Posted on April 4th, 2023

The Soft Core of the Earth – In Case You Were Wondering…

I made it back from New Orleans in one piece. With a little less than 2.5 days there, I did my best to soak it all in. I didn’t get to do everything or go everywhere I wanted, but where I went and what I did was largely done right. Let’s do a little recap:

Night One, a Monday, my buddy who lives in Baton Rouge (BR) picked me up from the airport, and straight we went to Tracy’s Original Irish Channel Bar where we met another friend of mine who lives in NOLA, one I haven’t seen in over four years. I started off with vodka sodas (and stayed there the rest of the trip), but my friends are way bigger drinkers than I am these days, and they still have the desire to do shots, so I had to pick my poison and took a couple shots of silver tequila. We ate while we were there, too, and thank god, because otherwise I might have drowned in consumption that night. After three stiff vodka drinks and a couple shots, I had invited the fog in early, and from there we went to a bar yet to be named. I don’t recall the transit too well, not because I was loaded (though, I was getting there), but because I was overcome with joy of being back in the Big Easy. We then walked into a dive bar that had few other patrons, but I didn’t really care; I was just happy to be there with my boys.

Well, I must’ve been even less aware of my surroundings than I typically am, because it took a friendly nudge from my NOLA friend to notice a picture hanging up behind the bar: a headshot of me, about 8×12, with the words “This man drinks for free” above it. I was surprised and proclaimed, “Whoa! How did that get there?” My NOLA buddy said, “I bought this bar two months ago, I put it up.” I was elated. I proceeded to take advantage of the offerings, and the vodka and tequila did flow. I was already wearing my best Mardi Gras shirt when I walked in – a relic from Mardi Gras of 2000 that a buddy stole from shop on Bourbon St. – and when I caught my eye on a sequin-loaded robe hanging behind the bar, reminiscent of the Technicolor Dreamcoat, I had to inquire: “What is that, and why is it there?” My NOLA buddy told me they sell them, or at least they have them for sale, nobody had bought one yet. Since I hadn’t spent a nickel yet, I shelled out the $55 to buy one, and man did I look fly.

Both of my friends had to work the next morning, so they headed off to bed and I got dropped off at the hotel that was hosting most of the conference attendees (not me, because I’m too cheap – more on that in a minute). There was a friend of mine, a past fling, I hadn’t seen in about three years, and she was a big part of my excitement for this trip. She’s not much of a drinker or a late-night person, but nonetheless she agreed to meet me at the hotel bar for a nightcap. Aside from the robe purchase, my wallet was full, and because the booze had been flowing freely and electrified my veins, I quipped that I wanted to try something off the top shelf – you should know there were four levels of shelves above the rail liquor, and the top shelf required a ladder to get to. Unphased by what the price might be, I asked the bartender to give me two of whatever was in the sparkly blue bottle. It turned out to be whiskey (and I’m not a whiskey drinker), but at that moment, it didn’t matter what it was – the liquor was ubiquitous. I signed the credit card slip without noticing how much I paid or tipped. The next morning, I would express concern several times about what that might’ve cost me, but I was too afraid to look…

If the drinks are free, it’s your duty to drink until they throw you out. (Image comes courtesy of Pixabay, retrieved from https://www.pexels.com/photo/pink-panther-plush-toy-on-brown-bench-miniature-209620/)

My gal pal and I had a great time, at least from what she tells me; apparently, I asked her the same questions and brought up the same topics the next day when I saw her as well. She laughed it off and that’s all I could do also. Day Two was a struggle. I had a presentation at 10am, but I mustered whatever energy I hadn’t spent the night before, scraping the recesses of my brain to get enough out, and then went back to the hotel to crash. The first social of the conference was that night – more free booze – but I could never get back to normal, and thus was unable to take advantage of the offerings. I struggled through the day and evening, and then eventually had to go home and crash early, hopeful that I would be recharged the following day for my last one on the ground – it was all going by so quickly.

As I mentioned, I stayed in a cheaper hotel because, well, all I was planning on doing was getting drunk and passing out there, so who needed nice accommodations? Not me, or so I thought. The internet never worked while I was there. The walls were paper thin, and people came and went at all hours. The shower stall was finicky, and while the staff was nice, they were largely uninterested in their jobs. I guess you do get what you pay for. When it comes to hotels, this is a lesson I continually refuse to learn…

Well, Day Three was to be packed – I wanted to cram in as much as I could, and conferencing never really factored in. Of course, I socialized with many friends who I only see at this conference, and I even had a good discussion with some colleagues about a project I wanted us to embark on together. But my main focus for the afternoon was trying to reconnect with my gal pal, and we walked all over the French Quarter for a good three hours or so, finally ending at a bar with other friend-colleagues, huddled around a table slow-rolling our drinks. She and I remained seated next to one another the entire time, even as more people came in, and there was a little bit of that schoolboy crush in the air. We held hands under the table for most of the remainder of the afternoon, but that would be the end of the line – no cashing in on this crush this time. Maybe some other day…

At about 6pm I had to leave to go meet my BR and NOLA friends. We grabbed a quick dinner and then went back to my NOLA friend’s bar. And while he’d taken down my sign, or someone did, anyway, the drinks still flowed freely – and free. There was a larger crowd that night, a hodgepodge of riffraff and ne’er do wells, and I got into some interesting conversations with some interesting people, one of whom I thought possessed the potential to be a serial killer – he was far from stable. But I awkwardly coaxed him into lowering his misdirected, and frothing, anger (he had previously worked at the bar my buddy bought, but my friend fired all the staff when he bought it so he could hire dependable people, and this guy still held a major grudge). I was also introduced to a liquor I’d never heard of, Malort, apparently a Chicago staple that also has anti-parasitic medicinal qualities. They poured me a shot, and when random people gathered around me with their cameras on to film me, I should’ve known I was in trouble. I didn’t vomit, but I don’t know that I could’ve come any closer. It was foul. But I rallied, and on I drank. The night ended around 12:30am, and I had an 8:30am flight, so another rough one lay ahead of me. I was sad to go. I could’ve used at least one more night – so much to do! – but I don’t know if I would’ve lived through it. The Big Easy Called, and boy did I accept the charges…

In case you were wondering, my bar tab from the top shelf drinks was only $30. Either they carry garbage and had nowhere else to stick that bottle, or the bartender forgot a zero on my tab, or perhaps he took pity on me because he saw I was having so much fun and making the most of it. Either way, I’m glad I didn’t have to learn another hard lesson on drinking again, but I’m sure there’ll be numerous opportunities to do so in the years ahead…

Marco Esquandoles
Mr. Easy

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2 responses to “The Soft Core of the Earth – In Case You Were Wondering…”

  1. Ron Ruelle says:

    Satellite pics or it didn’t happen!

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