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.
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?
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.
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.