Bourbon, Gumbo, Jazz, & Riverboat Gambling (AKA “Never Marry A Cajun Woman”)

I was on the highway, crossing the Atchafalaya Basin, when I was able to tune a station playing some great blues music.  I was just outside of New Orleans, on the way in from Baton Rouge where I had spent the previous two nights.

It was the very first Sunday following Fat Tuesday and the conclusion of Mardi Gras.  Later, after talking with some N’awlins locals, I’d be told the whole town had a “Mardi Gras hangover”.  Sure fooled The Hawk – I’ve never seen anything like NOLA, hangover or not!

New Orleans doesn’t have an on/off switch.  It’s cracking off all the time.  The Vieux Carré was filled with  people, some in costume, street performers, revelers.. but the two things that catch your attention before anything else are the colors and the sounds.

Beads and banners are everywhere you look, purple, gold, green.  The fleur-de-lis.  But most of all, the music!  Inside every bar on Bourbon Street, and that’s no small number, is a live band, blues, jazz, rock and roll, country.  And that’s at 3 in the afternoon!

– – – – –

I was sitting in the 3 seat at the poker table, Bone was in the 4 seat, and Rudy was two to my left in the 5 seat.  The flop was Ad3d9c. (In poker-speak, that’s the ace and three of diamonds, and the 9 of clubs.)  Rudy was heads up against the kid in seat 1, who only had a little over $100 in front of him.

I had just got back from Felix’s Oyster Bar, which was where Bone told me to go for lunch.  I had been seated for about an hour, shooting the breeze and pitching some cards.  How small the world is never ceases to amaze me – Bone had played baseball in Chico for the Outlaws, the same small town in which The Hawk attended college.  We traded stories.

Seat 1 made a bet of $20 into the $27 pot.  Rudy, a fun, jovial mid-40’s gent, was sitting with over $700 in front of him.

“Is Ace-King good?” Rudy asked the kid in seat 1.  The kid smiled and laughed.  “Okay, let’s gamble,” said Rudy, and he pushed out enough money to cover seat 1.

Bone leaned over to me and whispered, “5-6 of diamonds.  He’s got 5-6 of diamonds.  Let’s make a side bet!”  He dropped a dollar chip between us. “Give me two-to-one, I know he’s got 5-6 of diamonds.  I got a feeling!”  I laughed and tossed $2 on top of his while the kid was debating a call or a fold.

“Wait a second,” I said, “you get 5-6 of diamonds and I get every other possible hand? Hell,” I told him, “I’ll give you three to one!”, and I tossed another chip out. “Easiest money I’ll ever make!”

Eventually the kid pushed his last chips into the pot.  The turn brought the 7d, and the river was a blank.  The kid rolled his hand – Ace-King.  No wonder he laughed.

Rudy turned his hand over next.  The 5 and 6 of diamonds, a flush, and good enough to win the pot.  “Nice hand,” the kid said, and tapped the table.  Bone’s victory lap around the table lit the room on fire, and I could only sit there with a dumb smile on my face, $3 poorer.

After Bone swore to me three times over that he hadn’t seen Rudy’s hand before the bet, he bought us both beers, and tipped the waitress $3.

– – – – –

I have to give a big-time shout to the Bourbon House Hostel in New Orleans, where I stayed for three nights.  It was wonderful in every way – priced perfectly for the traveler, filled with helpful, friendly employees, and inhabited with like-minded souls who are immersing themselves in the wide, wild world. It was a 5-minute bike ride to the Quarter, and they actually rent bicycles, though I have my own. It was a great headquarters for exploring, so thank you for your hospitality!

All in all, N’awlins is undoubtedly one of the coolest place I’ve ever been.  The people, the cuisine, the atmosphere, they all make it a completely unique city.  I feel privileged to have seen it up close, and I recommend it to anyone in search of a great time!  New Orleans… our paths will cross again!

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