I’m so excited to announce that LAtoNOLA now has 500 Subscribers! I’ve never really pushed for subscribers so I’m thrilled to reach such a milestone. Thank you to my longtime followers like Danica in L.A., Angela in the UK and Mike M. in New Orleans as well as newer subscribers like Emmanuel in Nigeria, Aditya and Rishika in India and Misty in New Orleans. I’ve only blogged 4 times since Fat Tuesday ended New Orleans’ Carnival season and COVID-19 began reshaping our lifestyle. For over a decade, this blog has been a way to share our city’s deeply-rooted and fascinating culture. Sadly, the virus has shuttered our bars and silenced most of our musicians. Many restaurants are take-out only if they’re open at all. Festivals and concerts are cancelled. There hasn’t been much culture to blog about.
This weekend would have been Southern Decadence – when the LGBTQ community overtakes the French Quarter from Wednesday through the end of Labor Day filling the streets with revelry, costumes and parades. Parts of the Quarter are actually fairly busy this weekend. Masked tourists wander in and out of shops. The long line has returned in front of Cafe du Monde where people eat powdered-sugar-covered beignets at socially distanced tables in the shaded outdoor dining area. Despite there being no bars open and a temporary ban on restaurants allowing go-cups, Bourbon Street is crowded by day and sometimes packed at night. Mask wearing is… casual.
Canal street is peopled with those seeking refuge from Hurricane Laura’s effects. Residents from Lake Charles and other areas sit in lawn chairs in front of hotels. A few people set up a grill on a side street and cooked up some meat. Katrina hit during Decadence weekend 15 years ago so the blank-faced people on Canal are a stark reminder of that time. The Storm shut everything down for some time but there were cultural reminders that the city could rebirth. Music helped the city through. Parades returned. Restaurants and businesses reopened. People rebuilt.
I hope New Orleans can pull another rebirth out of its hat but like so many other locations around the world, New Orleans is losing irreplaceable people and places. It’s hard for me to believe that we weren’t able to hold a second line parade for the passing of the legendary Ellis Marsalis or master float builder, Blaine Kern. I can’t accept that I will make no more memories in K.Paul’s. I will never again eat their smoky dark gumbo – my favorite in the city.
I find hope in my mask. When I wear it, I feel like I’m helping “Maybe Gras 2021” become an actual Carnival season where I’ll get to dance with my Pussyfooters sisters, spreading smiles – even if they’re behind masks. We are all in this together. I truly hope we all continue to do what we can to get things back to some version of normal where we can gather, masked, for parades and festivals in 2021. In the meantime, here are a few photos from now, Southern Decadence 2019, and Mardi Gras 2020. Those were the days, my friend…