But … everybody else thinks you’re an asshole. So reads one of the milder T-shirts available in many of the steamy kitsch shops that proliferate the French Quarter of New Orleans. Hurricane cocktail in one hand, show-me-your-breasts beads in the other, I paused often while playing human pinball on Bourbon Street to pay heed to the T-shirts bearing that tidbit of cheap wisdom. Like all cheap wisdom, I could never figure out if the message was intended for me, the person next to me, or the person wearing the shirt.
All I knew was that for me and for most people, half of the message was true.
Myself and eight fellow City Weekly staffers—the fearless among us who were willing to expose ourselves to any manner of new germs—were in New Orleans last week for the annual convention of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. Your City Weekly troopers represented our city in every fine manner, and I’m here to report that you can be proud of most of them. Drink all night? Check. Consort with tawdry men and women? Check. Blow entire credit card line? Check.
The last time I was in New Orleans was for our 1991 convention. The differences between then and now are as stark as the Jesus Loves You tee. Ten years older, I’m 10 times less likely to be alert at three in the morning. Last time, I walked down dark alleys. This time, I rode cabs. I remember cool bars on Bourbon Street. Now they’ve turned into pre-fab Hurricane factories. Crime is down, though. Last time, our group had four mugging victims out of only 400 people. This time, it was a single purse snatched from our group of nearly 1,000. That’s progress, and perhaps why Jesus loves New Orleans.
I know Jesus loves New Orleans, simply because if everything that everybody says is true about the Second Coming, then New Orleans wouldn’t be there. New Orleans is what every preacher in America warned you about—and then some. For instance, where else can one walk past a live sex club and be beckoned with, “Step right in, sir, our show is wholesome family entertainment”?
It’s also the only place I’ve ever been where I saw two armed cops in a club, I guess to keep the peace. Michael Lacey from Phoenix New Times, Tom Walsh from the Sacramento News Review and I were there toasting the memory of New Orleans R&B legend Ernie K-Doe in his Mother-in-Law bar. Ernie had just died. Yeah, yeah, we weren’t in the hoity-toity part of town, but so what?
Just before we left, one of the cops grabbed a Budweiser. That was a new one, too, but I think he was off-duty by then anyway. As he showed us to the door, someone hollered, “Have a good time. Jesus loves you.”