The first time I was in New Orleans was only a year or two before Katrina, and then after that a bunch of times because of first volunteer work and then what became my career in disaster response. I just had the chance to visit again for a conference. New Orleans is a special place to me as it is one of the few where the possibility to consider other conventions of wisdom seems to present itself so openly and unrepentantly.
The first few times there I started to read more about the confluence of Creole and Cajun peoples, the complex historical class hierarchies, the two feet in observances of exuberant mardi gras and the penitent and sober lent, of the kind unusually public for the states. And then there’s the French Quarter with its juxtapositions of elegance and insanity, mirroring this duality of sinner and saint. Allowing yourself to embrace being human is more possible in New Orleans than in other places.
A week before I left for the conference something made me search for a bed and breakfast instead of staying at the mc-conference center that would have been the usual, logical, and efficient thing to do. I am thankful for wherever that inspiration came from. Staying a mile away in the Garden District at the beautiful Creole Gardens made all the difference. I did not miss having a tv or interior hallways.
What is complementary about this place, for me, is that it is a place to be reminded of the value of savoring and embracing and diving in; a place where my senses are heightened, not numbed. Anyone with even the least bit of eyelids cracked, can discover this on the short walk that passes Storyville, Congo Square, voodoo priestess altars, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar, and the French Market, or pick from any number of meanderings.