This is my second birthday since moving here and this year, I decided to host a small gathering. It was a low-key affair, just an open door for a dozen or so guests with beer, sodas and an iPod party mix. But it was in the French Quarter and I wanted to celebrate in style. I got out my big, pink petticoat, some O-ring bracelets from the 80’s and sparkly shoes then pinned a dollar on my chest as I had last year. A New Orleans birthday tradition, you pin money on your chest and throughout the day, people (including many strangers) wish you a happy birthday and some add money to your chest.
In L.A., one of my best friends from high school, Juanita, used to ask her sister and I to dress up for her birthday (and Thanksgiving and Christmas…) and we would shamelessly indulge her, venturing out into judgmental L.A. in biker girl outfits or black evening gowns and wigs. Perhaps I should have been self conscious about being the only one dressed up for my birthday, but as we sat on the stoop watching the world go by waiting for the party to gather, a couple of women walked by wearing red, black and white 1800’s style circus-like top hats and tails as though they’d just walked off the set of Moulin Rouge. Two men walked by, shirtless, wearing kilts, one with the side cut out, exposing his cheek.
Down the street, Ashley, the transvestite Human Traffic Light was whistling cars through the intersection wearing one of her many body-bearing minidresses. And people planning to pull all-nighters wandered wearing white with red sashes for the next morning’s local version of the running of the bulls. In New Orleans, the running of the bulls means running from bar to bar to refuel while being chased by roller derby women wearing hats with horns and smacking at people with plastic swords. Bottom line, you are never the only person in costume in New Orleans.
Lena, who’d cooked a fabulous supper and cake for me last year, despite having just met me, attended my party. People I’ve met through movies I’ve done this year joined in as well as a couple neighbors. A few passers-by gathered around for awhile and told drunken stories. It was a great night with great people.
As things wound down, a giant lighted pumpkin rolled by holding a bride and groom. Like a Southern Cinderella at midnight, I unpinned the $18 from my chest and called it a night.