A few months ago, I heard one of my favorite lines about my most favorite of cities.
It was delivered, as great lines often are, by the most unlikely of people — a guy named Beau, one of the co-owners of Bacchanal. He said it one night while he, Chef Joaquin and I were hanging at the register shooting the whatever you shoot around midnight. Joaquin and I were trading stories of days and nights wildly lived, of Carnival seasons, St. Patrick’s days, and Halloween nights. Every now and then, Beau would add a few “yeah, brothers,” but mostly he just kept to drying wine glasses.
Finally, he looked at us, shook his head a bit and said, “You know, I don’t go to parades, I don’t wear costumes. I love New Orleans when she’s off stage.”
That line flashed back into my (somewhat foggy) mind yesterday morning, NOLA’s streets, people, trees, even air, still awash in the STD we call “glitter.”
New Orleans was very much off stage. Make-up off. Costumes put away. Lights up. Theater empty.
And she looked beautiful. Radiantly beautiful.
Now, to be sure, NOLA off stage isn’t for everyone. As a friend of mine says, it’s a bit like going backstage at Disney. And not everyone wants to know that Mickey Mouse is really just another aspiring actor named Hank. From Pittsburgh.
Most people prefer to hold onto illusion. Any illusion.
Me? I’m with Beau. I love the sights and sounds of the people, the countless people, who help New Orleans put her best face forward. The sure-to-be-sainted people who work in the Quarter during Carnival. The streams of musicians who lovingly tell the story of our city – -and our lives — night after night, bar after bar.
I love the alchemy of an impromptu night on the stoop just as much as I love the pageantry of St. Ann’s and S.t Cecilia’s.
I love catching and throwing beads, but I got downright misty-eyed yesterday at the simple sight of a man riding his bike to work. He and the bike were both slightly rumpled, a little bit rusty and most likely missing a few of their key parts.
The bike was covered–and I do mean covered–in beads.
As I watched him slowly peddle his way by, I was transfixed by the hundreds of beads. Glistening in the warm, humid morning air.
Each one reflecting a moment lived. A life loved. A love celebrated. On stage. And off.
I love it when Rebirth second lines down the streets of Treme, but I also love it when you’re at a signal light after a run to Rouse’s. You look to your left and the person next to you is smiling and strumming her fingers on the steering wheel. And you know she’s listening to the same great song by Honey Island Swamp Band on ‘OZ that you are.
And you know, as the light turns green and the music carries you home to unload the satsumas, the okra and the tasso … you know that you’re two of the luckiest people on Earth. Because you’re both, each of you, in love with the experience of living in New Orleans.
This column is dedicated to Paul Nichols, a New Orleans resident who was killed since last week’s column.
Brett Will Taylor writes Love: NOLA weekly for NolaVie. Visit his blog at thestoryblogbwt.wordpress.com.