February 18, 2013

Why Are You, an Introvert, Going to New Orleans for Mardi Gras?

Several friends asked that question last week. I was in New Orleans for Mardi Gras -- that perfect occasion for extroverts -- while posting a series about introverts like me on this blog.

Why? Two reasons:

I Love a Parade . . .
I love participating -- or at least people-watching -- when large groups gather for fun, celebration, or protest. Here are a few memorable occasions I recall:
  • Participating in the Martin Luther King March on Washington in August, 1963.
  • Joining in many of the marches on Washington: civil rights, anti-Vietnam War, gay rights, women's rights, Million Man March, anti-Iraq War.
  • Attending the JFK inaugural concert in January, 1961 at Constitution Hall during a blizzard . . . then being in the stands for his inaugural parade.
  • Standing with thousands of others in Lafayette Square -- across from the White House -- the evening of JFK's assassination . . .   later that incredibly sad weekend using my press pass to attend the lying-in-state ceremony in the Capitol rotunda.
  • Joining the rallies at Wisconsin & M after crucial Redskin victories in the Joe Gibbs Superbowl years. 
  • Twice attending the Last Night of the Proms in London: once at the actual event in Royal Albert Hall, once watching in the rain on the giant screens in Hyde Park.
I'm Intrigued by New Orleans
I've only been to New Orleans a few times and only for a few days each time. It's unlike any other city in America or Europe. The only place I've visited that seems comparable is Cienfuegos, Cuba. 

New Orleans has a fascinating cultural mix. It's French, Spanish and American. It's Creole and Cajun. It's Native American and Catholic. It's a southern city but vastly different from other southern cities.

Here's a take on New Orleans and its origins that I like:
Thank God the French got here first.
Can you imagine what New Orleans might have been had the Pilgrims gotten off at Pilottown instead of Plymouth?
It's frightening . . . We might have been burning witches instead of café brûlot; or preaching to the quadroon beauties instead of dancing with them; or spending eons eating boiled beef and potatoes, instead of Écrevisse Cardinal or pompano en papillote, or gumbo.
But the French, ah the French! They came here full blown with life and love, not refugees. God-centered and narrow; but adventurers, gamblers, fat with a culture that made living a love affair of the senses, and secure in the knowledge that while sin was the work of the devil, its nearest occasions were the particular art of the French. 
-- Phil JohnsonNews director, editorial writer at WWL-TV, New Orleans
When I spend a few days in New York City, I inevitably come away wishing I'd spent a couple years working in Manhattan and living in the Village when I was in  my twenties. I leave New Orleans with similar thoughts. 

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