas and to pee.  I checked into a hotel just outside – but within sight distance of – the French Quarter and planned few good ol days of walking, eating and drinking.

     I was a total tourist, snapping pictures with a box camera to have developed when I got back home.  Eating and drinking whatever the locals had, having to ask “what’s that?” at every little thing on the menus.  Again, beholden fully to the inflated cost of everything right there in the quarter and exposed only to that curated section of the city.

     The odd thing about travelling alone is that no one is there to consume your time or attention, or perhaps temper your worst impulses.  Needless to say, I was drunker than a fuck in nearly no time flat.
“When on Bourbon Street, drink the Bourbon” is how I viewed it, and my cup was rarely empty as I slogged through among the locals and transplants, alternatively staring at and flirting with cleavage at every single little last turn.

     Not to let y’all in on more than you need to know about me, but alcohol tends to short circuit my filters and I am prone to say whatever comes into my head when it gets there.  This problem was much worse when I was younger.  I don’t really drink these days, but when I most recently did – last summer – the worst thing I would do is go to sleep.

     Well 21 year-old me is FAR from 43 year-old me and I got the scars to prove it!
So there I am, bellied up to the bar so as to not waste one of the restaurant’s tables with my sitting-alone ass.  Poring over the menu in my hand and obviously bothering the bartender with questions, making her work for these tips.  While nursing my fourth Bourbon of the afternoon, a waitress walks past me with an interesting looking plate of food and immediately thought to myself “I want that.”

     (Probably more than) Slightly buzzed, I followed the waitress and the plate to the table of the individual who ordered it.  Instead of asking the waitress what it was, I skipped right to asking the woman sitting alone at the table with her food and another plate on the other side of the table.  She was quite apparently a local and was smilingly explaining exactly what it was to me in detail.  As I spun to head back to the bar to order JUST that dish and another bourbon, her dude had returned from the bathroom.

Him: “Can I help you?”

Me: “Oh, she already did.”

Him: “Sh-she WHAT?!!?”

Me: “She gave me what I asked for.”

Him: “I suggest you watch your mouth, you’re talking about my wife!”

Me: “I ain’t come over here to fight you!”

Him: “Then I strongly suggest you get the fu--…”

Her: “HONEY!!!  He only was asking what I had because it looked interesting.”

Him: “…”

     I didn’t even wait for any further conversation.  I completed my turn and as I headed back to my spot at the bar to make my order, muttered under my breath “but gah-damn, them titties tho...”  Blame it on the bourbon.

Him: “WHAT THE FUCK YOU SAY?!!?”

      It was in this moment that I would learn the lesson that an inebriated Phlip “under my breath” is probably more like an anyone else “general conversation volume.”  I ignored him and she prevented him from following me to my seat and they argued for the rest of their meal.

They finished eating and left the restaurant, ostensibly to carry out the remainder of their argument in the streets of The French Quarter where it wouldn’t be as disturbing among the drunkards and hoboes.

     After eating and drinking two more Bourbons, I hobbled MY drunk ass back to my hotel room and crashed out for the night.
    The next morning, I was back up, shook off the hangover with a refreshing, thirst-quenching Gatorade (cut the check, Pepsi!) and a beignet from Cafe Du Mond before renewing my drunken trek throughout the Quarter.
In and out of little shops, talking to locals about whatever they would smalltalk me about and generally maintaining just enough of my sobriety to remain lucid.  Mid afternoon, big man from the restaurant is mean-mugging me with his wife and her ttties in tow.  He knew I knew he saw me, and continued to look at me as if to try to start something as I continued to look where I was walking.  I can’t afford out-of-state bail or a lawyer, so I shut my drunk ass up and kept going.

     The next day was to be my last in New Orleans before hitting the road back to the home base.  “Sheeeeit, I might as well really do it to it,” I thought as I ordered my first drink of the day at only 10am.
I would love to tell you I remember the rest of what happened that day after the third one and before I woke up in my hotel room at only 10pm, but I packed my bag and put all my shit in the car before pregaming at the hotel bar and trekking BACK down to the quarter for one last taste of the city.

Except…

     Apparently this man had been waiting for a chance to see me again since the restaurant without his wife to stop him.  Now would be his chance, as he was in front of me and she was not.

Him: “Hey, bro, what you say about my wife?”

Me: “I don’t think I know you homie.”

Him: “Nah nah…  You said--…”

Me: “…  I DON’T LIVE HERE, and I don’t know you.”

Him: “From the restaurant?”

Me: “Hmm... Nope.”

Him: “I think what you said was ‘them titties tho,’ that was you, right?”

Me: “Oh, the one with the titties!”

Him: “Oh, so you remember now?”

Me: “No, no I don’t…  Look around you.  See her over there?  Titties!  Look at her coming toward us now, TITTIES!”

Him: “You think this is a joke, don’t you!”

Me: “You, ma’am!  Don’t take this personally or inappropriately, but ‘titties!’.  See what I mean?  This city is damn near literally crawling with titties right now!”

     Luckily enough for me, she apparently read the situation and knew that nothing serious or malicious was transpiring and laughed as she walked away.

Him: “This shit is not funny, I should fuck you up.”

Me: “Probably, but there’s a cop right there.  I am going on with my last night in town.  Good evening, sir.”

     I left him standing there looking back and forth between me and the cop as I wandered off to enjoy the remainder of my night and cop a couple of trinkets for people back home.

Since I have curbed my drinking over the past year, I have told people that “alcohol has been the backdrop to damn near everything in my adult life, good and bad.”
Having spent time enjoying myself out of town alone and somehow letting liquor bait me into a chance to throw my life away GREATLY substantiates this statement.

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