It started when we stepped into unfamiliar territory filled with men dressed as geishas, women dressed as Elvis Presley, mystic gypsies, and rainbow-feathered, human parrots. Quaking in my pink Nike’s and wringing a map of the city in my hands, I peered up at the rectangular, green sign: ‘Bourbon Street’ it boldly displayed. While trying to find the Mardi Gras parade on Canal Street, my cousin and I had taken a wrong turn and entered the chaotic streets of New Orleans.
My cousin, fresh off the plane from Seoul, Korea, gawked at the site before him. A bearded lady in a neon pink ensemble coyly winked at him and continued on her way. The surreal site jumbled my mind, and I began to break out in cold sweat as the air around me seemed suffocating.’Tom, stay calm, and we’ll find out how to get back to Canal Street,’ I squeaked.Frantically, I opened my map, hoping that all the different colored squiggles and lines would direct us to our destination.
My imagination ran wild as I thought of the idea of being kidnapped or never seeing my family again. My eyes darted left to right and pinpointed my curious cousin peering at a group of men powdered with white flour, black wigs secured on their heads, and wearing a red, silk kimono swaying to the sound of music and fluttering their flowered fans; they were beckoning us to join them.Tom turned to me and in his broken English he asked, ‘Beautiful — women?’Knocking down a grungy pirate, I grabbed my cousin’s arm and raced down the cluttered street, weaving through the gypsies and tin-foil men. My heart pounded loudly and I could hear it vibrating in my ear; it was not until later that I realized the loud banging was actually a drummer boy nearby and not the beating of my heart.
Gulping for air, my eyes darted frantically and finally, spotting a sign with bold letters that said ‘Everyone is Welcome,’ Tom and I entered a maroon, Victorian house, hoping to find a map or a phone. ‘Come in,’ a husky voice beckoned. ‘Excuse me but is there a phone that I could use?’ I asked, my voice small and quivering.
A woman emerged, clothed in a violet skirt and a long white blouse. In one hand she held a shrunken head and in the other hand a vial of green powder. Through my shock it took great effort to close my jaw.
Her long grey hair framed her inquisitive face. She beckoned us into a chair and glided to a gnarled, wooden bench across form us. My cloak of terror slowly melted away and was replaced with wonder and even slight amusement.
The woman stroked her shrunken head and quietly hummed a Frank Sinatra song. ‘You are on a quest’ she finally said, shattering the silence. ‘You…you need a vial of my protection spell and I can provide that for a mere twenty dollars.’ Shaking my head politely I tugged on Tom’s jacket and we slowly retreated into the sunlight.
After a moment of silence, we burst out into a roar of laughter. Retracing our steps back towards the strange festivities, we spotted our parents uncomfortably standing between a group of colorful hula dancers and the male geishas we had met earlier. Never have I experienced such a bizarre vacation, but I do hope to stumble upon another adventure even wackier than this one in the future.