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07 March 2007 @ 08:43 pm
Mardi Gras Curmudgeon  
Last year, Mardi Gras was magic. In the wake of Katrina and all of the destruction the city had suffered, it was really wonderful to see the residents of our embattled city take to the streets to drink, dance, catch beads, drink, dress up in amazing costumes, and drink. Plus Mardi Gras is hilarious. Did anyone ever tell the King of Toth that his outfit makes him look exactly like the Burger King mascot? Could he hear Suzanne yelling “I can see up your skirt!” as his Royal Float came chugging by? I hope so. Despite all of it's potential for ridicule, last year's Mardi Gras made me feel connected to the city in a way I had not up to that point. I remember being in the French Quarter watching a parade – Barkus no less, which, for anyone unfamiliar with it, consists of dogs dressed up in costumes and marching through the quarter while their owners throw beads and rubber dog poo at the adoring crowds – and feeling this overwhelming sense of belonging and intoxication as I looked upon new friends in my adopted city and listened to a brass band. I remember thinking, “this place is amazing, I never want to leave.”

This year was a little different. Much of it had to do with Suzanne being away in New York for most of the prime parade weekend, but even when she was around I just couldn't get quite as excited about Mardi Gras. We did go to a couple of parades and had a fine time, but in the end I ended up skipping out on most of the festivities. It pains me to admit this - I'm sure someone is going to come to my house and revoke my New Orleans Resident privileges – but I stayed home and worked on Fat Tuesday, going out only to make a trip to the grocery store and complain that they had the nerve to close on Mardi Gras Day (fortunately Reginelli's pizza stayed open and kept a delivery driver on staff). Part of me regrets not getting into things a little more, but I know there will be a Mardi Gras next year, and the year after that, and the year after that, and so on. I've had a lot going on lately and this just wasn't the time for me to run out in the street and shove little kids aside in an effort to score beads and trinkets.

I sometimes worry that I am managing to live in New Orleans without really living here. When we were first getting ready to move from San Francisco, I envisioned wall-to-wall debauchery and late nights in smoky bars eating gumbo and soaking up the music and culture. There has been some of that, but the life Suzanne and I lead is becoming increasingly insular. Much of this has to do with my job, which is across the border in Mississippi. This means that I get up early, go to bed early, and spend an inordinate amount of time away from the city. As I've gotten settled into this routine, I find myself starting to wear a path (not unlike those Family Circus cartoons where the little kid runs all over the house being chased my little dotted lines) that runs from the interstate to my house, with a few little forays out to Whole Foods, the homes of a few friends around town, a couple of restaurants in or near our neighborhood, and the gym at Tulane. That pretty much sums up my New Orleans experience.

A part of me feels that I may be missing something here, that the city is full of wonders that I am ignoring and will regret not having taken advantage of when I'm old and gray and can do nothing but sit on my porch and complain about the government while Suzanne feeds me strained peas. That may be so, but then the experience of a city is really an individual thing and I think we all need to find the things that are important to us. At this point, what is really important to me is my life with Suzanne, our relationships with our small group of friends around the city, and my career. Yeah, that last one came as a shock to me too. But the truth is, I really like my job and, while it does kill me sometimes to be enduring this huge commute and spending so much of my time out in the wilds of Mississippi (note to anyone thinking of visiting: Biloxi is a grim place that should be avoided at all costs), I really like my co-workers and I find my work endlessly engaging. I should also stress that Suzanne and I do leave the house every once in a while. Last weekend we took our sketchbooks out to Audubon park and did a little drawing and a lot of sitting, watching the ducks and fantasizing about the day when we might get a dog. Then it was back home to cook dinner and watch a little Battlestar Galactica on DVD, an evening plan that had us in bed before 11:00. This is not exactly the devil-may- care, party-til-you-puke attitude that most people expect from New Orleans, but it is a kind of life that has led me to feel deeply satisfied and content. As for Mardi Gras... I'm sure there will be plenty of parades, drinking, and worthless trinkets waiting for me next year.
 
 
 
jerrygarciuh on March 8th, 2007 03:55 am (UTC)
Content is goood!