I just crawled out of the most exciting and extraordinary cities America has to offer. The first thing you notice are the smiles, from EVERYBODY. By far, the nicest people I have ever met. Then again, the other ones who don’t smile and talk to themselves as they walk grimy down Canal Street at 5 in the morning might just kill you.
That’s the dichotomy with New Orleans. Bizarre luck, both matched with a sort of poetic decay and undefeated hope.
I have been going down to this fair city for over a decade now. It is a bar man’s dream, the moody allure of the live oaks off Magazine Street, to the idyllic double shotguns homes in the Marigny, and everywhere, EVERWHERE a to go cup can be found stacked on the bar for you to take that drink you don’t quite feel like chugging down and move on. You do just that.
Move on and smile.
With a friendly gesture to the bartender, you’re off, sweat glistening on the skin, the faint sound of brass echoing in the distance, a fresh cold beer in hand.
I could go on and on about this town, and I will in future blogs, but I have a grievance to address.
To me, New Orleans is The Big Easy, a place where a man or woman down on their luck can find a friend for the night, drink cheaply, and bask in the modern carnival of this citadel of inspiration.
But I ran into someone who did not share this idea. And guess who it was?
That’s right, my drinking friends, a man of my trade, a brethren in arms.
So, I’m on a small budget, trying to get my drink on and take some friends to a great bar I know in the Quarter.
The Chart Room (Chartes and Bienville).
This is like Captain Ahabs wet dream (nautical old maps and foreign moneys line the walls) meets a Bukowski den of dust, ice cold glasses of High Life, and a slew of battered regulars who look like they just got off a long ships voyage themselves.
A Beautiful Place.
I roll in, right up to the bar, filled with the spirit of New Orleans in my heart. Happily, I look up to the tall bartender and ask, very politely.
“Sir, what are the cheapest beers you have in this fine place?”
Right then, it happened. His face, once chipper and smiling with glee to the other customers, grows callous, as he says, bluntly:
“Yeah, great opening. If you ain’t got no money, why don’t you just drink a sixer in your backyard? Bad start, brah.”
And with that, walks over to some other regular, leans on the bar with some pride, and continues, chewing gum while he smiles, to finish his story.
I look back at my friends. We’re all stunned.
I mean, we live in New York. We’re used to douche bag bartenders. But here? Down in my favorite city in the world?
My friend finally flags him down and gets us three High Life (which are two bucks all the time, by the way). We awkwardly watch him be super-sweet to everyone but us.
Now look. I get it. Anyone who has read this blog understands I know how shitty this job can be. And I get it. Maybe he thought I was some jerk-off tourist.
There are reasons a sane bartender would be rude like he was.
A) I was rude first.
B) I was visibly wasted.
C) He knows psychically about my Karma from another life and deemed himself some sort of delivery service of justice.
Either way, I was definitely not the first two. So we split and head over to Molly’s on the Market (what up Kate and Michelle!), a bar where we could receive the true love New Orleans has to offer. And we did. All night. And danced to an all brass band. And drank cheaply. With no rudeness. Sat by the Mississippi River. Drank. Smoked weed.
Glory, glory, hallelujah.
Let me explain what a bartender is. We are there to get you drunk in any manner you see fit. You want high end Tequilla. We’ll fuck you up with it. You got 10 bucks. We’ll figure out a way to get you where you need to go (sobriety-wise).
Bartenders are here to aid the wounded souls of the world. We’re the EMT’s for the spiritual bleeders. This guy (Will is his name, people) apparently does not live by this credo. And it’s guys like him that give bartenders a bad name. Someone asks you what the cheapest drinks are, you just fucking tell them and help them get where they need to go.
I could have told him a million things about myself being a bartender, and I know how it is, and tried to bond with him, especially if he was having a bad day. But the fact he was so friendly to the others made his rudeness far more barbed then necessary.
But as my Well Published Friend who watched the whole thing transpire said as an afterthought: “Where there’s a Will, there’s an asshole…”
The Chart Room was redeemed, in the end, by native New Orleanian Julie Lacoste, whose absolute sweetness, warmth, and charity made our next several day drunks a glorious time.
And to you, Will, I’ve got one last thing to say.
Don’t be a dick, you Ron Reagan Jr. looking motherfucker. And if you still want to, I can get you a job in the Upper East Side. You’ll fit right in.
PS- Other bartender notables and shout outs: Luke over at Mimi’s, Claudia at the Balcony Bar, and Krystal at the R Bar. Love you guys. You make bartenders proud all over the world.
Ron Reagan Jr.
This place Rules!!!!!