A few years back, business took me to the French Quarter, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Now, everybody knows that New Orleans is a bit of a hole. To get to the French Quarter, which is the heart of their tourist industry, you have to go through a ring of abandoned or badly maintained urban areas that would not look out of place in dowtown Beruit. And that was before hurricane Katrina. Now it’s worse. When I drive down Canal street, I try to time the lights so that I don’t have to slow down and I keep the doors locked. I also warn any travelers who are with me to stick to the well-lit touristy areas and avoid going anyplace that looks like it’s got “character.”
Mind you, if you like antibellum architecture, alcohol, music of all types, alcohol, jazz in particular, alcohol, zydeco, or alcohol, there’s a lot to see and do. I recommend a visit to the crescent city for anyone, but it remains something of a rough town, and a certain amount of urban awareness wards off a host of problems that might otherwise throw a pall over your vacation.
In any case, business had taken me there, and this time I was sans wife and friends, and pretty much on my own in a city that bills itself as the bacchanalia capital of America. So I went out looking for interesting bar experiences, and there were one or two that I might chronicle in a later on, but for now, I want to talk about Margaritaville.
For those not in the know, Margaritaville was Jimmy Buffett’s signature song, and the name of his first bar/restaruant, still open in Key West. Nowadays, Jimmy owns a chain of them, from Las Vegas to the Caribbean. But of interest is the one in the French Quarter in New Orleans. Now, like all businesses in the Quarter, Margaritaville is carefully designed to separate you, the tourist, from your money. It’s decorated in a style than can only be described as “Jimmy Buffet.” It’s sort of Caribbean, sure, but it has a distinctive touch of Parrothead style that can only be experienced. The menu is classic tourist/americana, with Margaritaville variations, like the Cheeseburger in Paradaise. And, of course, from the bar can be had a wide variety of margaritas and beers.
But we’re here for the bathroom. It was truly amazing, the thought that went into it.
I walked in the door, and was immediately confronted with a wall paneled with stainless steel. Looking to my right and my left, I realized that the entire room was paneled with nothing short of stainless steel. The floor was polished concrete, and sloped sharply to an iron drain heavily bolted into the concrete. The mirror above the sink was stainless steel. The sink itself was stainless steel. The soap dispenser was stainless steel. The stall partitions between the toilets were stainless steel. And yes, even the toilets were stainless steel. The lightbulb in the stainless steel ceiling was a big glass incandescent, but it was recessed behind a grille of,yes, stainless steel.
There was nothing, absolutely nothing in that men’s room that could be stolen, smashed, or set on fire. Hell, nothing could be BROKEN unless you brought a tire iron or a cutting torch, and I’m not sure about the tire iron. And best of all, after closing, it can be cleaned out with a high-pressure hose without getting anywhere near it.
Now there is a men’s room owned by a man who knows what it means to own a bar in New Orleans.
Jimmy, I salute you.
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