Monday, January 09, 2006

Mardi Gras Mambo

Cue Mardi Gras Mambo, because it's eight weeks to Fat Tuesday. I’m heading down to South Louisiana because, as Chris Rose says, I want to be in that number.

I’ve got my favorite beads ready (all the strings that hang down to my knees and the one with M-U-S-E-S spelled out in blue) and I’m starting to think about costumes. (Would anyone give me crap if I revived Little Red Riding Hood again?)

But as I’m mentally packing my ratty suitcase, I know that I’m in for a smack in the face. I’ve been living in New York for a year and a half, so I was long gone by the time Katrina washed part of New Orleans away. From 20 states further North, I felt detached from the destruction, as the storm ran many of my friends out of town. No really, some of them had to put on tennis shoes and literally run out of the city.

Now the friends who stayed (there weren’t many) tell me that things are getting a little better down there. The mountains of trash are dwindling. Most everyone has gas and electricity again. You still wouldn’t want to drink from the tap, but why would you do that when there’s Abita Amber on tap anyway?

My buddies are starting to sound hopeful. They’ve seen more businesses open back up, and it seems like most of the bleeding has stopped. That is, the people who stayed so far might actually stay through the year. ((A friend of a friend recently declared that she wouldn’t help anyone else pack their shit to move out of New Orleans. Call her if you’re just moving to a new house, but expect only eggs on your windshield if you’re leaving town for good.))

So I’m headed down to the greatest free party on Earth to help out any way I can. I wanted to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, but the coordinator says the group won’t be building anything during Mardi Gras. I can see why a hammer in one hand and a hand grenade in the other might be a bad idea, but I really wanted to do something productive between parades. (Survivor’s guilt anyone?)

So, I’m looking for other ways to contribute to the city in some way. My best idea: Gluttony. I’m going to go shopping for all the New Orleans food and drinks and trinkets I’ve always wanted to buy. You can’t buy Hové in New York. Or Water Meter Glass for that matter.

And those restaurants I couldn’t afford when I was down there last year? Well I’m knocking on their doors this trip.

If I can’t rebuild my friend’s houses, I’ll at least buy them dinner and visit with them for a few hours. I’ll be a free-wheeling tourist, just like the ones the visitor’s center always loved.

And maybe some bright idea about how to really help will strike me as I stand by the tree at Milan Street and St. Charles Avenue.


Mary B. said...

I'm happy and envious all in the same moment. I'm clinging desperatly to my good memories of pre-K N.O. and I'm afraid that seeing the post-K N.O. would wreck them. Brave though art, EB. Have fun!

Michael L. Hess said...

We'll most likely see you there, Ms. Butler. So save a hammer and a hand grenade for us.

brandi said...

wonderful, i know you'll have a great time.