Saturday, March 18, 2006

The First Mardi Gras Post-K

Here was the plan for Mardi Gras: wear costumes, wander around the Quarter, see everyone I know, and party all day. I'm proud to say I accomplished every aspect of the plan.

Anyway, I have to say this was one of my best Carnivals ever. I already wrote about the parades, which only got better despite the fact that many of the krewes lost their floats in the flood. On Mardi Gras itself, we headed down to the Quarter in the morning and arrived in time to march with the St. Ann's walking parade, which was the usual collection of funny, sexy, and satirical costumes, everyone half-dancing, half-marching down the street to the horn blasts and drum thwacks of the brass band. Many costumes made fun of the government and the Thing (hurricanes, floods, apocalypse, etc.), though we chose not to focus on that ourselves. Besides, I did a Katrina Kostume for Halloween. Plus, I wanted to wear a silly hat, because what's the point of Mardi Gras unless you get to wear a silly hat?

Brooke had a costume emergency in that her boot was attempting to cripple her, but that was solved with a $15 pair of sandals and an extrememly large vodka tonic.

Once that was taken care of, we returned to careening around the Quarter aimlessly, which, if you've never been to Mardi Gras, is essentially like attending the biggest costume party ever that lasts all day, and I really did run into just about everyone I know since we all hit the Quarter and tend to congregrate at some point near Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop. I swear I have friends I only see during Mardi Gras. There's never really any telling who you will end up hanging out with as people come and go, everyone on these crazy, looping trajectories intersecting each other, then splitting, only to come together again later - you run into someone you know dressed in a fairy costume who knows someone throwing an apartment party in the Quarter where a complete stranger convinces a handful of people that you absolutely have to bar hop down Decatur which leads you to Frenchmen where you meet up with a colleague dressed as a superhero and then ... well, you get the idea.

I know this is a strange word to apply to Mardi Gras, but it was really nice this year. Very casual and stressless (even considering the near-disaster of the boot) and a good time. Everybody was happy, and while it was definitely crowded, it was never overwhelming. Later, the city announced that arrests were way down, even taking the smaller crowd into account, so it wasn't just me. So, yay, New Orleans! Even when knocked on our ass, we can still throw one hell of a party, and if people don't think that's enough of a reason to love, cherish, and rebuild this place, well, they have no joy and no soul. Unfortunately, I think that's exactly the reason why so many people don't think New Orleans should be rebuilt.

Sure, Hastert and others like him continue to say it's because it's dangerous - we're below sea-level, after all, but that's true of most port cities located on big rivers, and it's not like other places don't have similar dangers. Yet, I don't remember there ever even being a question about rebuilding Charleston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, etc. And while our damage is much more extensive than those places, since when has the difficulty of a task been a reason not to do it?

But if it's too much for Hastert, we'll do it without the wimp.

We do have a not-undeserved reputation for corruption, but name me one place that doesn't? If corruption were a reason to abandon a place, then given the millions of dollars the feds have wasted on useless trailers, overly expensive blue roofs, and no-bid Halliburton contracts, D.C. should be razed. Or perhaps just those neighborhoods housing the federal government, since they clearly would be best returned to green space.

But I don't think the "don't rebuild" argument is about any of the stated reasons of danger, difficulty, or corruption. I think it's actually about the unstated reason that we're a city that knows how to have a good time. We refuse to get with the American work ethic program, apologize for our hedonistic ways and come to Jesus and a life of self-denial and hard work.

Over in England, the Puritans banned the performances of plays, bringing to an end one of, if not the, greatest play cultures of Western civilization and ensuring that Shakespeare lived out his latter days and died in a place where none of his work could be seen. The British quite sensibly kicked them out, but unfortunately, they sent them here, and most of the country has been trying to throw off those self-imposed shackles ever since. Most of it.

New Orleans is the only American city I've lived in where people actually seem to work to live, rather than live to work, where we not only don't feel guilty about shutting the city down for a week to throw a big party, but celebrate it. We even have the audacity to brag about it.

We're the charming, ne'er-do-well brother that most people shake their heads over but are really a bit jealous of, but who really angers some others, like Hastert and Bush. After all, he had to give up booze, cocaine, and going AWOL, so New Orleans should, too. If we don't, we'll just see about that help we need. It's a little more subtle than the idea that God punished New Orleans for our sinful ways with Katrina, Rita, and the floods, but it boils down to the same attitude.

I'm tired of defending New Orleans with other reasons why we should be rebuilt, the oil and gas, the seafood, all the grain that goes out and coffee that comes in - the hell with it. Why should New Orleans be rebuilt? Because we throw the best party this country will ever see. Without us, you're England without Shakespeare, no joy and no soul.


Brooke said...

Yeah, I'm in a blog! Good job telling the story. And it was really fun.

Kate said...

Pictures! I demand them. I will be soliciting teaching advice from you soon, Dale. Just a heads up.

Dale said...

Actually, I tried to include some pictures, but they wouldn't upload because ... um ... because computers hate me? I just don't know. But I will link to whole bunches of M.G. photos soon - promise. And come through with teacherly advice.

Anonymous said...

You are spot-on with the contention that people see New Orleans as a evil place that needs to be brought into line with the rest of our bland, puritan-influenced cities. Bleah. Keep her as she is, I say. And I couldn't disagree more with the whole "NO is corrupt so we shouldn't give money to rebuild" argument. By god, you all deserve to come home and have a home to come home to. New Orleans is a national treasure; all Americans benefit from her pleasures and her ports. Frankly, I am disgusted with the entire post-storm response to the Gulf Coast.

I don't suppose you have any opinion on the new, whopping, levee rebuilding estimates? I can't wait to read what you have to say...

Serge said...

I had to admit that I was also waiting for some pictures since it seems like you guys had a great time during the Mardi Gras party!