By Philip Cairns

Copyright 2012 by Philip Cairns


Vacations are a tiny bubble of exquisite unreality.

Longing for the sounds in the streets of New Orleans.

Music and lively drunken crowds on Bourbon Street.

Buying home-grown art at the French market made from old jewellery and cast off items.

Walking by the muddy Mississippi at night.

Hordes of people watching a giant TV screen in a park.

Talking to friendly people in the funky stores.

Riding the oldest running streetcar in the world on St. Charles.

The sexy blond sax player at a club on Frenchmen Avenue.


Galleries and museums filled with art by local artists.

Huge assemblages made of junk by Thornton Dial in the art museum.

Miniature bronze sculptural installations by Ersy.

Buying a delicate emerald bracelet in the French Quarter.

Bleach blond Steve who tried to hustle me for a $50 massage in a nearly empty gay bar.

Talking to American tourists on the street,

Waiting for the tour bus to arrive to see city sights.

Wrought iron balconies.

The house where Tennessee Williams wrote some of his first work.


Margaritas in outdoor cafes.

The slim, young, handsome waiter in the pricey café.

Couldn’t take my eyes off him.

A framed woman, behind glass, made of bits of newspaper and broken jewellery.

Sushi and warm sake in a loud café across from our hotel.

Drinking too much wine in jazz bars and falling into our bathtub in our tiny hotel bathroom,

Tearing the shower curtain off its rings.

Eating in a half-empty posh café overlooking the river.

Huge luxury ocean liners swaying by the picture window.

One leaves and another one immediately arrives.


Spanish looking Mina, with long auburn hair, painting in her gallery store,

As we walk in to browse.

Three hours later, we leave, after an incredible conversation about art and acting.

Nasty Facebook messages from a fading gay porn star

Who discovered my poem about him on my blog

And took offence where none was intended.

Methinks he has a serious drinking problem.

Friendly gator eyeing our boat on the bayou.

Greens and golds swirling around in the trees,

Reflected in the calm waters.


Inexpensive art by local artists is everywhere,

Contrasted with masterworks by Monet and Picasso in a museum.

Walking really fast on a ¾ mile track in a gorgeous park at the top of the town.

Starchy plates of cheap food with generous portions.

Walking the streets for hours until our feet are almost dead.

Tiny shops full of treasures.

People wandering down the street with an open bottle of white wine and a glass in their hands.

Getting lost, late at night, in a dodgy part of town.

Overweight, ugly rent boys waggling their fat cocks in our faces in a tired old gay bar.


Meryl Streep, dressed in gold, winning her third Oscar,

Broadcast on TV in another gay bar in the Quarter.

Cold rainy days and summertime heat.

Eating outdoors in February.

High end galleries filled with art I covet but can’t afford.

Touristy stores full of cheap souvenirs made in China, labelled New Orleans.

Josh, the stunning bleach blond singer, who just opened a gay Pride store on Bourbon Street.

Jazz music everywhere, wafting from the open doors of club after club.

Little parades of horn players and horse drawn carriages on Canal Street.

Everyone talking about Katrina and its aftermath.


Abandoned houses in the poor part of town.

Sandra Bullock’s enormous mansion with a wrap-around porch in the Garden District.

Palm trees and magnolias.

Feeling totally at home, everywhere.

Colours of red, gold and blue.

The omnipresent Fleur de Leis.

Wishing I could live in New Orleans six months of every year.


Buying beaded handbags and zirconia ear studs in a lovely mall down by the riverfront.

Purple sparkly party hat on a woman riding the streetcar, across from us.

Mardi Gras beads on tourists.

Black streetcar drivers.

Cold, unfriendly night clerks at our tiny hotel.

Unhealthy Continental breakfasts.

On our last night, bursting into tears at the Oyster Bar because I didn’t want to leave.

Weeks after the end of Mardi Gras, coloured beads hanging from fences and telephone wires.


New Orleans is a multi-hued kaleidoscope of sights and sounds,

The air electric with joy.

Talking to a smiling baby in our hotel courtyard, after breakfast.

The beautiful old homes in the Garden District.

The joke is that all of them are inherited.

Walking forever down the Esplanade,

Looking for a non-existent cab.

Photos of hideous performers outside the live sex show clubs.

We never went inside.

Oh, New Orleans, I will return to you one day,

Even if I have to walk there.


On the bayou, a blue heron standing stock still, waiting for a fish to appear.

It was so rigid, the Captain of our boat told us it wasn’t real.

I turned around and watched it gobble its prey.

Walking through an old cemetery with ancient mausoleums everywhere,

Ghosts in the air and hiding in crevices.

Antique stores and art galleries on Magazine Street crammed with glorious treasures.

Bargaining with merchants is as common as fairy dust.

Tarot card readers sitting at little tables in the public squares and on sidewalks.


Tiny wooden shacks out on the bayou that are used as weekend homes.

Kinetic energy swirling around the French Quarter.

Hurricane drinks in huge plastic cups.

No health food stores or low fat plain yogourt.

Brad and Angelina’s house hidden behind wooden gates.

I understand why Tennessee Williams loved this city.

A part of me will always be there,

Savouring the art, the music and the sweet people.