Nov 212012

In this image from “It’s A Wonderful Life,” a young George Bailey makes a wish for a million dollars. I’d settle for a dozen birthday balloons. — Jean Paul Villere.

Jean-Paul Villere

Last week when my 4 year old made, well, 4 neither my wife nor I thought too much about snagging a bag of birthday balloons from a nearby, preferably local, business, but man, were we wrong.  If you live in Uptown New Orleans I challenge you to discover where those in need of a good old-fashioned latex balloons might find them and report your results right back here, but I’ll tell you now, you won’t be reporting much (though I hope you do).  Here’s what we encountered:

Rouses (on Tchoupitoulas at Napoleon) according to the florist there, they do in fact sell balloons, but for a buck a piece.  You read right: one dollar = one balloon.  We explained, no, we wanted a bag.  Y’know, like a handful?  Like when you go into Oak St Ace and you grab a fist full of galvanized nails from multilayered lazy susan in the back and throw them in a paper bag?  Like that!  Only with balloons.  Hopefully a couple of different colors.  No need for funny shapes.  Unless you think round is funny.  Thank you Raising Arizona, but no such luck.  Next!

CVS (on Napoleon at S Claiborne) does in fact sell balloons but only branded with hoo-ha foil find.  Y’know with a smiling doe-eyed Dora exploring something?  Or a Spongebob something or other.  No thanks!  Not looking for mass commercialism.  Just balloons!!  The clerk shrugged and just said, no, they didn’t carry those.  By now I began to really wonder about the state of world at large.  What the hell is going on here?  My kid’s turning 4, not graduating from high school.  I just want a little ordinary pop, some old school flair.  Okay, what about across the street at – – –

Walgreens (also on Napoleon at S Claiborne) may as well be known as “CVS 2: the sequel” or vice verse, because this place was as useless as their competitor across the way.  Argle bargle already!  Is this the world we’ve created for ourselves?  Foil balloons or bust?!  Plus which I don’t know who’s shelling out singles for one offs over at Rouses but clearly there’ve cornered the market, at least as far as the Napoleon Ave corridor is concerned.  What’re we supposed to do then, buy them on Amazon?!  Well, actually you could, but again, no thanks.

It’s the 21st century.  I carry a computer in my pocket that’s also my phone, but I can’t go to a drugstore to secure standard birthday fare.  Wha?  Suddenly this holiday’s viewings of It’s A Wonderful Life take on a whole new level.  I bet in the yesteryear of Mr. Gower’s pharmacy, balloons would have been in ample inventory.  Round and funny shapes.  Conversely I feel a little like Charlton Heston at the end of The Planet of the Apes, looking for something I’m better off not knowing: there are no latex balloons in the future, kids.  Twinkies neither, apparently.  

I finally did find a veritable trove of balloons at the Walmart on Tchoupitoulas.  But this doesn’t forgive the egregious void of availability Uptown nor explain the why of the void.  All these retailers carry candles and birthday cards too, and I doubt the balloon profit margin is cost prohibitive to endure the burden of carrying these latex vessels and therefore having to manage them.  So now you know: if you’re in New Orleans and you seek a complete birthday experience, sucking it up and hitting the big box may be unavoidable.  Bleech!

Found them at Walmart. Victory, or defeat? (photo by Jean-Paul Villere for

Jean-Paul Villere is the owner of Villere Realty and Du Mois Gallery on Freret Street and a married father of four girls. In addition to his Wednesday column at, he also shares his family’s adventures sometimes via pedicab or bicycle on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

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