The other day, driving home from work in the shadow of raised I-10, we were talking about Mardi Gras. It's surprising how rarely Carnival has come up in conversation outside of work where it's simply a useful excuse to ask for money. Whenever someone does mention it, Mardi Gras, there is something ominous about the words. There's weight to it. Like throwing two stones into the waters of a conversation. Mardi Gras.
So, we were talking about It. My roommate, J, neighbor, A, and Mr. J who has lived for several years in New Orleans since the Storm. J said, "You know, I've heard a lot about Mardi Gras. But I just have this feeling that I have no idea what I'm getting myself into."
"That's good," Mr. J said, his soft no-nonsense voice graving. "Because you don't."
There are telltale signs all around the city, but there have been all year. If you walk through any park and look up at oak boughs, you'll see hundreds of beads hanging there, the Bones from Carnivals past. I think that people resign themselves to Mardi Gras, rather than anticipate it.
Last night we all went to Tipitina's to see Papa Grow's Funk, Glenn David Andrews, and the Funky Meter. We started out at Balcony Bar, but M insisted that we move. "The lead guitarist for this band is great!" M said. "Haven't you ever heard James Brown say 'Take it away!' This is the guy he was telling to take it away."
So we went. The music was phenomenal and everyone danced, even me, which was odd. I lost my voice somewhere around 11:30, hunching over the bar, competing with and losing to the music. Around that time, M sauntered up to me.
M shouted, "Are you having a good time?"
I thought about it for a moment, mustered my vocal chords and said, "Yeah. I am."
M grinned. "That's my favorite thing in the world. Seeing people experience New Orleans. And you're just about to see the best of it. It's Mardi Gras."
Yesterday, a friend of mine who has lived in New Orleans for several years offered me this advice: "Write your address on your arm in sharpie. Maybe a friends' phone number, too. You never know what may happen. This guy I know ended up without his wallet and phone and too drunk to find his way home, but he'd written his address on his arm, so somebody threw him in a cab and he made it back safely."
This evening it's Krewe du Vieux, one of the first parades of the season. I am going into the Marigny to attend the parade with a friend's house as home base. I do not know what to expect and I'm content with that. I go to this Carnival without expectations or anticipation. I invite the Most Unique City in America to entertain me, Goethe's Faust-style.
So, New Orleans, I'll agree to this wager. Nur rastlos betätigt sich der Man. Satisfy me. I dare you.