If you spend a little time in a city, you get to know its rhythm. I’m in New Orleans right now — a city I’ve spent much time in. As I walked through the streets of the French Quarter, I inhaled the smell of the city in the early morning (okay, it wasn’t that early. Say 10.).
Here, before you’re ready to get out of bed, you hear the sound of the garbage truck, picking up the trash piled on the curb of the cobblestone streets, European style. You hear the street cleaners, spraying the streets of the revelry from the night before. You see store owners pushing the water on the sidewalk away from their stores into the gutter with pushbrooms. You even see the straggler homeless panhandlers drunkenly still trying to convince tourists to give them a dollar.
Later, when night rolls around, there’s a different rhythm on Bourbon Street. I’m of the opinion that most restaurants on Bourbon aren’t that great, given that people are there to drink cheap crappy drinks, not eat quality food. But the hucksters stand out on the sidewalk, urging us to come in.
“Free entry for you!”
“Best burgers on Bourbon!” (Not a big honor, really)
“Free titty show!”
The homeless don’t miss a beat. They’re quick to wish us a happy holiday or try to give us a free recitation of an authentic poem. The later it gets, tourists start cackling and stumbling down the street.
I walk down this street in the City of Sin (and Delight) as an observer.
The more familiar I am with a city, the more I relax and pay attention to these rhythms. This time around, I’ve been paying attention to the buskers. You know: the street performers who do a song and dance and gather tourist money in a big bucket. We are staying in a hotel on Bourbon Street (not even sure how that happened), and I observed a dancing duo give their performance over and over all night long. This was a weeknight, and I estimated they collected about $100 each go round. They performed every 10 minutes or so. Not bad for a night’s work.
When I leave, the rhythms will continue.