My Last $100: King Cake, Hurricanes, and Chaos
February 24th — Weekend in New Orleans
$4.00: Beignets and coffee at the iconic Café du Monde of New Orleans. The French breakfast cuisine palace was packed with eager customers, each of whom had a few specks of powdered sugar sprinkled on their napkins and pants. We watched the parade pass by, and the palm trees swing in the breeze as the weekend of Mardi Gras kicked off. The waitresses, dressed in their French diner costumes, worked at a busy pace hoping to speed up the process from table to table. Their “cash only” policy forced me to walk a few blocks and stop by an ATM to retrieve five $20 bills. Unlike most of my monetary interactions, my weekend purchases would be paid in cash. This kept my spending to be more conscious and aware, although it disappeared faster than I had hoped. Like Zelizer, I would argue my money was differentiated or earmarked, as many of the destinations over the next two days accepted cash only. Having just a credit card that is unable to retrieve cash from an ATM would be unacceptable down in the Bayou.
$15.00: Urban Outfitter’s grey suede fanny pack to properly keep all my belongings in close comfort. I justified the on-sale purchase, as its original price was $49.99. This fanny pack came in clutch, as my friend’s iPhone was a casualty to a master pick pocketer.
$10.00: Fais Deaux Deaux’s famous fish bowl drink, a ginormous red drink tied up by a Mardi Gras themed lanyard. Wherry would label me as a calculating individual, because the refills were only $5 upon returning. The Fishbowls were trademarked as the floating drink of the streets. The heavy plastic cup followed us through the packed pavement. They were the only drinks not permitted into the other bars because of its big brand presence.
$9.99 “Pardi Gras Polo” purple, yellow, and green for the festivities! The decision was tough between the myriad of fleur de t-shirts, boas, and beads. Either option in the store would measure me as a non-calculating individual, for this heinous polo will likely never be worn again. After my questionable purchase, the store’s background music was suddenly silenced by the loud sounds of percussion, pipes, and horns shouting in the streets.
$5.00: Cab ride from Bourbon Street to uptown St. Charles Street. We piled 10 people into the minivan, hoping the driver wouldn’t mind. The Knights of Chaos, Babylon and, Muses filled the streets with horses, floats, and beads flying loosely onto the ground.
The chaos in the street caused us to walk to dinner. After several blocks of madness, we finally found a small and empty restaurant. When the girls of the group waited in line for the bathroom, the guys had purchased an array of shrimp and chicken Poe boys coupled with Cajun fries for the table. Dinner was for free! The communal sense continued throughout the night into next day. It was a cycle of inter-obligations, one member gifting another, as Dodd would say. The means of exchange, the circulation of favors, and carefree attitude completely eliminated the need for Venmo. For the weekend, it was extinct. Solely an exchange of commodities, a Po-boy for a hurricane, which would also tie in the Barter theory.
$7.75: A delicious King’s Cake smothered in frosting and sprinkled with sugar from the Court of Two Sisters — for the table. I found the baby in the first slice! This symbolizes luck and prosperity.
$5.00: Refill of the fishbowl drink. For the group, of course. It became the perfect pass around for our leisurely stroll past the parks, the New Orlean’s supreme court, and rare coin collection stores. There we found state currencies before America had established a national bank. Helleiner would be interested to see the progression of imagined communities that came together to create a national currency.
$1.83: In between the series of events, we witnessed palm readers and artists trying to entertain for a living. My guilt took over when I saw a young boy tap dancing with his father to a synchronized tune. This warranted a Washington bill and the remaining loose change clinking around in my wallet.
$6.99: The Gumbo Shop’s chicken gumbo served with a baguette. The waitress kept calling us “sugar” as we waited for authentic creole cuisine. Although I am not usually an adventurous eater, I risked the meal in order to feel that I had seen, tasted, and heard all of New Orlean’s unique culture. Sadly, this was a mistake and a waste of nearly seven dollars. In order to spend like the mainstream of New Orleans, this purchase would label me as foolish for the time being.
$32.65: Three Hurricanes for the group at Pat O’Brien’s Pub. I was responsible for the first round and in turn my friends would pay for the next two. We lounged next to it’s famous fountain, while live music played amongst the college crowd. Like the Irish tradition, each member was buying a round for the group. I had to stick around for a grenade and margarita, courtesy of my fellow friends. We had created a miniature version of Benedict Anderson’s “imagined community”. Because of our recent purchases for the group, we were tied together at Pat O’Brien’s Pub.
$2.50: A greasy slice of cheese pizza from the Daquiri Shoppe. I no longer felt the need to immerse myself in the creole and southern culture. Between beignets, gumbo, and the crazy cocktails of the weekend, the universally known cheesy piece of pie was just what I needed to cap the trip.
In two short days, the Grand Total came to be $100.71