New Orleans smells spicy. The sticky air is a shock for someone not accustomed to humidity.
When traveling solo, I undergo a slight unease when first stepping into new environs. No friends waiting, no familiarity. Just a couchsurfing address to arrive at and a big bunch of unknown standing between me and it. And the unknown, while not always scary, is sometimes unsettling. I cope by taking a go-with-the-flow mentality that gets me to my destination much like a river carries floatsam and jetsam downstream. Might not be the quickest between, and I might be a little battered, but I arrive eventually.
I hopped on a bus that went downtown. The view out the window was breathtaking. Delapitated homes, bombed out warehouses, it's like a third world country, or a war zone.
There were four of us on the bus. I was squinting at my blackberry, trying to make sense of the map I had downloaded. The bus was dead quiet, so the conductor's voice startled me and the rest when she said, "Turn down your music."
I looked up, and saw the other three passengers looking at me. I looked at them. They kept looking at me. I looked at my phone, suspicious it might be making a secret noise that only I couldn't hear. Nothing. I looked up, and no one was looking at me. Relief. Silence.
60 seconds later. "I'm not joking. Turn down your music or I will pull the bus over." The looking started again. I was beginning to think either she, or I, was crazy. Finally, a young man seated in the front half of the bus, but closer to me than the driver, moved to the back half of the bus. More silence. More abandoned buildings.
We arrived downtown with no more interruptions. I rolled my way down Bourbon Street, dragging my luggage with a bum wheel behind me, rat-a-tat rat-a-tat. It's the travelers walk of shame, announcing to the world A) no one would pick me up and B) I'm too cheap to take a cab.
After passing Bourbon's endless strip clubs, jazz clubs, bars and trinket shops, I found the Frenchmen Street bar where my couchsurfing host works, equal parts sweaty and victorious. She took my luggage, and gave me a beer on the house. Arrival.