Federal air marshals, senators and transvestites…Rude vibes on a Thursday evening in New Orleans

New Orleans' French Quarter was full of moody shadows and intrigue.

New Orleans’ French Quarter was full of moody shadows and intrigue.

“Fancy some action, honey?” the prostitute asked, grabbing my crotch as I walked by.

Pete and I were in New Orleans’ French Quarter, heading back to Olivier House, where we were staying, in the dark, wee hours.

She was a strapping lady, about my height in her heels–so 6 feet 4 inches–though despite a pneumatic-looking chest, I remember at the time being pretty sure that she was actually a he, not that this was the only reason I politely declined the offer.

Walking away my mind was taken back to my 2004 tour in Al Amarah, Iraq.

My tank unit had an excellent squadron sergeant major, though whenever I bumped into him walking around Abu Naji camp he had a slightly disconcerting habit of saluting me while, as I returned the salute, his other hand would dart out and grab my crotch causing me to re-flexibly buckle over with a grunt.

He’d stride on smartly as I straightened up, readjusting my beret that usual had half slid off.

He executed his polished salute-and-crotch-grab manoeuvre with most of the squadron’s young officers–I guess his way of reminding us that though we were ostensibly in charge, we shouldn’t take it too seriously.

Earlier, speeding toward The Big Easy through the grey swamps and marshes of Louisiana assumed an ominous quality; an almost post-apocalyptic sensation as the brackish  waters lapped either side of the highway.

But once we reached the city’s outskirts and continued on to the downtown area we saw little of the destruction Hurricane Katrina had wrought.

Certainly on Bourbon Street it appeared business as usual and everyone seemed to be in town.

In one bar we went from a conversation with a federal air marshal–there for a convention–to attempting a conversation with a half-deaf U.S. Senator being shown a good night out by some foxy lobbyists who might as well have been his grand daughters.

He nodded, grinned and tapped a finger toward an ear; so what if he couldn’t hear a thing over the loud music–he was having a whale of a time and more than happy enough.

As were we and everyone else there “humping the American Dream,” in Hunter S. Thompson’s words , for all it was worth, while beyond the city limits the alligators slithered in the dark.