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Hand Grenades & Hurricanes

Published: Thursday, February 27, 2014

Updated: Thursday, February 27, 2014 14:02

Hand Grenade: $8. The price is pretty explosive, even if it is New Orleans’ most powerful cocktail. I can’t really afford one, but I can’t afford not to have one either. So I order four. Carpe diem and all that.

My enthusiasm has made the bartender uncomfortable. I can see it etched across his pasty, acne-ridden face. He asks for identification. I hand it over. It’s as fake as his smile, but both serve their purpose.

I make my way down Bourbon Street with my alcoholic arsenal. There’s mischievous conduct everywhere and yet, people are staring at me. You’d swear they were real hand grenades. It’s a good thing they don’t know I’ve had four already, they’d probably have me committed.

To tell you the truth, I don’t remember arriving in New Orleans. I woke up this morning in Audubon Park. A revolted Lycra-clad jogger roused me from my slumber on a vomit-ridden bench.

Not being one to waste time, I immediately spruced myself up with water from the duck pond, before pressing an elderly, dog-walking local for information. He was a jumpy yet helpful old geyser.

After our chat, which was fantastically confusing for both parties, I realized that I was no longer in Baton Rouge, where I was visiting my best mate Frank.

He’s getting married in the spring — to some ball-buster. Frank used to be my partner in crime — the only man I knew who could and would match me drink for drink. And now he’s boring, settled down, “happy.”

As I sit on the curb, beginning to sober up, even I’m no longer convinced by my bravado. I’m a Holden Caulfield phony, unworthy of knowing where the ducks go in winter. I ring Frank. I want him to tell me how to fix myself, sort myself out like he’s done. No answer. Redemption will come later, I hope.

A homeless man asks me for a cigarette. I give him what’s left of my pack. I tell him I won’t need them anymore; I’m quitting cigarettes and alcohol and all those other things I overindulge in.

I check my battered leather wallet: my credit card remains, along with a crumpled fifty-dollar note.

Buoyed by the discovery of this unexpected treasure, I rise to my feet and hail a taxi. Park benches are beneath me now. My new life starts in a hotel bed.

The hangover is atrocious, but I revel in it. This is penance for my sins. I lie still in the hotel bed, which is identical to all other hotel beds. But, the situation is wholly unique. I will savor this hangover, it will be my last — for a while at least. This bed is my cocoon; the hangover is my chrysalis. When I arise, I will be a full-fledged butterfly.

After my shower, I get a ring from Frank. Once I’ve provided the necessary explanations and apologies, he agrees to meet me on Bourbon Street for a heart-to-heart. He tells me he’ll be a couple of hours.

As it happens, my hotel is just around the corner from Bourbon, so I decide to pass the time there, people-watching in the Saturday afternoon sunshine.

From my post on an old, weathered, wooden bench, I watch the Bourbon Street crowd intently. If you like people-watching, you’ll love Bourbon Street. I’ve never seen so much diversity in one place.

I notice a lot of people drinking a distinctive-looking cocktail, which I learn is called a Hurricane. Bourbon Street’s second-strongest drink they tell me, and I “have to try it.”

It’s not for me, I tell them. The heat is making me thirsty though. I check my watch. Half an hour until Frank arrives. I hope.

Frank’s an hour late and he’s not answering his phone. I’ve been drinking water for 3 hours but I’m still thirsty. I need something with a bit of a kick. A Hurricane seems just the ticket — after all, going cold turkey is daft; I don’t want to get the shakes.

But I’m only having one.

The Hurricane is outstanding. It’s delectably fruity, and strong, too. I finish the first in mere minutes.

An hour later I’m back on the bench, enjoying my sixth. I have a missed call from Frank, but I’ll get back to him when I finish this one.

A butterfly descends toward me. I slowly offer it my arm as a perch, as gently as I can possibly manage. The butterfly lands and rests on my grateful forearm, but alas, for only an instant. Then I am resigned to watch it fly far, far away from me, swept away by the hurricane.

Domhnall Drislane can be reached at ddrislan@loyno.edu 

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