Tuning Up - Summer 2022

Mullet Street

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On New Orleans’s most famous thoroughfare, it’s always 1986

By Wayne Curtis | June 1, 2022
Illustration by Eric Hanson
Illustration by Eric Hanson

Here’s a challenge, the next time you visit New Orleans. Head to Bourbon Street where it intersects with Iberville Street and start walking downriver. Whether you find the street appealing or appalling doesn’t matter. This most prominent corridor of the most historic part of the city deserves a stroll. I’d suggest going at twilight, when it’s pleasantly garish and the neon is flickering on and the inebriety hasn’t yet become soiled and frayed, and the imbibers haven’t yet become unspooled. Now walk nine blocks until you get to St. Philip Street and see if you can do so without hearing one of three songs: “Mustang Sally,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” or “Brown Eyed Girl.” I’m pretty sure this cannot be done. My house is not far away, and I walk or bike the length of Bourbon Street once or twice each week. The soundtrack hasn’t really changed in the 15 years I’ve lived here.

Bourbon Street is the ancestor of Las Vegas, the place where normally inhibited people come to do things they can’t do at home. Like walk down the street drinking a Hurricane from an open container, a rite of passage for new arrivals. You can tell who the newcomers are because they have mildly culpable looks on their faces, as if they’re getting away with something, and they furtively scan the crowd, hoping others will notice them. Partial public nudity was once part of this scene, but it has declined in our age of social media. What happens on Bourbon Street no longer stays on Bourbon Street but appears on your friends’ phones milliseconds later.

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