Whattya do in New Orleans on a Tuesday afternoon when you have nothing to do? Good question—Easy answer. Find a bar and hang out. I was in the French Quarter walking around , taking a picture here and there, watching the action etc. There was not much going on, but I persisted until around 11:00AM when I began to feel a bit hungry. I thought it might be a good idea to find a bar, have a beer and hamburger and just hang out. I had tried that the day before but the place I walked into was a tourist trap and the place was dead. The barmaid just sat at one end of the bar talking to her friend in a slow southern drawl and barely paying any attention the the few customers that walked in. I ate my burger, drank my beer and left. This time, after some thought, I decided to try something else. I would look for a sleazy little place that had no tourists.
At the far end of Bourbon Street, away from the strip bars, misbehaving tourists, and general street noise, toward the more residential areas, was a small bar called Johnny White’s Bar & Grill. It was run-down, hole-in-the-wall, funky, beat-up and contained 11 wobbly bar stools. As I walked by, I noticed a small dog sitting on one of the stools staring out on the street. Aha! This was it, I thought as I walked in. (I did not know it at the time but this little joint was sort of famous because during Katrina, when the order to close all businesses was given, this place refused because as the owner put it, there were no doors to lock. It was a 24 hr bar and therefore no need for doors.)
I ordered a Corona and began to absorb the scene. There was a chubby lady wearing a beautiful round wide-brim black hat. She was talking to a guy in a short-sleeved brightly colored shirt . She would chat a while, then glance at a local newspaper, sip her beer, take a drag on a cigarette and them go back to talking to the guy in the short-sleeved shirt. Next to her were the two guys in the photo (Ernie and Eric) who I had not yet met. Ernie was talking non-stop to the bar maid , or anybody else, while Eric never said a word. This would go on for the next 4 hours. There was another guy close to me talking to the tattooed girl who owned the dog sitting on the bar stool. Next to me was a guy in a black Harley tee shirt who happened to be Respiratory Therapist, attending a meeting in town, bored of it all and seeking escape— just like me.
Eventually the tattooed girl left with the dog and another three-legged dog showed up. Stephanie (the bartender) filled a bucket of water and put it out for the dog who slurped it up while I ordered another beer. The bored respiratory therapist started talking to me and it turned out that he rode a Harley and then Ernie who was also into bikes slipped over and started talking about his girlfriend who rode her Harley 1200 miles from Texas to Key West in the rain while I ordered another beer. Stephanie said she did not mind if I took some pictures of her— or anybody else so that’s what I did when the conversation slowed down from time to time. I spent the next 4 hours in the bar taking pictures, talking to these guys, listening to there stories and generally having a great time. After a few more beers it was time to go so I asked one of the guys to take a picture of Stephanie and I (“just to piss off the wife” I quipped) knowing full well that Sharon would find this adventure just as amusing as I did.
When I saw Sharon later at the hotel she asked how I spent my day.
“I hung out in a bar and drank beer all afternoon” I answered as I showed her the pictures.
“Pretty good” she replied. “Looks like you had a good time?”
What I really learned from all of this was that if you just walk around the street with a camera around your neck, you take a certain kind of picture but if you spend some time hanging around someplace, you end up with a different kind of picture altogether.