So I’ve been chosen to open this supplement issue with a few words about the party and nightlife scene in New Orleans, eh? Hmmm … this makes me wonder a bit. After all, there are so many people more qualified than I for this honor, dubious though it may be. Perhaps I have been chosen because I have spent more than a few nights in this great city not as the drummer and lead singer for Cowboy Mouth, but as just another inebriated reveler in a town with too many of those to count. If that is the case, then I humbly accept my assignment. I hope I do Gambit proud.
It’s a little known fact that fun was actually invented right here in the great city of New Orleans. I know, I know … there have been other cities that claim to have had “nightlife” in the past. But all of those places merely aspire to a certain nocturnal naughtiness that we just regard as part of the natural genetic makeup of the fools and lunatics who populate the metro New Orleans area.
In this town, there is adventure in almost every crevice. It is where most people come in order to discover the very best or the very worst of themselves. A recent online survey said that New Orleans is the top spot that people travel to in order to engage in illicit romantic affairs. Can you think of a better place? Neither can I.
And with each personal adventure on which one may embark in this hallowed city of scandal, there is a drink and/or a piece of music that will fit the accompanying situation. Kermit Ruffins and a cold bottle of Dixie or an Abita draft will just about cure any blues that ail you. Any number of Nevilles, Meters, Battistes or Porters can exorcise demons through unearthly rhythms that simply do not exist beyond our borders. The casual, late-night wildness of the Red Eye Bar on South Peters or the early morning pool tabletop dancing at F & M’s are both good places to let your hair down, have a stiff whiskey and tell the world to go to hell, if necessary.
There’s music built into the walls of the Maple Leaf, the tiles of Tipitina’s, the concrete of the Howlin’ Wolf, the lanes of the Rock ‘n’ Bowl, and the sidewalks of Frenchmen Street. Music pours from the pores of the brick and dirt designed to trick us into believing that we are, in fact, not below sea level and can never, ever be washed away with the whim of the tide and the shift of the storm. We are willingly seduced by the idea that the debt of the dark can be paid with continuous dancing, laughing, singing and drinking — the idea that reality can be stemmed, that morning will never come, at least for right now.
However, within the subconscious knowledge of our eventual fate as part of the river’s soul and soil is a damned-if-we-do-damned-if-we-don’t celebratory attitude that pervades the heart of the nightlife here. The afternoon/evening hours of Mardi Gras day give this spirit its best expression, when the most ardent of revelers defiantly cling to their mantra against all physical, spiritual and emotional sanity: “must … keep … partying.”
It’s not that we defy logic here, we just have our own definition of it. The spirit of celebration for any New Orleanian, in and of itself, is paramount to the myriad of woes that 21st century living has wrought upon us. It is through the craziness that we find our sanity. It is through the laughter that we find our tears. It is through losing our minds that we find our hearts.
Other cities may cite our insatiable desire for merriment as some sort of collective local fault, something that should inspire guilt or shame, something for which we should repent. Let outsiders call it what they will. It is part of our DNA. It is what our parents did and what our children will most probably do, God help them.
It is an essential part of who we are.
So the next time you’re out, raise a glass in toast to the alluring surreality that is New Orleans. In defiance of a world gone mad, we here have the common sense to celebrate our great city, our way of life, and — most important of all — ourselves.