I Want to Be In That Number

February 20, 2006

…a parade, that is, O Best Beloveds, specifically a Mardi Gras parade, and the crowds watching same, all overwhelmed not just with the usual bead lust (ah, you’d think you would be immune to the lures of a .5 strand of beads, but see, they are so very glittery…), but with the catharsis that can only come from celebrating the start of a season of death and resurrection (aka, Lent) in a city that knows a bit too much about those subjects. And so to this end, I have moved the first chemo of Round 4 (yes, we are halfway through, unless Dr. W. adds some more on) a couple of days early, so that Steve and I can join that number this weekend in New Orleans.

A full report on everything–parades, bead count, house renovation, food porn!–when I return, but I’m writing this now so that as the next few days pass, and you run into accounts (media and otherwise, some of whom might quote me–several reporters have been sent my way via Frommer’s) that may differ on whether Carnival should happen, or, given that it is happening, how weird and melancholy and perhaps unwelcome it is under the circumstances, and other overtones of pessimism about the current and eventual state of New Orleans, that you might bear a few things in mind. First of all, there is no “canceling” Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras is Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, and as a day, never even mind a holiday, like Christmas, it simply is. One cannot cancel Christmas. The only relevant question is “Should the usual parades and celebrations go ahead? Is it even the right thing to do?” And to this, most of the residents of the city answered as one: cancel the parades, and we will simply load up little red wagons with a bunch of beads, and go out and do it ourselves.

As to what is expected by those folks with their wagon state of mind, Ashley, a NOLA-based blog writer, puts it thusly: “I can tell you this: I don’t know a single person in New Orleans, regardless of race, age, or sex, who don’t all want the same thing for Mardi Gras: A Zulu Coconut.”

Exactly. So look for Steve and me, in mask and costume, because that’s the only way to do Carnival, bright and early out at Zulu, armed with pint bottles of really good hootch, to test the theory that such a bribe is an excellent way to score a coconut. (In years past, I’ve relied on sheer force of blonde charisma and certain intense level of shamelessness to get one, but this year, the hair isn’t working, and I’m certainly not going to invoke a sob story with folks who had a house in the 9th Ward.) I might be a bit wobbly–chemo is making the tips of my toes and fingers go numb (complete with the chill that comes from poor circulation) in a way similar to the nail-removing chemo of Cancer Hoohah #2 (not unexpected; the chemos are related)–but we must be there.

As for New Orleans? A little historical perspective, also taken from Ashley’s blog….

Nineteenth century writer Lafcadio Hearn wrote a letter to a friend in Cincinnati about two years after he arrived in New Orleans in 1877, during a grim period in which thousands died from yellow fever. He summed up his situation this way:”Times are not good here. The city is crumbling into ashes. It has been buried under a lava flood of taxes and frauds and maladministrations so that it has become only a study for archaeologists. Its condition is so bad that when I write about it, as I intend to do soon, nobody will believe I am telling the truth. But it is better to live here in sackcloth and ashes than to own the whole state of Ohio.”

Plus ├ža change, plus c’est la meme chose,