08 February 2007

Mardi Gras

Monday Derrick said he doesn't care a thing about Mardi Gras. He had a birthday a few weeks ago and said he doesn't care a thing about birthdays either.

Here's how my mind worked:

First thought (after the birthday comment): I don't believe him. He's just saying that for shock effect.

Second thought: God, what happened on which birthday to spoil birthdays for him forever?

Third thought: Must be the radical, 60's throwback, unrealized Black Panther yearning talking. Can't be a revolutionary visionary and get all giddy about birthdays...

Then I closed the book. The Mardi Gras comment opened the book again.

Fourth thought: There's a private story behind this, a psychological thriller that plays on the private backstage screen of his own mind. Nobody can touch it. He can't explain it.

Then, tonight, I'm washing my face and

Fifth thought: Reminds me of my old thing about not attending funerals. I can't even remember exactly how the back story ran but I was adamant and always felt really bright and edgy when I had the chance to wind it up and spin it out again for someone. Ooooooh! Another sacred cow speared on the marvelous head of my unique iconoclastic brilliance.

Sixth thought (and this one nearly broke my heart...I was drying my face by now and buried my face in the towel for a minute of hot tears): I'll bet he only knows pre-Katrina Mardi Gras. I only know first-Mardi-Gras-post-Katrina. Those first pictures of Mardi Gras that I saw as a shy, awkward teenager growing up in Indiana scared me--the exuberance, extravagance, indulgence of the festival scared the breath out of me. Nothing and no one in my experience danced so wildly, laughed so heartily, celebrated existence with such abandon.

When Carnival season came last year, I'd been living in New Orleans for about three months and I was in love with the place. The Survivor Story of the place was etched on my heart by then. And I'd seen enough post-flood aftermath and heard enough sagas and watched people climbing out of rubble, rebuilding their lives, with tears in their eyes who still, without missing a beat, summoned sufficient goodwill, energy and joie de vivre to reach over and help someone else out of their hole...and then get a pot of something wonderful started on the stove...fill the air with music and aroma and laughter...

And so Mardi Gras, my first and only Mardi Gras was more than a day (or two or three or four) of parades and food and drink. It was something that was growing in the people from the day I arrived though I didn't notice much until 6 January when signs of Carnival spirit began to pop out here and there---the music on OZ and the King Cakes and purple/gold/green banners, pendants, clothing... It felt like the breath of the city quickened with every week.

I was there. What a gift! I got to experience Mardi Gras as a thing that grew in and among the people and then erupted, inevitable and joyous and free.

New Orleans,
after seducing me into weak-kneed, grinning-like-a-fool enchantment
after petting me and pampering me and softening me in every way
after getting me loose enough to trust my heart and shake my ass again
Miz NoLa offered one more gift: a lesson in love
Beat up by storm and flood, spurned and neglected by those who had been gluttons for her sweet, saucy, sexiness before
New Orleans got dressed up and threw a party and invited the World.

Probably there'll never be another Mardi Gras like my first one. And certainly I've only kissed the rim of the cup--what do I know about Mardi Gras?

But I'll be there this year. I have so much more to learn about love.