I started my Saturday at the first New Orleans Oyster Festival. Organizers chose to put us on a relentlessly hot blacktop parking lot in the French Quarter in view of the grassy stretch next to the river. No matter, locals and visitors turned out for a day of music and oysters.
Oysters were served raw, grilled, and in many dishes like eggplant au gratin. Oceana Grill’s “Famous Oysters,” chargrilled over an open flame and served on the half shell in a creole sauce with parmesan and romano cheese on top, created the longest line by far, but people just ate yummies from other booths while enduring the wait.
A “Heritage” tent housed tables for the “Save our Lake / Save our Coast” Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation and other outreach programs as well as craftsmen displaying beautiful wooden-handled shucking tools among other things.
I was only able to stay for one band, but Bonerama played their butts off for over an hour.
A reworded version of “Down by the Riverside” seems to be becoming an oil spill anthem as people sing, “Don’t spill no oil no more.” Bonerama also played a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks” and I cried a bit singing along with lyrics, “Crying won’t help you, praying won’t do no good.” I know, but I cry and pray anyway.
At least once a week, I look around at this beautiful city, at the people who inhabit it, and get so overwhelmed with joy that I get teary. Now, melancholy gets all mixed in as I realize that, once again, little is being done to preserve the only way of life that makes any sense to me. I can only hope there will be a Second Annual New Orleans Oyster Festival.
I left the festival early to attend a mock funeral second line for the creatures of the Gulf and the 11 incinerated rig workers. Ro Mayer, a 57 year old real estate agent, opened a Facebook page a week ago and now has 5,000 “friends,” hundreds of whom showed up to be members of the Krewe of Dead Pelicans. So, it’s with a bittersweet heart that I’ve joined my first Krewe.
The pelican, Louisiana’s state bird, has come back from the brink of extinction once before and now faces an oily demise, which makes it an apt symbol for our fair city and the Gulf Coast. Paraders wore Katrina-tarp blue and crude-oil black symbolizing the beautiful blue of our Gulf and the muck polluting it. As per usual, a sense of humor was braided through the mourning of the dead. Many marchers carried umbrellas with dying stuffed animals while others wore papier mache heads of pelicans, sea-horses and skeletons. The second line started with a traditional funeral dirge, “Just a Closer Walk with Thee,” and quickly moved into joyous local anthems, some rewritten with oil-related lyrics.
I met a couple, trailing black streamers, visiting from the Chesapeake Bay area. We talked about crabs and wetlands. Their hearts went out to the people and creatures of this region and we wondered how different the response would be if this spill had occurred closer to the Capitol, on a whiter, wealthier coast. After all, things seem to be moving now that the oil is heading for Florida.
Ms. Mayer led an 11 minute moment of silence to honor the Deepwater Horizon rig workers. All of us here continue to be mystified that our dead count for so little in the media. I remember during Katrina thinking the same as so little was made over the nearly 2,000 dead in Louisiana alone.
The parade, like so many here, was fun and musical with dancing and costumes, but this was no Mardi Gras, this is how we protest here. How could I not want to save a region like that? Here’s a taste: