and Mardi Gras keeps on spinnin’….

While the rest of the world gawks at last night’s Oscar blunder, chews on Trump’s latest budget proposal, and ponders going to the moon, New Orleanians continue to spin around the streets in these days leading up to Fat Tuesday. Mardi Gras. There is certainly something beautiful and sadistic about this holiday, this blatant shunning of reality and complete embrace of indulgence, gluttony, and something I think many of us strive for: reveling in the present. There is no talk of tomorrow (i.e. Wednesday), no angst for the past, just sheer joy for being free and alive right here, right now. The whole city shuts down to play; the air is thick with barbecue spits and booze (and piss); there teems an atmosphere of a reckless abandon of responsibility.

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To be honest, I dabble between love and loathe for this kind of human behavior. The amount of waste and trash and violence and empty, materialistic foolishness that results from large drunken crowds shoving each other for beads and dancing to shitty American pop music and waving hands in the air filled with “hand grenades” and octane daiquiris – to me, this scene is almost worthy of despondence. Masses of people, tight spaces, and aggressive hollering is a recipe for anxiety, not to mention fear of things like giant trucks plowing into us human sardines, like the one that hit Carrollton Ave on Saturday night. Terrors like that that make me think, what are we doing? And even without that, I still can’t help but wonder, Is this kind of tomfoolery worth it? Quel est le point?

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beads on beads on beads, everywhere
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some paraders looking less than enthused

But then there are the incredible costumes, the laughter, the openness, the energy, the marvelous display of human creativity that is incredible, invaluable even. Part of me wonders if it’s not one of the most genuinely human holidays there is. Something about it – when I look at the musicians in the marching bands, the people running down St. Charles Ave with boxes of wine, kissing each other’s faces, dousing themselves in glitter, embracing and enjoying the presence of pure strangers – it makes me feel as if it’s one of the most genuine, natural displays of humanity in existence. It’s hard to explain exactly why and how I feel this, but I do. It feels more human than many things humans do all the time.

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So it is beautiful or deplorable, depressing or uplifting? For me it is both, and I think it always will be. I will continue to partake in it as I partially condemn it. I don’t think I’m the only one to feel this confliction and hypocrisy, though some New Orleanians would probably condemn me for being absorbed in WordPress right now instead of celebrating le Lundi Gras. But to each their own, we all say here. If there’s one thing this city is good at embracing, it’s allowing each individual to live however they want, whenever they want.

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carnival? check.

so it’s been three weeks now, three bursting weeks back in new orleans. in a predictable fit of mania that tends to strike me upon new beginnings (“i can bike everywhere! i can work as much as possible and deck out my room and meet up with all my friends and run eight miles three times a week and buy a rock climbing membership and plan five different mardi gras costumes and read the new york times every morning and maybe just maybe even call my mom at some point”), i’ve been running around like a kinda crazy person. “you’re really embodying carpe diem,” my roommate jan told me this afternoon, with a mixture of admiration and minor abhorrence. she doesn’t know that in reality i’m just seizing this rare opportunity of extreme motivation that accompanies a fresh start and this shall not last long and starting around mid-april all i will be doing after work is sitting on the back porch with a book and maybe a cold beer, if i’m feeling frisky. but for now – shaun king speaking for free at xavier university? heck yes! an all-day permaculture workshop? sign me up! a free lecture on “permeable surfaces, vehicular rated”? not really sure what that is, but count me in! training to bird-dog a townhall meeting on public health rights? have actually no idea what bird-dogging is but WHY NOT! (and of course, music and plays and dancin’, check, check, check.)

it’s unbelievable, how many free events occur every day in this city, and how much there is to explore and tackle. i wanted to write a blog post about the excitement of becoming ultra-involved in different kinds of work again, and being a body who shows up to different talks and spaces, and PARTICIPATES in life in a way that is productive and empowering!…

dsc_3444BUT alas, amidst this fresh beginning and the brewing of new collaborations, it’s also…. mardi gras season. yep. time to put some of these frenzied ambitions on hold. i had almost forgotten how mad the weeks are leading up to fat tuesday, to the point where this past sunday morning my friend mario texted me about my parade plans, and i responded i was going to do yoga and some yardwork.

“While your mental and physical wellbeing are important, you should totally come hang,” he wrote back. “We will be around Tacos and Beer.”

yes, i should, and i did. thank you mario! here is a little taste of the mardi gras life. i’ll write more soon.

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after one week back….

A tornado tore through New Orleans yesterday, as if this city needed another hit, as if we needed another reminder that there are destructive forces beyond our control. Yesterday marked the end of my first week back in this damaged beautiful place and it’s been a whirlwind, a good New Orleans-style whirlwind: starting a new job, meeting new roommates, running into old friends on their bikes, buzzing the back of my head, getting yelled at by strangers, sitting on the back porch watching the sunset, calling an ambulance for a drugged-up man lying motionless on the sidewalk by a church Sunday morning, accidentally digging a grenade out of the ground and watching the NOPD and NOLA bomb squad evacuate a stretch of Magazine Street to extract the “potential explosive.” It’s been good, so so good. Truly, I feel euphoric here. I beam at the scenery, I’m lifted up by the familiar sounds and feels of the streets, I’m loving the return to physical work, I love the people I work with, I love the early mornings, I love how much I feel at home here. (It makes me feel like that girl Jessica on YouTube who chants into her mirror, I love my house! I love my haircuts! I can do anything good!!, except I’m not as cute and blonde and tiny.)

Of course, some of these feelings wear off over time, and I’m sure fatigue and confusion and existential crises etc will eventually take its place for at least a lil bit; but for now I am reveling in a genuine state of happiness that I haven’t experienced in a while. I also find it interesting that I feel so genuinely good having stopped (temporarily, but for now cold-turkey stopped) drinking alcohol. It is good to know that I love this city sober, and good to know that some combination of nature, physical work, this city and sobriety fill me with positive energy. Progress, this is progress. 

It’s been strange moving back here amidst all the terrible, shameful atrocities currently plaguing our country, and another small yet devastating natural disaster, and starting a job that is very disconnected from it all. I feel a sense of moral obligation to keep tabs on, and connect to, what’s happening; but I also feel a sense of moral obligation to allow myself to be happy. I don’t want things to be wasted on me just because I am disheartened and angered by what’s going down politically, or because there are a million places my mind could be occupied other than here. I don’t want the oh-so-beautiful details that make this place magnificent to be wasted on me – the elegant balconies, the funky trim and chipping paints, the Mardi Gras beads strung on metal beams, the distant glitter of the bridge in the dark, the way the night sky is sometimes purple-orange. This is my city again. It hits me from time to time, as I am biking, or walking, or working, or looking at the people or houses or sky. And it feels good, so deeply good, and I can’t quite believe it.