It was my first trip ever to the Big Easy. I was being hosted by my good friend from Virginia, Ted. There were perhaps six or seven of us, gathered for a rousing Carnival celebration. Although we didn't end up staying all the way until Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras), we experienced plenty in that four day weekend.

I learned, for example, how and why to make a decoy wallet.

This trip was notable for a number of reasons. I was introduced to King cake, and taught how to eat crawdads and oysters. I had my first po' boy and learned what "Throw me something, mister!" meant. This was my first encounter with chicory in coffee, krewes, and beignets. This ended up being one of the best trips I've taken in my life. The finest part started when I awoke on Saturday morning, February 13th, 1999.

The plan was to go watch the Metairie parades for several hours, find something to snack on, and make our way back to get ready for the evening. When we got back, some of us donned extra layers of clothes to combat the chill that was settling down on Nawlins. I thought about the huge crowds we were about to dive into on Bourbon Street. I thought about how I was going to soon become a human drop in a river of hysterically joyous, tipsy people. I really, really enjoy large and dense crowds. I couldn't wait.

I'm not sure why exactly I thought to do this, but I extracted my driver's license and thirty bucks from my wallet, and pushed them deep down into the front pocket of my jeans. I emptied the remaining contents of the wallet into my duffel bag. I grabbed an old newspaper and started tearing off and folding pieces of the paper, stacking them in my wallet. I made enough newspaper wads so that my wallet became very heavy and full. I dropped it into the back pocket of my relaxed-fit jeans. Bait, you might call it. Or just common sense, I guess.

I'm not trying to say that this was my very own, personal, patented idea. Far from it, of course. People have been doing this for hundreds, if not thousands of years. I'm sure there are numerous travel pamphlets which recommend that you travel with your passport and important documents stashed in inconspicuous inner pockets (or your bra, should you have one). This was the same sort of idea, though I didn't think anything of it at the time. Besides which, I personally thought that it would be next to impossible for someone to pickpocket me, even in the upcoming crowds. I had been in similarly large and unruly crowds before, and had never bothered fashioning a decoy wallet.

The next thing I knew, we were having coffee in Café du Monde (HIGHLY recommended, BTW). I reached for my decoy wallet to pay the bill. That's when the two thoughts struck me simultaneously. First, my cash was in my front pocket, stupid. Second, it wouldn't matter anyway, because there was now quite a conspicuous absence where my decoy wallet had been when the evening started.

I had my decoy wallet stolen in New Orleans, Louisiana, and all I got was this lousy writeup.

I'd like to think that even the pickpockets are laid back in Nawlins. I can see the look on the guy's (or gal's) face when they opened up my wallet only to find that day's entire folded classifieds. I envision him lookin' a little like Cool Man Eddie. Or whiter, maybe, who knows. "Sheeeeeeeeeeeeiiiiiittttt," he'd say to himself, "these tourist bitches crack me up."

Maybe next time I'll leave some credit cards in there and report 'em stolen. Or, better yet, a few bucks, a slip of paper saying "For a good time, http://everything2.com...", and maybe a condom or two. I really don't know. There's only one problem, though.

I actually liked that wallet...

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