As I sit and digest the last ten days, I feel incredibly blessed. My vocal students’ parents announced last Thursday that they’d bought me a plane ticket to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.
It was incredible.
Hot. Festive. Culturally intoxicating. Voodoo. Black American. A culture based on slavery – and Hurricane Katrina. Racist. Community focused. Beans and rice. Families everywhere. Drunk people. Nudity. Beads. Rubbish EVERYWHERE. Fried food. Music.
I could’ve gone harder. I could’ve gotten drunk each day and night. I could’ve gotten more beads by taking off my clothes too. But I didn’t. I was well behaved… mostly because I was so overwhelmed.
New Orleans was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced; with such strong ties to a history of slavery: we stayed in a house that had been converted from a stable… the backyard leading on to the “masters house” with the slave quarters downstairs. Those slave quarters had been converted into a more livable condition also, but can you possibly imagine the history behind that? The beautiful thing, however, is that the culture isn’t any less proud. It’s as if black American culture stands strong with its head high as if to say “yes. This is where we’ve come from… and this is where we are now”. It’s a culture of value. Of hard work. Of sacrifice. Of strength.
And yet – as the Mardi Gras floats drive by (with screaming muggles [haha] asking to be thrown something – ANYTHING – of value, as if beads are somehow something to be begged for “Please Mister – throw me something”; the power trip of the float royalty is questioningly selective. What makes the black kid or the white kid more worthy than the kid jumping next to her? Is it a race thing? Or is it just paranoia that gets muttered throughout the predominantly black crowd?
… and then the Beyonce video got released. More discussion around racism. Whether it’s around Beyonce doing positive things for the black community, or using racism/NOLA/Hurricane Katrina as something to profit from. The debate erupted.
I made friends with people in the crowd – not just the family I was with – and was overwhelmed by the love I received. Breakfast at 7am. Complimentary beer. Highfives and commentary as I tried to wrap my head around the differences and similarities between floats and marching bands. A coat when I got cold. Thank you to my new friends.
I also managed to catch up with a LONG time friend from seven years ago, whom I hosted on couchsurfing in Hamilton. She visited and stayed on my couch, and I reciprocated by… hanging out with her for a few days; drinking IPA and marching in a more… organic parade. A more unified parade.
I met a trumpet player who tried to seduce me. Nice enough guy, until he decided that a few smooth moves and a cup of beer might secure him a home run.
Also, I’m seeing someone again… did I mention that? He took me out to dinner lastnight, before celebrating Valentines Day by lifting heavy. I think he’s rather lovely.
Til next time, friends x