Spent the afternoon on Saturday having one of the best philosophical conversations of my life, then drove to Mid-City and went to a friend of a friend's birthday crawfish boil. Ate so much crawfish I felt a little ill and started to feel like these people I'd just met were going to end up being the best friends of my life. Exhausted, found out Rebirth was playing for free at the French Quarter Fest and we all pile into an SUV. I sit in the way-back and get to watch the city move backwards.
Eventually we park, go to the port-o-potties by the aquarium. A drunk tourist screams that "You just can't fucking trust these people in New Orleans" and the girl behind me tells me and the guy behind me, all of us strangers, "I really like the people in New Orleans.". We all smile and nod in agreement.
We dissolve into the crowd. Rebirth is in the last 20 minutes of their set. The sun is setting behind the stage that is right on the Mississippi river. A fucking steam boat passes as they play for god sakes. They're really grooving now, the songs are well over 8 minutes, the transitions between tunes difficult to parse out. I can't help but bounce my butt up and down and simultaneously feel like they're singing the most profound lyrics I've ever heard. Is there ever a moment when Do Watcha Wanna doesn't feel deeply, penetratingly true, completely undeniable? I feel exalted, heavenly, of a special breed. How is it that I have been lucky enough to be from, to truly be a part of, the best city in the entire world? Is there anywhere else where pure joy like this is allowed its rightful position as ultimate, singular goal? It seems that the rest of the world is constantly trying to carve out a time for these activities, to neatly differentiate from 'festive' time, where this ecstasy is permitted, and 'regular' time, where things are not suppose to be this fun, where we must do things that we all know are unpleasant, where this is the definition of work. Where we are suppose to pretend that we are all just individuals who happen to be residing in a similar area, not a community. Live our lives as if we are just trying to tolerate each other's intrusions on our privacy, instead of realizing it is precisely those intrusions that make us who we are. We are not suppose to stand together, young and old, rich and poor, black and white, hispanic and asian, and dance to the music that resides in all of our bellies. We are not to bask in the glorious connectedness that makes all of us feel whole again, knowing that everyone in this community is united in similar pleasures, supported by familiar pains.
I end the night on Frenchmen street. I order the drinks friends miles away might order, and reminisce to another friend about drinks we all had together, some other night. It's like everyone whose ever lived New Orleans with me is with me when I'm back with her. I spend a while talking to an older black man who runs a theater company on the Westbank. We talk about the racism that is implicit in our conversation, even when we don't feel any judgment from each other, as some of my white friends come to ask me if I'm okay. And still, we connect. Eventually, I get a ride home with some people from the Crawfish boil. Our walk across the city leaves us all desperate for the bathroom. The driver negotiates with the valet at the hotel. We end up parking for free.
When I get home, I log on to Nola.COM, buzzed from the high of such a classic New Orleans weekend. And then the Headline reads: 7 SHOT AT CHARTRES AND CANAL ST., LEAVING THE FRENCH QUARTER FESTIVAL. New Orleans has a caveat.