New Orleans is the only place I have called home other than Denver. It was my first experience in the art of adapting. My prerequisite for personal space had to diminish in order to thrive in a city that is so open, free and friendly. If I had to identify a single positive personality trait for New Orleans it would be outgoing. It is not just the town of Bourbon Street and bachelor parties it is a city that has survived crippling storms and kept its lifeblood of music, art and culture flowing.
At times, the city feels backwards and slow, like a part in its machine is missing or put together awkwardly. You can feel it though, trying to heal and fight to be a better home for everyone. Like many cities in the country it houses a thriving group of social warriors pushing against an age-old tactic to systematically oppress its poor and minorities.
It has its flaws, its wounds and yet I found it an oasis of beautiful humans and colorful past times that sets it apart from the rest of the United States.
We arrived mid-February, when the beat of Mardi Gras was loudly and contagiously picking up momentum for the final crescendo on Fat Tuesday. We wasted no time and attempted dinner at Bacchanal in the Bywater neighborhood which used to be a favorite. You can browse their large selection of wines and take a bottle out to their outdoor space which is often illuminated with white lights strung in the trees. On this day, we were greeted with a small jazz ensemble set up in front of a packed house. Everyone was celebrating, we would be drinking our wine standing up. Just as well.
It’s hard to encapsulate the rest of our time; there were best friends to see, friends to make, gorgeous meals to devour and our fair share of parades. The city is a rainbow and if desired an endless celebration. We took downtime in City Park each morning for the 2 weeks we stayed. To me this park kicks all other city park’s ass. Its lush, expansive and dripping with Spanish moss.
The day that needs at least a few dedicated words was Fat Tuesday. We participated with last minute costumes and fell happily in stride with the early morning stroll through the Bywater and Marigny neighborhoods. It felt like we were miniscule excited cells in an enormous dancing body. With a never-ending glass of magic in hand we took in the visual overload and endless sounds of laughter and excitement. It was what we came for and more than we hoped.
A New Orleans Mardi Gras is one experience I did not have while living there and it felt like the most delicious topping to the cake. I’m not over New Orleans. I imagine sometimes that I split into two separate being when I ran out of money, left New Orleans and moved back to Colorado. I am still there somehow, living a beautiful, albeit poor life, doing god knows what but loving my home.