Porch Crawling in Mid-City

When I was growing up, each October heralded the arrival at some point of the Trick-or-Drinkers. This was a group of adults in my neighborhood who would dress up and carry themselves from house to house, stopping in for a drink in what amounted to a roving, progressive cocktail party.

This was up in Rhode Island, in a tiny, tight-knit town where everyone knew each other and hardly anyone bothered locking their doors. As a little kid it also seemed like nothing ever happened here, but then along would come the Trick-or-Drinkers, these adults all dressed in costumes, acting silly and dropping in unexpectedly from the dark and always cold autumn night. In they’d tramp to occupy the living room, the retired professor from down the street now dressed as Dracula, the lady I always saw walking her poodles now done up in safari gear with pith helmet and cane switch. Drink refills were proffered, neighborhood talk would go around and inevitably one or both of my parents would get talked into assembling a makeshift costume on the spot and joining the Trick-or-Drinkers for their next stop. Kids were not allowed – our turn would come on Halloween – and while I was much too young to appreciate the idea of a progressive cocktail party it was easy to get swept up in the excitement of this merry band briefly taking over the house and then departing for adventures unknown.

Something similar, albeit more organized and much larger, is taking place this Friday, Oct. 21, in the area where I live now, Mid-City.

It’s the annual Mid-City Porch Crawl, an adults-only event which this year visits six porches around the City Park neighborhood. Everyone who registers to participate meets at Ralph’s on the Park at 6:30 p.m. for the first round of drinks and hors d'oeuvres, and then they head off in various squads to each of the featured addresses, where they eat, drink and socialize on the porches and in the yards. Naturally, this being New Orleans in late October, costumes are strongly encouraged.

Each porch will have a signature drink provided by local bars including the Mid-City Yacht Club, the Evangeline Lounge, Finn McCool’s Irish Pub, the Bayou Beer Garden and Clever Wine Bar, plus Celebration Distillation, the Gentilly-based makers of the Old New Orleans Rum brand. Each porch will also have its own food from a roster of local restaurants, including Boo Koo BBQ, the Louisiana-style barbecue joint inside Finn McCool’s; the backstreet classic Katie’s Restaurant; the new stuffed burger joint Juicy Lucy’s; the Olive Branch Café from the American Can Apartments; Redemption, the new restaurant in the chapel that was once Christian’s Restaurant; and Pizzicare, the New York-style pizzeria from the crew behind the Crescent Pie & Sausage Co. After you’ve hit all six porches, the evening continues with an after-party back at Ralph’s on the Park.

Porch Crawl tickets are available online, and advanced registration is recommended since space is limited.

The event is a fund-raiser for the Mid-City Neighborhood Organization (MCNO), and it’s now in its third year (here’s a video showing last year’s event).

The inaugural Porch Crawl in 2009 was held in a different part of Mid-City in fact, right in my immediate neighborhood and it turned out to be an entertaining and memorable night. To reduce congestion and facilitate socializing, participants are split into various teams and dispatched to start at different porches. At an assigned time, everyone switches to another porch, eventually making the whole circuit and often crossing paths with other groups of Porch Crawlers en route. I thought I knew my little corner of Mid-City pretty well, but trooping along like this, meeting and sharing drinks with different people and learning about the New Orleans stories behind each door we visited gave me a new read on my neighborhood, and made me even happier to live there.

While the event is a Mid-City fundraiser, it’s by no means limited to neighborhood residents. In fact, this seems like an idea that could easily be adopted in other parts of the city, and while having an organization like MCNO behind it helps mightily I don’t see why any group of fun-loving New Orleanians with a sense of neighborhood pride couldn’t throw their own version together on the fly.

Should you feel so inspired, if any awed but confused kids should ask you what’s going on, just tell them you’re the Trick-or-Drinkers and wish them a happy Halloween.

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