Holiday Road – Part XV

A bit of a refresh: We’re in New Orleans, and have most of the day to ourselves. Somewhere through the course of the evening before (I suspect before I went out, rather than once I got home) I had set my alarm  to get a day’s activity in. I was signed up for a late afternoon optional, and had planned to do the washing that had piled up with Father early in the morning to get a full day of exploration in.

When I woke up though, I did not feel at all well. I don’t generally get hangovers, and if I ever do, I never have headaches. This time was different – I felt awful. And it wasn’t just my head. My shoulder and my leg hurt, and if I bent over, so did my back and my ribs. I thought nothing of it at all – figured I’d slept awkwardly. I have a tendency of falling asleep with my hands behind my head, which invariably sees me wake up at some point in the night with pain. At this early juncture in the morning, I had no idea what the real reason was behind my pain.

I made my way down stairs, and my roommate was awake and up. We said hello to each other, and I introduced myself as if I’d never met him before. He said we had met last night. Was he on the cruise or something? No, he said, actually I had fallen on him. That just went straight over my head, and I assumed he meant that I walked into the room and into his bed last night, not fell off the platform in the room onto him. I laughed and gave a flippant apology, and then went had a shower to get ready. When I got out, my roommate was gone. 

I bundled up my stuff and headed downstairs. I was on time, so I went to Father’s room and knocked on the door. He came out and we walked down to the laundry. The area didn’t look as unsafe as David had made out, but it did look like the sort of suburb you wouldn’t want to be in at night. Anyway, we found the laundry, and piled up a machine, then took a seat out the front. I conveyed my ill feelings to Father, who had also had a big night. We both went through some 3 or 4 bottles of water each, and, for the most part, just sat and made very quiet and idle chit-chat.

When our washing and drying was done, we headed back to the hotel room. We asked each other our day’s plans, and neither of us had anything other than going into the city and looking around. In the car-park, we passed 2 other tour people who I had got along with, one (Kathryn) from the group that I hung around with at Sun Studios, and spoke to them for 5 minutes. They were headed into the city, so Father and I asked if they would mind waiting while we ran our stuff up to our rooms, and then met them back to go in together. They didn’t mind, and in no time we were back and walking to the main street that had the tram tracks on them to get into New Orleans. 

Eventually we got there. I had started to feel a little better with the walking around with Father, but getting on the tram only served to make things worse. The 2 women we were with were set on going  to a famous cafe there which I can’t remember the name of, nor did I write it down. I’ll find out later and then edit this post. It was supposed to serve one of ‘those things’ that you ‘have to have’ when you go to ‘X city’. They had a dodgey set of directions to follow, and off we went once we left the tram. 

Again, walking around in the shade of the side-streets was fine, but when we got into the glaring sun, even with the cool breeze coming in from the Gulf of Mexico or the end of the Mississippi, it did little to appease me. Eventually, after half an hour of being lost, Kathryn was happy to give up the search for the cafe to get some breakfast. 3 outnumbered 1 and we walked into the next place we saw that served food – Hard Rock Cafe. 

It was a suitable venture because the menu items were amply drowned in grease for the 3 hangovers that the table had. I ordered some fajitas that were no where near as good as Santa Fe, but effective none-the-less. Over the meal, the two women had said they heard I had a big night. I just had to shrug my shoulders and agree with them. Apparently my name was going around about how big a night, but no one (yet) was able to tell me exactly what had happened. I do remember commenting that I felt a little stiff, but had slept wrong.

After our meals, we decided to walk around some more. It came to a point where Kathryn was looking into getting a ride around the city in a horse carriage and continue the search for the cafe, the other woman was neither here nor there, while Father and I were happy to look around the city. Eventually, we all paired off, with Father and I headed for the markets, and some photos, leaving Kathryn and the other woman to figure out what they wanted to do. 

We found the markets and had a look around. I was eager to buy some new sunglasses, as I had (very unfortunately) lost my pair somewhere last night (unless, and this was my hold-out, I had lost them in my hotel room when I got home). We looked around, and there were sunglasses coming out the wazoo, but none that I liked the design of. A lot of other things, dirt cheap things, which would mainly appeal to women shoppers (such, I think, markets like these are made for). Finally, Father and I turned back, looking to head to some gift stores and get back home for some rest. As slow a day it might have been, we were in need of it.

We looked through some gift stores, and bumped into another pair of Contiki people walking around. Sarah, who was the woman I had been talking to on the boat from the night before, was one of them. She asked how I was. I said fine, but asked why she asked. She asked me if I was alright from last night. She eventually figured out I had no recollection of anything after the boat and started laughing. She said she wouldn’t dare tell me what happened, and that I should ask my roommate. I suddenly got very worried. What had I done to him? Would I get in trouble? Kicked off the tour? Had I done something awful? With a look and a pat on the shoulder that oozed of pity for me from Sarah, she left with her friend, and Father and I continued to shop. 

Eventually, we jumped on the tram and headed back for the hotel after buying some things (a Barack Obama shirt, a decorated roof tile ‘from the 1890s’, a hat, and some postcards). We thought we got onto the right one, but were very, very wrong as we first headed into the depot, and then again got on that same tram when it turned around to go back, only to take us to one of the really bad areas of New Orleans – where Hurricane Katrina had hit. The area was very scary and depressing. The spray-paint on house doors that still notifies authorities of how many dead were found in side is haunting. We asked the driver if we were headed for our hotel (one of us had found a business card in their wallet) and he said we were headed in the opposite direction. He gave us some strange directions, and which tram to get on, when I just threw up my hand and hailed the next taxi that came our way. We had spent $5 each on wasted tram fares, and the taxi ride back to the hotel cost us $7 together. It was probably the more smart investment.

Back at the hotel, after Father and I left each other, and I bumped into Gareth of all people. He asked how I was feeling and seemed genuinely concerned. I said the last of my hangover was gone, and my headache would be too once I got to my room and took some of my migraine tablets. He deduced that I had no idea what he was talking about, and then retold me the story of what happened as best he could. I was somewhat mortified, and was very glad he told me. He asked if he should come with me to my room in case my roommate was rather displeased with me. I took him up on his offer after recalling the way I was apathetic to ‘falling on’ my roommate this morning.

We wandered in and there he was. I sat down and apologised repeatedly. While my roommate was quick to say we all do stupid things when we drink, I thought I detected a hint of lingering annoyance at it. I promised him nothing like that would ever happen again, and that we’d get along great now. He agreed, then retold the whole story from when I got it. I must have woken him up just opening the door. Finally, with most of the story together then, I could put together most of the past two posts you just read. It would only be complete after speaking to the woman who helped me get home in the taxi (and I would speak to her later that night at dinner) and then a handful of other people who remembered the odd thing or two about me over the night.

Gareth left, and I then twigged – was my shoulder and back and ribs and leg hurting because I slept wrong, or because I fell from the second story? I took my shirt off and stood in front of a mirror (a thing I usually avoid, which is why I missed it all in the morning after my shower) and check my front out. I could see a red mark where the top of my hip is, but nothing bad. But then I turned around. My back was either red or had patches of the dark blue of bruise already. There were parts that had been bleeding all morning too. And then there were the superficial scratches, rubs, and strange red parts that would eventually turn into the worse bruises. Then I looked down at my legs with my shorts on and saw nothing. My knees always hurt, ever since I hit puberty, so I had taken no notice. But now, on closer inspection, there was a red line right underneath my kneecap – where I caught the railing. That would turn into a very nasty mark before the week was out. I pulled my shorts legs up and saw nothing on my thighs, but deep in the muscle I could feel pain. I expected a delayed bruise on my left leg from that.

Dressing back up, I made my bed and picked up the shirt I had been wearing. Again, nothing on the front. Turn it around and there were black and brown marks all over it, where I had fallen onto the top of the dusty television. I wished that I had seen this before I did my washing, because now I could hardly wear that short again. And, to boot, it was my favourite pink Elvis shirt.

I got dressed and ready for for the optional after all this investigating. My roommate was headed out again after being invited by some of the other boys who were going to have some last drinks (one of them was leaving after the optional). They asked how I was feeling, and I told them not well. They didn’t invite me because of that response, and it’s very likely I wouldn’t have gone anyway (such was the company).

I eventually wandered out of my room and downstairs where I found Anthony drinking a beer or 5 and Father just sitting on the infamous patio furniture. I sat and asked Father if he remembered me complaining about feeling stiff. He did, and I retold the previous night’s story. He was amazed, Anthony was really worried, saying, again, that he didn’t want to be stuck sitting next to other people on the bus, and that I should take care of myself. I was still embarrassed by the story, but thought that they might as well hear it from me than someone else.

David walked by and said he was glad some people were ready for the optional. He made a comment that he was surprised to see me up and about. I started apologising to him, and he said that I hadn’t done anything wrong while we were drinking, so it was no problem. Then I asked if he had heard about the falling, and he stopped going to his room and came back to find out about it. I retold the story, and he was more concerned than anyone else who heard the story. Then he started asking if I had damaged the room – to which (after I had inspected and tested the TV) I told him no. He was relieved, but just struck about the whole story. Like I said in the earlier post, he now had another warning story about the hotel. Before he left, he asked to see my back, so I took off my shirt and showed him and Father and Anthony. They were impressed that I was still alive.

Slowly, people joined the group. And for most of them they knew that ‘Moustache’ had had a big night and wanted to know what had happened. So I retold the story. And more and more people were stuck by by how lucky, by how crazy, and by how stupid I was. The best reaction from people was some of the English women who were walking on the second story walkway to their room and spotted me and the group of growing people below. They called out if I had a good time last night, and had heard the rumour that I had jumped off the second story balcony, not fallen. But they didn’t believe that either would have happened. When I confirmed, one of them (Natalie) came down to hear the story. By this point, and maybe the 5th retell, I was not nearly as embarrassed as I was glad to be of interest to all these people again – much like the days after Vegas. 

When I finished up, Natalie said: “You’re this mythical figure Moustache. A legend. First with Vegas, and now with this. There’s this myth going around about you. It’s like the Legend of the Moustache.” And from then on that tag stuck – the Legend of the Moustache. Some people knew I was keeping a diary, and they started referring to that as the Record Book. My trip, from then on, was always going to be called the Legend of the Moustache.

Eventually the crowd had gathered and we were off. My hangover had gone, but now the pain from the fall was starting to get uncomfortable. I downed more headache tablets, and they managed to stave it off for a while, and thankfully through the optional. The optional we were going on was an air-boat ride through nearby swamps, looking for gators. We all had fun with the word gators, sounding it off much like ‘Peterrrrr’! David was amused.

It was a 15-20 minute drive out, and then a 15 minute wait around. There were some albino gators in a pond inside the building where we waited. Again, I was asked about the story, and then asked to take my shirt off again. This, I said, would be the last time, and I did. Anthony got a photo. Again, gasps and comments of ‘You’re very lucky’ could be heard. 

Finally we got out onto the air-boats. I was with 6 women and David, and our tour guide’s name I had no idea because of his accent. It was the stereotypical deep-south, redneck accent that you’ve all heard. Anyway, this optional was fantastic. While it was no helicopter flight through the Grand Canyon, in terms of cost, expectations, delivery and photo opportunities, as well as the simple nature of it (jumping in an air-boat with the guide who was a ‘fair dinkum’ guy, cruising around the swamps which were some people’s back yards, and enjoying nature while it’s still there to enjoy), it was right up there.

On Facebook, I didn’t even upload half the photos, and there are a few already there. The highlight of the thing was, actually, the gators. We stopped in this sort of cul-de-sac in one of the water paths through the swamps. The guide switched his engine off and we floated there. Then he pulled out a bag of marshmallows, explaining that the gators eat them because they can see the bright white contrast to the dark water much easier. He threw 2 mallows in a suddenly right next to the boat a gator came to the surface. It had snuck up and been waiting right there for us. It dawned on me that while they aren’t a lion or something, this thing was a bit of a deadly creature.

Another time, we went and pulled up near to a nest, which the mother was very protective off. The guide pulled out a boat oar (not that the boat we were on needed one) and started poking the grass nearby. The noise that the gator made (which I have on video and will probably upload one day) is quite scary. 

But the best thing to do with the gators was this. The guide stopped the boat to let us take photos. He then casually asked ‘Does anyone want a drink?’ He picked up an esky as all the six women in front (I was beside the guide) turned around to get one. He then reached in and whipped out a baby alligator and plopped it on the first bench. All six women darted away, climbing over one-another to get to the front row. It was hilarious! Then the gator made a sudden movement and it was happening all over again. Repeatedly this would happen, and David, myself, and the guide just sat there laughing. 

The guide managed to coax the women into holding it, and everyone go their photos. I was third last, as there were two women there who were petrified of the gator to no end. My 2 photos are on Facebook, and will eventually appear here. Eventually, another of the air-boats pulled up alongside. Then they snuck over and held their baby gator (which was hardly a baby, at least 2-3 feet long, while ours was hardly a foot) with its large white teeth over the shoulder of one of the women. And the scramble was one all again. 

After boating around for some more, we headed into the Gulf of Mexico from the tributary that feeds into it and watched the sun set from our boat. Eventually we headed back, tipped the guide graciously, and then bused back to New Orleans. Once again, I had another of those dinner story experiences – boating around swamps looking for gators, and watched the sun set over the Gulf. A rather unique and interesting tale too which would be very uncommon. 

We were booked in for the last group dinner of the original mob who set out from Los Angeles. The tour would be leaving the city the next morning, and the people who ended their tour in New Orleans wouldn’t be seeing us again. The place of dinning would be Bubba Gump Shrimps – a spin-off restaurant from the film Forrest Gump. I didn’t know that they had actually made B.G.S.’s, but was quite glad to go there. We went straight there from the swamps, and I found myself in a booth with Sarah, one of her friends from her group, and an English women (the one I had sat next to on the bus leaving the Grand Canyon). Excellent company, I must say.

We ordered from the menu which is 90% shrimp (which didn’t bother me at all, I like my prawns). We all ordered too much, thinking that we could down an entre and a main. We couldn’t, but I tried my best as the meals were delicious! I noted the blurbs so as to suggest at work trying some of them with prawns for specials. 

At one point, I dropped a prawn on my shorts. In a quick movement, and threw it back onto my plate. It was covered in grease, and I didn’t want to have to do washing before my planned date. This was very amusing to the immediate company at the booth. Then, when everyone had composed themselves, I went to eat the shrimp with the words ‘Time to eat the trouser shrimp’. This cracked them all up for a good 10 minutes, and would be another catch phrase with a group on the tour associated with me. Not in any teasing sense, just how funny the event was. It probably isn’t funny to read. It’s one of those ‘have to be there’ moments.

After the meal, it was time to say goodbye to those that were leaving. The woman who helped me home the night before came up and said that I owed her money for the cab ride home in a joking manner. I pulled out my wallet and said how much. She said not to bother, but eventually she took money from me as a part of my thanks for taking care of me that night. Along with Father, I was sad to see her go, especially considering I had been getting along with her quite well for the last few days.

As for Father, well, like I said, I didn’t want him to leave. He was a very good roommate, and just a great guy. He was a good compliment to the craziness that was going on around us all the time – down to Earth and the senior of the group. We didn’t go overboard with the farewell – got a photo, had a handshake, some kind words, and that was it. He isn’t the kind of guy to sign up to Facebook (as everyone else who wasn’t on there (like me) had pledged to do once we got home), so I doubt I’ll hear from him again. A shame, really.

We headed downstairs to get taxis. I paired up with people who were headed back to the hotel and not even thinking about going out to drink. I could not even entertain the thought without feeling a little more pain. We made it back with a little difficulty (remember the hotel was hard to find?). Our taxi driver, a woman, was good for a conversation, so it made up. We tipped well, and then parted ways. I think that the woman who was leaving the next day was with us, so the farewells happened all over again. I know that Kathryn was with us because I had negotiated with her to get some stamps that she wasn’t going to use. She was to come round my room in half an hour, though knocked and got no response. In my defense, I didn’t hear her knock.

Finding my room empty, I was rather glad. I pulled up a chair to the desk I had fallen asleep on was now being used by me to write some postcards that I was desperate to send. Once that was done, I switched on the TV to make sure it was still working and watched some C-SPAN before turning in for the night, not waiting for my roommate to get home. I was keen to get to sleep, having a long day plus the added bonuses of a hangover and all my injuries. The rest would be very, very welcome. 

Thomas.

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