8:14 p.m. — A young blonde woman wearing ankle boots and a paisley dress is the nucleus of a group of tourists (hailing from San Francisco and Kansas City) swirling between The Front and a gallery at 4036 St. Claude Ave. They are trying, unsuccessfully, to get a cab. "It's impossible. I've been calling for hours. He's off duty," she says, gesturing toward a cab at a stop sign. "How do local people get around?" They're all staying at Airbnbs because hotels are "dumb" and have "stupid prices." "Have you ever seen Treme?" one asks as they set off on foot for the Hotel Monteleone's Carousel Bar.There's already enough kvetching about whether or not Frenchmen Street is "the new Bourbon" or whatever. But what if it's more accurate to say the whole city is the new Bourbon Street? Pick a neighborhood on any given night and you might be surprised at how many people you run into who don't actually live here.
I suppose that sort of thing has always gone on to an extent. There have always been a lot of tourists here. So it's never been uncommon to greet strangers by asking where they're from. If you're in the Quarter or somewhere else there might be a lot of visitors about, that's just being hospitable. And we're typically a friendly and hospitable lot in this town. Hang around downtown long enough and you'll meet someone from just about anywhere in the world.
It gets a little weird, though, when every neighborhood starts to take on that same atmosphere. I think it's affecting the way the locals interact with one another. During a recent night out uptown, Menckles and I had several encounters with strangers begin with some version of a nativity test. Apropos of nothing, a bartender quizzed us on the history of the Louisiana drinking age. A patron at another spot interspersed the conversation with probing little local in-jokes which seemed intended to determine just how "NOLA" we really were.
Maybe it's just me but I don't recall quite the same undercurrent of hostility running into the most casual of conversations. Especially in the neighborhood bars. A once simple, "Where are y'all from?" has gone from being an icebreaker to an inquisition. When nobody in your neighborhood actually lives there, people naturally become suspicious of you if you say that you do. It's starting to feel like we need to start carrying papers with us.