Travelling by car is weird. And fast. You don’t have time to see stuff. You can’t smell stuff as you go along– the olfactory equivalent of swimming through pockets of lake water as they change temperature. After six weeks in Outside World, driving a car is like being Bubble Boy (especially in a VW Beetle). Speedy, yes, but terribly, horribly removed from elemental life (Whoa… this is pretty heavy stuff – I… I have to go sit cross-legged for a while and commune with Mother Earth. brb).
[Author’s note: I’m not sure the communing totally took. The following paragraphs were written with my arms crossed and my lips pursed – no mean feat - the disapproval wafting off me in waves of hypocrisy.]
Sometimes insulation is good: when Seb and I spent a few hours strolling through the French Quarter and environs yesterday – I could have used a bubble. Forget the sweet smell of success, Bourbon Street radiated the sour smell of excess. The area cleaning lady, Katrina, retired in 2005 and no one, apparently, has been hired to replace her.
Be careful where you step. Be careful where you stand. Be careful where you stay. Or don’t. There was epic evidence of uncareful choices all around - stretched on the cobblestones, holding up street signs or each other, many beyond care. Every fifteen feet a variation of Statue Man stood frozen before you, hand out. In between the statuary, topless women, dabbed strategically with body paint, beckoned you to pose for a picture with them - $20 and they might peel back the nipple tape. The sharks monitored the marks, pimps of all stripes running the show, shearing the willing sheep, predators and prey.
If I turn my brain, possibly aided by a few chemical stimulants, I can see the Big Sleazy in a completely different light. But yesterday I was an observer rather than a participant, and I’m told that can make all the difference between Heaven and Hell.
(I've just inserted the pictures of the French Quarter and they so completely DON'T capture the spirit of debauchery and menace that, if my shoes didn't still smell of vomit, I'd swear it had all been a dream.)
But that was yesterday. Today is The Great Gumbo Search. Seb has been jonesing for a big bowl of authentic gumbo and, with luck and Google, today he'll get to scratch that itch. It's been a busy morning: we've checked out some original plantations along the Mississippi River and now we sit at a Starbucks next to a huge outlet mall south of Baton Rouge, eagerly waiting for it to open so that we can carry a few more pounds of unnecessary gear the last 1000 miles - good thing I never aim my disapproval at myself.
Tomorrow we're back on the bikes and, may I just say, not a moment too soon. A long day on the bike beats a short day in Real World almost every time, and it was only when I rented this car that I realized how much I'm not ready for that big stop sign at the end of the road. Bike touring is one of a million bubbles of our own making, I guess, and I sure don't want this one to burst.