That's how it used to be. But then I had an idea. Instead of getting irritated at their insensitive blocking of sidewalks, I would consider them Natural Formations. Instead of thinking of them as human blobs, I would consider them Boulders, Spurs, Ranges, Dips, Streams and Mounds. Instead of thinking of my trip to the store as an obstacle course, I would think of it as a stroll through the countryside. In my favorite kind of country -- mountainous! -- I always walk around big rocks, ford small streams, take narrow paths past large boulders, avoid spurs, and so on. Country walking is a great pleasure, and I saw no reason not to enjoy my daily trek through tourists in the same fashion. As soon as I changed my mental frame, I began to enjoy the amorphous herds lumbering my way. A group of ten or more became a Range. A couple with beers and binoculars were a Mound. Five inebriated college students, a stream. A gaggle of partying junior partners in a Midwest firm, a Butte. A single drunk whirling his arms, a Sink Hole. A shirtless man with a map who'd lost his wallet (along with the shirt) looking for his hotel (whose name he'd forgotten), a Lonely Spur. A guided night-time ghost tour became a Hidden Valley. Thinking this way, I found myself enjoying a country outing right in the middle of the city.
Having solved the major part of my irritation, I must now work on the remaining problems: the stink and the talking. The stink isn't so bad if you consider it part of the general funk of New Orleans in the summer: rotting crawfish shell, steaming piles of fresh mule doo-doo, garbage-truck juice, decomposing small rodents, beer urine, and night-blooming jasmine and magnolias. The talk is more problematic because these urban Natural Formations say incredibly stupid things you can't help overhearing. But there are always iPods.