In mid-July, Sarah, Chloe and I went on a trip to New Orleans. We were wholly unprepared for the French Quarter. When the airport shuttle bus dropped us off at our Bourbon St. hotel, the street seemed skankier than that size-5 girl in the size 2 jeans that had the locker three down from me in high school. (Trust me, she was skanky.) The succession of stores was bar, T-shirt shop, porno club. Rinse and repeat until the end of the street is reached. The bars were hopping despite the fact that it was only around noon.
Now, when I say porno club, I mean place's like "Big Daddy's Topless/Bottomless Club," "Unisex Love Acts Club" and "The Boys Will Be Girls Club." Each place had windows in front lined with photos of the dancers, love acts or boys... being girls. It was creepy.
When we eventually hit the streets for the nightly party, as everyone must, we were surprised by the number of deaf gays we saw. I mean, I'd heard there was a large community but its odd to see. We saw a group of signing gay men on the street and at dinner, there was a booth full of deaf gay men behind us and two gay guys in the booth next to us. Our initial reaction? "Cool."
That night on Bourbon, at one end of the street (the end of the well-lit section), there was a congregation of extremely attractive men. We looked up to the balconies of the bars there and, lo and behold, more hotties. We looked at the name of the bar and said "Damn." Next to the name "Oz" were several rainbow flags. Okay, I'll admit that the name "Oz" should have been a hint. Still, we were a little bummed.
Walking down the street, we saw more gays and lesbians. I don't know if this is standard for Bourbon St., but there definitely seemed to be more than the typical ten percent of homosexual people. This was fairly reassuring because the men on Bourbon were a little....sleazy. I'm thinking specifically of an African-American man that walked up to Sarah and said "Chocolate loves him some vanilla."
One eyebrow arched, Sarah said "Excuse me?" Guys had been hitting on Sarah all night, but this was the first time she'd heard this.
"Chocolate loves him some vanilla. I'm looking for three wives," the man said. As he continued extolling the virtues of vanilla, we began to laugh. Sarah told him we were only 17. What's a little white, err vanilla, lie? He seemed undeterred. She told him we were lesbians while putting an arm around Chloe. He blinked and seemed confused.
Taking the opening, Sarah grabbed our hands and we fled.
All night, and every night thereafter, guys felt the need to holler things at Sarah or smile lecherous grins. It was kind of nasty because a lot of the guys were little dirty things. The rest of them weren't undressing women with their eyes, they were committing 'unisex love acts' that are illegal in several states with their eyes. As a result, we clung just a teeny bit closer to the nice gay guys.
As it happens, gay men saved us from a cult. Ooookay. I'll pause to allow you a moment to laugh at the melodrama.
Okay, done yet? Fine, I'll give you one more line.
Stop laughing! I'm serious. Our last night on Bourbon, two guys came up to us and introduced themselves as Andy and Tucker from Washington D.C. (I'm using their real names because they're homophobic psychos who deserve a little negative publicity.) They seemed like nice guys. They were about our age and a little drunk. A friend of theirs, a girl, came over as they explained that they'd seen us early on the street, and spoken to Sarah for a moment. That reassured us a little bit and, hey, everyone talks to strangers on Bourbon. They told us that they were going to see the Kings of Rock and Roll at a club. We asked if it was a band and they nodded. We asked if it was on Bourbon and they nodded. (Okay, you're suspicious already? Well, we're not as smart as you are. Feel smug, by all means. <grin>)
With a hand on my shoulder, Tucker began guiding me down the street. I looked back to see Chloe and Sarah walking with Andy and the guy's female friend. They were about ten feet behind us so I didn't worry. Tucker asked me where I was from and I told him that we were from Chicago. He volunteered that he was from D.C. I nodded and said "Yeah, that's what you said."
"Oh, did I?" he asked. "Sorry. Now, where are you from?" Okay, I started to get a little suspicious. I mean, I had answered him less than a minute ago. I looked back and Sarah and Chloe were still walking with Andy and the girl. Something else caught my eye, the rainbow flags of Oz. Oz is the last well lit bar on the street. We never walk any further than Oz.
I stopped and Tucker said "C'mon, we've got to go."
"I want to wait for Sarah and Chloe," I said. Tucker persisted but I waited anyway.
When they came up to us, I was surprised to see three people with them, in addition to Andy and the girl. Tucker started talking to the other three; they were obviously friends.
We were just beyond Oz, in a slightly dark part of the street. Tucker and his friends were discussing where to go, which worried us because they had wanted us to go to a specific club. Tucker and Andy had to move to allow two men, holding hands, to get through.
Chloe, Sarah and I moved to let them through and, as they passed, Tucker yelled "Come back here and f**k me! Hey, f**k me!" The guys looked back for a second before continuing. I regained my composure first.
"Hey, if you're not gay, don't say that stuff. That's not fair." I said as kindly as possible. Tucker looked at me and freaked out. Letting out a stream of swear words, he began to scream about how stupid I was.
Sarah said, "That's it, we're out of here." Tucker continued cussing but the girl shut him up by saying "No, they have to come with us. King David will make them suffer."
Tucker and Andy began to plead for us to come with them. Sarah, Chloe and I looked at each other wide-eyed. It was then that we realized, thanks to the three people that had joined them, that we were seriously outnumbered by a group of psychos on a dark street in a foreign city. Great. We turned and high-tailed it back to Oz. The first people that we ran into was four guys outside of Oz. We identified the two guys that had walked past us earlier and Sarah quickly offered apologies for what Tucker had said. They seemed totally surprised and blew it off, saying it wasn't a big deal. We tried to explain that it was a big deal to us. We would certainly never condone that behavior and we wanted the guys to know that Andy and Tucker were general psychos, not just heterosexists.
Smiling, the guys said "Hey, no problem." Satisfied, we walked back to our hotel. The truth is, my warning sirens didn't go off until Tucker yelled at those guys. I never would have noticed that we were outnumbered or that these people were psycho. That random act of heterosexism saved us from god-knows-what.
Right before we left, we swung by our hotel gift shop. The cashier was the stereotype of a gay male. He was also really nice. ("Wait a minute," you're saying, scratching your head. "I thought that 'really nice' was the stereotype about gay men. What's she talking about?") I was grumpy about leaving so I was complaining about having so much change in my purse. With a sigh, he said "Give it to me. I'll give you cash." I immediately felt bad. I didn't want to put him out to help myself.
I looked and found that I didn't have that much change. "Oh. You just like bitching, huh?" he said. I grinned, suddenly feeling very at home. I explained that I was in a bad mood because I was returning home to the cornfields of Illinois. "You think you've got it bad?" he hooted. "I'm from Ohio!" I had this sudden image of him saying "Oh, you've got to be kidding!" when expected to milk a cow or something. Smiling, he gave us some candy and we ran out to meet our airport shuttle.
At the airport, we had to wait in a long, curving line to check out luggage. We were paying quite a bit of attention to the baggage checkers because we wanted to get rid of our heavy bags. At one point, one rather attractive baggage checker (I know, one track mind) stepped back from the counter and said "Hey, gorgeous, come help me!" down the row of baggage handlers. I couldn't tell which person he was talking to so I waited to see who came to his call. It was kind of a game. Here's this hot guy; who is he calling 'gorgeous'? Well, when the person he was speaking to came over, I had to agree. He was hot. Sarah laughed. "Well, that's in keeping with our New Orleans experience."
Basically, the gay guys were the best parts of our New Orleans trip. They were nice, helpful and, inevitably, cute. One thing bummed me out and that's the reaction of the guys we apologized to outside of Oz. After seeing so many gay people and club, I'd begun to think that homosexuality was much more acceptable in New Orleans.
To some degree, that's correct. You've got to respect a town that offers a gay heritage tour. But what does it say about the city when two men holding hands aren't fazed by a guy yelling obscenities at them? How about when they seem genuinely surprised that people felt the need to apologize for such behavior? Well, it says that it's a normal city with normal homosexuals that are used to such things. That's sad. What does that say about the world?
Julie, a 19-year-old sophomore didn't succeed in kidnapping Kevin Williamson for her own personal use. She hasn't been writing because she had nothing to say for awhile. If you think that she still has nothing to say, don't drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Otherwise, feel free to comment.