While the moniker "The City that Care Forgot" doesn't really apply to the Big Easy post-Katrina, the atmosphere is very different in New Orleans than it is in Boston, and I don't mean the humidity. I'm in my third day here and I am naturally living a tourist's life rather than a citizen's but the congeniality is impressive.
I won't say that I find Boston oppressive, weather aside. I mean that there is an easygoingness in New Orleans that Boston lacks. I've been here before so I'm not entirely blinkered by the hospitality and I know it's not all pralines on the levee. The decay on display is not just genteel, some of it is depressingly real. Despite that, there is joy in the ruins and plenty to savor.
I'm staying in the French Quarter because I got a good hotel deal. Last night, I walked Bourbon Street taking in the music, popping into one club after another. No cover charge, the music spills into the streets. There were some awful cover bands but there was some inspired, traditional jazz. People were gathered outside Preservation Hall for a reason. The trumpeter melded so many triumphal marches into his solo of "When the Saints Go Marchin' In" including the Star Wars theme that people swooned long after the clarinetist took over.
I checked my watch, my internal Boston-based clock was ticking. The MBTA shuts down at 12:30 and sure enough the clock on my wrist read midnight. I am used to leaving according to the MBTA schedule; it's ingrained. No worries though, on Bourbon Street, midnight is the midpoint toward when the night ends.
If I were taking public transportation, I needn't have worried much. I was on the Canal Street line and a woman asked when the last street car would run. "2:30 in the morning, ma'am," the driver answered. Checking the RTA schedule, the first outbound car of the day runs at 4:22 AM. If I were headed homeways on the St. Charles Line, the last train from downtown would be at 3:07AM with service resuming slightly an hour later.
That's a city that relishes its good times more than its beauty sleep.
Oh, and the highlight of last night's musical adventure: listening to a nine-piece band blast out a funkadelic version of "Car Wash." Those horns wailed.