Thursday, April 24, 2014
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Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras

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A blogger at The Third Battle of New Orleans turned to the language of Sept. 11th to describe the urgency for filling the streets with grass skirts, plastic beads and trumpet blasts:

"If we do not have Mardi Gras, the hurricane has won."

The arguments against it made sense -- too many suffering people, too little space, too few resources to tap, wrote the man who goes by the name of Seymour D. Fair. But "New Orleans has an intact 150-year-old tradition of annually celebrating life and being human. We need to have this celebration this year more than ever."

With Mardi Gras here, I thought we might check in on some of the Big Easy bloggers whose posts we followed (see Katrina and The Waves) - as the hurricane bore down on the region.

Last time I read Raymond P. Ward, he was summoning The Clash  - "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" - on his Minor Wisdom blog. The appellate lawyer went, with his wife and four cats, to Jackson, Miss., and wrote infrequently over the fall as the city started putting itself back together. He did manage to borrow from two Bob Dylan songs for inspired posts he titled "Blue Tarp Blues" and "Broken."

He's lived in New Orleans since moving there as a young boy in 1960, and begins an entry from last week with the observation that a fish doesn't notice the water it swims in. So Ward turns to a relative outsider, author Tom Piazza, to capture the city's core. In the new book Why New Orleans Matters, Pizza writes first about the city's special sauce - the storybook characters, the cottony air, the famous food, music and celebration, the crime and poverty. Then he writes about the city post-Katrina, from the vantage of one who lost his home.

Ward summarizes: New Orleans matters to the nation strategically for the same reasons that motivated Thomas Jefferson to acquire the city. The nation needs a port at the mouth of the Mississippi River, and that port needs a city to support it. On a deeper level, by losing New Orleans, the nation would lose a large chunk of its own heart and soul.

A Ward post from a few days earlier highlights a distinctive EBAY offering for those considering flying south for Mardi Gras: How to live like a local. The offer was to join some folks in their FEMA trailer. They'd live in an alley next to a once-grand Magazine Street house. The trailer has running water, but they're still waiting for the electrician. They've asked the local brewery, Abita, to donate a case of Restoration Ale to the highest bidder. All proceeds go to the Preservation Resource Center. Sorry, no one bid, and the auction has ended.

Finally he links to an essay by Chris Rose of The Times-Picayune that is included in the columnist's collection of post-Katrina columns called 1 Dead in Attic. Rose writes:

I live on The Island, where much has the appearance of Life Goes On. Gas stations, bars, pizza joints, joggers, strollers, dogs, churches, shoppers, neighbors, even garage sales.

Sometimes trash and mail service, sometimes not.

It sets to mind a modicum of complacency that maybe everything is all right.

But I have this terrible habit of getting into my car every two or three days and driving into the Valley Down Below, that vast wasteland below sea level that was my city, and it's mind-blowing A) how vast it is and B) how wasted it is.

My wife questions the wisdom of my frequent forays into the massive expanse of blown-apart lives and property that local street maps used to call Gentilly, Lakeview, the East and the Lower 9th. She fears that it contributes to my unhappiness and general instability and I suspect she is right.

Perhaps I should just stay on the stretch of safe, dry land Uptown where we live and try to move on, focus on pleasant things, quit making myself miserable, quit reliving all those terrible things we saw on TV that first week.

Metroblogging New Orleans became a vital command post for disaster news - which levees had broken, where people could find shelter, who was missing. Good to see the first post there on Monday had to do with finding one's Mardi Gras moment.

Chris Martel seemed to have scored:

Watching 'Puppy Bowl II' on mute, listening to a Lee Dorsey LP at a very loud volume, front door wide open, drinking a screwdriver, THIS IS IT BABY!!! Pure self indulgence. We all share in the traditional parades and revelry, but the real beauty of mardi gras to me is that we're all celebrating even when we're not lined up on St. Charles or standing in line for 2 hours at Popeye's. Mardi gras permeates everything, there's this electric sense of wonder that infiltrates your dreams and every thought in your head for that one week leading up to Fat Tuesday. It's like the best disease that's ever afflicted mankind.

Craig Giesecke found what he was looking for in a photograph of a boy taken Sunday on St. Charles:

He's a kid, right? He's acting like a kid, throwing a football back and forth with other kids between parades. But he's got on those outrageous panties and he's armed with plastic weaponry in case some imagined foe appears sharklike from the shadows. It's what New Orleans is this extended Carnival weekend -- playing like children, wearing some slightly risque clothing and keeping some kind of guard up in case we need it.

Jack Ware is still looking for his Mardi Gras moment, despite some successful pub-crawling over the weekend:

It doesn't worry me since there's still time. I do have a very pronounced sense of the people who are out of town right now and I miss them dearly. The vendor stands can sort of make me sad since I find myself thinking, 'this person always gets one of these, and that person loves these...'. For me, at least, Mardi Gras isn't as care-free this year as it usually is and I think that's alright. There's almost more of an emotional charge to it this year. I'll try and get some practical stuff done today and be rested up for this evening through tomorrow afternoon. If anyone wants to get together, I'll be on St. Charles Ave., I should be easy to spot since I'll be the drunk one trying to catch some beads.

jay lassiter
Posted 02/28/2006 06:14:16 PM
the day katrina hit, i was in the operating room getting a ruptured achilles fixed.  So like the folks in the gulf coast, i am still struggling to get on my feet.  recovery has been slow in New Orleans and with my foot as well.
When reminded on the grim 6 month anniversary I really cringed. God bless 'em.
Still on crutches,
Jay
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About this blog
Daniel Rubin is a columnist and The Inquirer's director of social media. Since joining newspaper as a staff writer in 1988, Daniel Rubin has reported from Mayfair to Macedonia, 27 countries in all. He has been the European Correspondent for Knight Ridder Newspapers and for two years he sat at home and wrote Blinq, the paper's first daily blog. Dan began newspaper work in Norfolk and Louisville, Ky., after getting his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Northwestern University. He has lived in all four commonwealths, most recently in Pennsylvania. He teaches urban journalism at the University of Pennsylvania

Email Blinq here. My day job - Inquirer metro columnist - is here.

Reach Daniel at drubin@phillynews.com.

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