This was the scene on Bourbon St at 9pm on Christmas Eve. It was fun and jovial. I stayed for a while and bopped along… it was really festive and the music was great. It felt so authentically New Orleans. But then I started to notice some of the other “authentic” details… the spliff in one of the dancer’s hands… the open cans of alcohol… the bundles of belongings around looking like they belonged to homeless persons… the open cans of alcohol bolstered onto the backs of several strollers in compartments that looked like they were designed to hold babies bottles. The police hovering on horseback, watching the proceedings with eyes that seemed to suggest this was a “problem spot.” Mothers bopped and shook with their babies slung on their hips, drinking booze, standing right next to people smoking pot.
New Orleans has great music, great food and a great spirit, but it also has substantial poverty. It’s easy to forget that last part if you stick around the tourist strip, but the city’s social problems are not exactly hidden from view. And it is also not that surprising that there are a lot of drunk people around when you can buy beer or a frozen rum daiquiri drink in a plastic cup for $1 and wander with it around the streets, no matter the time of day.
The problems became even clearer on Christmas morning, when I took a walk around the French quarter. Some of the bars and restaurants were still open, I think the ones that were probably doing it tough. But around the street were the drunk, the homeless, the poor and the ones with no place to go, fighting, hollering and following tourists, bugging them for money, in the unusually quiet streets.
Little girl watching the chaos. Bourbon St, New Orleans.