OK, it’s rant time.
First, a confession: Last month during the holidays I punched a Minion in the back of the head. Looking at my year in review, it was not, admittedly, my high point.
But before you judge, let me explain. First of all, it wasn’t a balled-up-fist-punch directed in anger. I had no intention to cause harm, bodily or otherwise, to the Minion.
It was more like an open-handed whack to the back of the head. It was one of those get-out-of-my-way, you knucklehead kind of whacks.
So, technically, it wasn’t really a punch. Not a punch at all.
Nevertheless, my two friends were mortified by my action. How could you punch a Minion, of all things, they both said?
In my defense, I thought it was a “Simpsons” character. All I saw was a big yellow blob of a costumed character waddling about, getting in everyone’s way. In fact, until the incident, I had never even heard of Minions.
And secondly: It wasn’t a punch. Technically.
But here’s the larger point: Am I the only one who’s annoyed by all these costumed cartoon and superhero characters blocking the sidewalks and accosting innocent pedestrians?
What is their art? Where is their performance?
Am I the only one who’s distressed by the joyless hustle on Bourbon Street these days? There is no craft, only clutter.
Our beloved Boulevard of Broken Dreams has turned into a desperate cluster of ragged fuzzy blobs, tattered superheroes, fat guys in women’s lingerie and, my (least) favorite, the guys who paint themselves gold, sit on trash cans and give tourists the finger.
For this, they want a tip.
Here is a tip: Find a mirror and practice your act in front of it for a long, long time.
Perhaps the most egregious members of this sad-sack circus are the beat-down guys wearing tattered and frayed Mardi Gras Indian costumes in desperate need of a dry cleaning, presenting themselves as New Orleans culture while waving a big, dirty, cracked plastic bucket under your nose for a tip.
There should be a law against the desecration of cherished, almost sacred relics, such as these museum-worthy costumes. These faux Indians, they offer no chanting, no dancing, no performance. There is no pride. They just stand there holding old, dirty buckets looking very, very sad.
I feel like I’m using more italics in this story than anything I’ve ever written, but that’s because we’re dealing with extremes here. With a bad pantomime of our own city. With a cheap version of New York City’s Times Square, which could hardly be cheaper than it is.
I can picture tourists when they go home: “Hey, look at my souvenir from New Orleans – a selfie with a guy giving me the finger!”
Even in daylight – when you might think the atmosphere might be at least a little bit more family-friendly and less sleazy than when darkness ushers in the sins of the strippers, barkers, pick-pockets, street walkers, drunks, thieves and dealers – the place smells like cheap thrills and rip-off.
At least back in the day we hustled our gullible tourists and naïve conventioneers with a little more panache. A little more style. A little more … art!
The current Bourbon Street hustle is common and uncreative. I never thought I would find myself feeling nostalgic about those “I bet I know where you got ’dem, shoes” guys.
It is like this: If you’re going to con me, be clever about it. Confidence games, grifting and hustling have great, long traditions wherein the con man gets the money because he was smarter than the mark. Cleverer, at least in that moment of interaction and transaction.
Key word: Action! Do something!
There is nothing smart – or clever or interesting or even funny – about a fat guy in a bra or a seedy, tattered Spider man or a drunk Homer Simpson furry shoving his way into your group photo.
Give me a break! Give me relief from all this dreariness. Give me a better class of con.
Just please: Don’t give me the finger.
Because you know what I’m capable of when I get annoyed.