New Orleans. A city of many beautiful colors, parades, and traditions. It is rich in historic homes and buildings. It is known worldwide for its lavish street festivals and outstanding performers. It's known for its grand celebration of the Mardi Gras holiday, reflecting the practice of the last night of eating rich, fatty foods before the ritual Lent season.
This time of year brings tens of thousands of people to participate and enjoy all the parties. As a result, the businesses enjoy a surge in sales, and the souvenir business makes a killing. Local vendors and street hustlers also profit from the upsurge of people.
Mardi Gras does have its downside as well. As a former police officer for the NOPD, I have had many dealings with the seedier side of the holiday. I try not to think about what some people do when intoxicated. But I can't help remembering just some of them. When I reflect on my time living there and the people, I knew as friends, my mind constantly flashes to the dark side.
I get it. Everyone loves a good party. But seriously, folks, you should rethink your actions after a few drinks.
I have often been asked about my experiences and the people I met. I had some great experiences during the holiday. I have seen people come together and help each other after major catastrophes like floods and storms. I have seen the city put celebrations on hold because it was more important to help its citizens dig out after hurricanes. I saw many times that people opened their homes and created shelters for storm victims.
I will never say that all I saw was bad. People can be amazing when given a chance. I wish the other side of people would stay hidden away and the world would be kind to each other. I have seen the injured get left behind on the streets. I have dealt with death from crimes, overdoses, and excessive drinking. I have seen children left without families due to senseless crimes of passion.
Mardi Gras week is a mixed memory for me. The holiday brings out the best and worst in people.
I enjoyed the floats and costumes in the parades, just like everyone else.
I enjoyed meeting some of the biggest names in sports and entertainment. The stars love to come there and have huge private parties. I was asked several times to work as personal security for the events. I will not mention any names here due to the guests' privacy. But the sports figures were some of the rowdiest groups I worked for. Hollywood gets a bad rep for their parties, but I can't say I agree. They were the easiest to deal with. The money for those events was rather good as well.
I was asked several times to work as private security for several of the large hotels on Canal Street. They were always looking for help to keep the partygoers calm and deal with the drunk and stoned people that wandered in thinking they were in the right hotel. These people were more difficult to deal with because they were usually so out of it they just wanted to fight.
On more than one occasion, I would get called to a specific hotel floor to deal with an intoxicated person trying to get into a room they didn't belong in. Most of the time, they were in a different hotel altogether. Sometimes they would cooperate and go to the right place on their own. I always tried to give them a chance to find their way home or call another officer working at their hotel to come to get them. I never liked arresting people for having fun.
However, you would get those few people that just wanted to fight no matter how nice you were to them. You would have no choice but to arrest those. I always felt bad for them. But, when they sobered up, they would realize what an ass they were the night before and hopefully regret their actions.
One of the funniest and most disturbing calls I got was at the Sheraton. I was asked to meet an elevator on the tenth floor and deal with the occupants. I was not told what was happening, only to deal with it. So, I met the elevator. The doors opened, and inside was a couple in their mid-twenties. They were clearly intoxicated, and I noticed they were fully disrobed and engaging in carnal acts. When I radioed into the dispatch desk in the security office of the hotel, all I could hear was laughter. It seems the security office was enjoying my reactions to what I saw. I did not think it was funny.
I looked for their clothes and could not find them anywhere in the elevator. So, I closed the doors and used my key to force the elevator to the lowest level opening to the security office. I called ahead and asked to be brought blankets to wrap them in. I then asked the couple where their clothes were, and they told me they had thrown them out on different floors. I was not happy. I then had to go and retrieve the clothes. This young couple was also not guests in that hotel, so they had to be arrested.
Most hotel disturbance calls involved people getting into fights at private parties. These were never fun to deal with. We had to deal with the private guards hired if we weren't working for the party as security. I am not a small man, but I am not a large man either. Some of these guards were ex-pro or ex-college football players or boxers. This meant, usually, the fights were getting physical and way out of hand. Most of the time, the guards ended up getting arrested as well. Just a reminder, you can't take a swing at a police officer while he is performing his duties and trying to break things up.
As everyone knows, girls flashing for beads is the most popular thing. I will be honest and tell you that most officers will ignore this unless they suspect an underage girl is doing it. The paperwork is not always worth the hassle of fighting through crowds to get to the girls. The other problem is a lot of these things happen on balconies of private buildings or rooming houses. This adds to the hassle and can complicate the case in court.
The French Quarter, especially Bourbon Street, is usually packed so tight it is impossible to get to certain people in a crowd. This makes the life of a police officer even more difficult. Partygoers will get in your way and try to delay you. They think they are helping the girls, and sometimes it works. They can't get to them. Breaking up fights in the quarter is another issue faced. It is next to impossible when you are trying to get through a crowd of a thousand watching the fight. By the time officers get to the center, sometimes there are several injuries to deal with.
There are many situations I can speak about. But it would be best if you didn't think this was all gloom and doom. I loved being an officer for the NOPD. Apart from the Mardi Gras festivities, most of the time, I enjoyed my job. I got to see many sides of the city. I tell people all the time to go there and enjoy the sites.
Make sure you take one of the many scenic tours. First, go see the old brewery on the east side of town. Then, go take a walking tour of the cemeteries or historic homes. Many homes have been restored to their original conditions and furnished like they were back in the early eighteen hundreds. Next, take a trolley ride around the city. Go to the Riverside Walk and check out the performers and street vendors. Finally, make sure to sample the local foods. If you have never had Cajun food, you will enjoy it.
New Orleans is a great city, and I have many fond memories. The people work long and hard to create a fantastic festival for everyone. The colors and styles of the costumes are fabulous. The floats are outstanding and can compete with any parade anywhere in the country. The city is old and rich in traditions. I recommend the Mardi Gras festival to anyone. But be careful and control your drinking. Go there with the intent to enjoy.