Enough with the rumors! New Orleans is open, safe, and ready for the gays. I have just returned from what some are calling the most spectacular Southern Decadence yet. Various sources have claimed that over 100,000 revelers descended upon the Crescent City for this annual event. 

Southern Decadence is a four-day long party in the New Orleans French Quarter. It is a defiant celebration of spirit, sexuality, and who-gives-damn-what-you-think.

My partner, Jason, and I arrived at the Hotel Monteleone around 5:30 p.m. on a Friday. The drive wasn’t bad, about eight hours. The Monteleone family has been taking care of New Orleans’ visitors since 1886. The rooms here aren’t as large as some of the other, more modern four-diamond hotels in town, but the Monteleone’s location (on Royal, one block from Bourbon) and its century of charm and elegance more than made up for this. 

After our brief period of playing ‘high-class gays’ in the art galleries we walked to my favorite New Orleans dive: The Corner Pocket. After a downing a few drinks and handing out some one-dollar bills we grabbed a cab to the Central Business District. I had scored us reservations at John Besh’s new Restaurant, Lüke. 

Lüke is a hip joint that serves fine food in a relaxed atmosphere. I’m not much of a seafood fan but the oysters I had as an appetizer made my toes curl. The rest of the meal was just as amazing. 

Another cheap cab ride and a short walk put us back at Southern Decadence central, the corner of Bourbon and St. Anne. This is where I got a true sense of what Southern Decadence is all about. Partying together on the street where grandpas, grandsons, bears, boys, outrageous queens, bondage freaks, and every other variety and sub-culture of our community. Everyone was out there and everyone was having a good time. Standing on the corner outside of my favorite Bourbon St. club, Oz, I couldn’t help but think “we aren’t just like straight people……we are a hell of a lot better!"

Sunday was parade day and the Southern Decadence Parade was like no other procession I had ever seen. The crowd was full men in trash-drag and wild costume. Many of the participants were older, much older, than Jason or I. In my younger days I would have found this something to laugh about, but the mature me was almost brought to tears. In front of me marched men who spent decades in the closet because there was no other choice, men who feared exposure because it could lead to retaliation, exclusion, or death. I cheered on their defiance of society’s expectations. I supported their inappropriate and loud expressions of freedom. It was important, it was vital, and these types of liberty marches should be supported, no matter what others may think of them.  

Throughout our trip people had been telling us how many Tennesseans were in town. This was strange because we didn’t meet any other Volunteer Staters until Sunday night when we ran into up and coming Nashville-based porn star, Ryan Conners. He is a sweetie; you should Google him. Even though I didn’t bump in to many, I was glad to hear that a good number of fellow Music Citiers were supporting New Orleans.

I love New Orleans, and I desperately want it to thrive. You should too. New Orleans, while its past isn’t perfect, has been there for the gay community longer than any other city below the Mason-Dixon Line (and most above it). The town embraces us and encourages us to be our outrages selves. You don’t have to wait for a gay festival; you can visit year round and feel just as free to be yourself. So, if you are looking for a good three-day weekend or even a week-long vacation, give NOLA a chance. New Orleans has helped lift gay society out of the shadows and into the light. It is time to return the favor.

My big boss, Brent, didn’t give much room here in the print edition. Something about relevance, decency, and word counts. Anyway, I begged and pleaded and he finally promised to give me all the space I needed online. So visit www.outandaboutnewspaper.com and read my complete account of Southern Decadence 2007 including more detail, sarcasm, and exaggeration. Trust me girl, its good.

Photo courtesy of Red Bull

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Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville

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Who would have thought that we would have to get through a pandemic in order to appreciate the small things we have, such as the ability to simply pack our bags and hit the road?

For two years, there’s been nothing left for us travel junkies to do but sit at home and try to find new destinations that we will conquer once we defeat what appears to be the biggest villain of the 21st century. But once that happens, hold your bags tight because we will be up for some of the most interesting travel experiences. Take a look at some ideas for your post-COVID traveling plans:

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