Here it is the day we’ve all been waiting or dreading depending on your beliefs. It’s the day called Fat Tuesday (the literal translation of the phrase) a.k.a. known in French as Mardi Gras. Kind of ironic in more ways than one, too. Ain’t too many fat people around here, not to imply “fat” is a crime; I’ve never been. And although most people who have returned have finally exhausted their supplies of M.R.E.’s (Meals-Ready-To-Eat) that doesn’t necessarily mean we charge headlong into the massive Po’Boys and highly saturated fried seafood of the P.K. days (pre-Katrina, kind of like B.C. & Anno Domini by Gregorian standards). As of today there are few if any neighborhood restaurants operating as were P.K. unless you live in the Quarter. So if you have gained weight recently, it’s nobody’s fault but your own that you drove the four or five miles for each meal instead of jogging.
Apart from the culinary devastation my hometown has suffered recently, something must be said in favor of the spirit of returned New Orleanians. The Mardi Gras you all know is quite rightly defined as the “party of the parades.” It used to be the city tripled it size in the days surrounding the event with about a million people showing up for the biggest party on earth. I don’t have an official count as yet since I write this on Mardi Gras Day, but we’ve got a few people in the streets taking their mind off neighborhoods which lay dormant for miles around the parade routes. That, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. The natives who couldn’t be here might be a little disappointed, but those who really wanted to be, of their own accord, found the way. If FEMA would have offered free money for the trip, many more would have been present. So, suffice it to say, those that did make it here earned the right to party. And you get what you pay for, don’t you?
Now don’t get all huffy! Generalizations aren’t intended to be blanket condemnations in my comments. They’re meant for those people who don’t fit in those shoes. If you’re not here, you’re not necessarily the target. Funnel your frustrations at the goal of being worthy of returning. You have the right of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness at your own expense because most of the returnees here right now are working for those same guarantees with sweat and toil. Wow, kind of like pioneers who used to make this country work in its early days . . . before political correctness hijacked “right” and transformed it into “entitlement.” Fits? Wear it.
Okay, back to the philosophy of Fat Tuesday.
In addition to being a French phrase, Mardi Gras is also a melding of dissimilar traditions. New Orleans being a Roman Catholic province, the holiday is the final fling before the 40 days of penance begun the day after Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday. You know, the old “sack cloth and ashes” thing where you self-flagellate for your sins? Depending on your belief system, secular or religious, this is another one of those generalizations not intended to spear Roman Catholics, per se, but the truth must be told for proper perspective. And it kind of falls into the same category as Christmas trees, Easter bunnies and Halloween costumes. If you believe the Judeo-Christian deity is it, consider this idea a toss-up for meaningful discussion without stoking up the Salem barbecue pit.
Does it make really good sense to consciously violate every moral concept by getting plastered, exposing yourself (genitally speaking; unfortunately I have seen this happen), wrestling old ladies for a pair of beads, spending inordinate amounts of money to buy those “throws,” and then the next day think your saying your sorry for forty days beyond is the correct thing to do? Granted, I think the majority of people who take the kids to a parade are not violating any moral principles in doing so. Just like the Old Testament people were forbidden to eat food offered to idols and the New Testament people were told food is food. So I guess the operative principle here is where do you stand in your belief and understanding of your role in any participatory event. And if a tree was a pagan symbol for some tribe in the past, does the use of one at Christmas constitute its degradation as a symbol? Remember the Old Testament Golden Calf? Ate at Micky D’s lately? You know, GOLDEN arches, COW patty (not field patty! Get a grip and follow my reasoning!). The dust of the broken tablets is on your conscience, huh? A pebble in your shoe?
I haven’t been a participant in parade revelry for years now. I don’t see the point, but that’s just me. Fundamentalists have their own Scriptural fence posts to skewer people with. I prefer to ride the fence so I can keep a good look at both sides equally and if I ever do “fall off” it most surely will be the Fundamentalist side sans a “judgmental” triple flip as I fall to the ground. I observe and I write my thoughts down then share them via blog. (Oh my! “Gog” & “Magog”! I wonder if there is something relative to alphabetical codes in words ala DaVinci!)
I took a ride around the neighborhood this afternoon. It’s hard to separate the concepts of judgment and circumstance when you tour the neighborhoods around here. Once again, your belief system tempers those glasses you see it through. Now about 6 months removed from the storm, it’s really hard to know what really happened to this city in minutes or years depending on your political belief system. Whichever political system you choose, it has failed miserably over the years to create the panacea that was promised. I don’t care what side you are on! And just like this party-like atmosphere this city is experiencing as I write, from the decadent, narcissistic body exposers to the ultra-Conservative Inquisition “damned to hell”-ers, most of us are caught in this vise in between. We are squeezed. Kind of like being a foot in the wrong size shoe. Between spirituality and politics. So I guess it’s one I will just have to wear for a while. Praise be to God . . . and Dr. Scholl . . .