After over a year of hibernation, New Orleans is reopening. The line in front of Cafe du Monde has returned and regularly stretches to the steps facing Jackson Square. Restaurants are serving indoors (and out), live music has returned, and I passed a mother dancing in the street with her toddler the other day. We haven’t been dancing in the streets much so it felt good to see that energy again – the love of family, music and joyous moments all swaying in her hips.
Being vaccinated has been very freeing. I still wear my mask for many occasions but we’re free to gather again. And hug! This city was nearly unrecognizable with no music, no dancing in the streets, no crowded restaurants, no festivals or parades – not even for funerals. I knew our economy was based on tourism but I never realized how much of our culture is based on gathering.
Many of our favorite restaurants and shops survived the pandemic and we’ve been enjoying returning to them. We ate indoors at Commander’s Palace and relished how wonderful it is to be served like royalty – and to eat the meal at the exact time and temperature the chef intended. And no dishes to wash!
We attended a Pelicans game before the season ended. The Arena was fairly empty but enthusiasm was high. I took a maskless photo with the fabulous booksellers at Garden District Book Shop and it was wonderful seeing their familiar smiles. We even went to an outdoor party. It’s been so long since I’ve documented my adventures that I only took one photo and it was of the balconies – not the party-goers in pretty cocktail dresses and summer suits.
Culturally, the city has been on pause, but I did have the honor of visiting some of Mardi Gras Indian Tootie Montana’s suits. Chief of Chiefs, Montana is a legend and a martyr for the cause of parading rights for the Indians. You can read the amazing story HERE. His son, Daryl, shared he and his father’s suits and their stories. Readers of this blog know that the Mardi Gras Indians are my favorite thing and their parade day, Super Sunday, is my favorite day – so I was in heaven.
The Mardi Gras Indians suits take up to a year to construct and easily cost $5,000. The Montana family are Yellow Pocahontas Hunters tribe, a downtown tribe. Inspired by his work in housing construction, Big Chief Tootie pioneered the spectacular downtown 3-D style of suits. Once I understood that, it was so easy to see how the shapes built onto the suits reflected rounded porches, carved eaves and other local architectural styles.
Though I never left, I’ve missed New Orleans these long months. It’s clear to me how critical it is to our ability to get through hard moments that we celebrate everything from tomatoes to funerals. I need to hear trumpets and eat local food at festivals. I need to dance with my Pussyfooters sisters in parades. I need to hug neighbors I pass in the grocery store and smile at people for no reason. I know what it means to miss New Orleans in a whole new way now and I’m grateful the worst seems behind us.