There’s no place like home. For me, literally… there’s no other place that compares to New Orleans, LA. I freaking love this city. It’s in my blood, my bones, my history. I moved away 16 years ago after Hurricane Katrina and have always wondered what it would be like to live there again. A few weeks ago, my cousin called and asked me to come home, and to her surprise I said yes! With some time off here in Boone, I felt like it was time to go home!
I had the pleasure of staying in a family-owned rental apartment in the Upper Garden District, which has always been one of my favorite areas of the city. I delighted in taking photos of the late-winter Japanese magnolias (slightly obsessed), #yardigras houses and angel’s trumpets. I was really hoping for some sunshine and warmth, but in two weeks we only saw a few hours total of sunshine and you all know how the temps have been down south — cold AF.
The house where I stayed off of Oak & Lowerline…
One thing that I debate over in my mind is how in the hell does anyone actually LIVE in New Orleans. As in… keep a job, pay rent, not go bankrupt eating cannolis and drinking daiquiris, and gain 100 pounds. I’m not sure I have an answer to that, but this trip I really aimed to make it feel like I lived in the city. I kept (sort of) to a diet. I worked out 5x a week. I worked everyday. It was delightful!
I didn’t really have an end date when I left Boone, NC for New Orleans. At some point during week two I said… I’ll leave after I get one more day of sunshine. When I realized that might not happen it was just days before Mardi Gras. So I decided to stay for whatever carnival festivities might arise. I mean… who leaves town two days before Mardi Gras?!
The kicker in all this is that I haven’t been to Mardi Gras since 2004. That’s a LONG TIME, y’all! I grew up going to parades every year. My grandfather Al Scramuzza was a long-time member of the Krewe of Endymion (they even had a float made of him and his giant nose. NO JOKE!). I always loved carnival season growing up!
Well, let me tell you… this year was QUIET! The city instated that bars close from Friday through the following Wednesday. Go-cups weren’t even allowed! I’ve never heard the city be so quiet during a Mardi Gras weekend. Mardi Gras day though did not disappoint.
My cousin Brenna has really helped me fall in love with Mid-City. The area has a neighborhood vibe where everyone knows everyone else on the block. Well, the Krewe of Bernadotte Street brought the party y’all! Fire pits were lit, dranks were flowing, tunes were going, beads were handed to drivers in passing cars… Mardi Gras 2021 was one to remember!
Shoutout to Ms. Kathy who was one of our “hosts” on Bernadotte!
This is the magic of New Orleans. Humans being humans to other humans. I know that sounds kind of dumb, but it’s true! I met more people on Mardi Gras day on the street than I will in a year in pandemic Boone. Different ages, backgrounds, races… on Mardi Gras day, everyone just wants to have a good time. Everyone makes sure you’ve got a drink. People aren’t afraid to talk to one another. It was refreshing after spending a solid year in Boone not going anywhere.
But it’s more than that. Last February, I was in New York City. Folks in NYC don’t have the same joie de vivre as folks in NOLA. I don’t know that anyone does. I met so many folks who are long-time New Orleanians and for whom the festivals, parties, hangovers, street dancing, pot holes, and sun-faded Mardi Gras beads on the trees are just as normal as the changing of the seasons. I felt akin with these folks in a way that brings a poignant tears to my eyes. The folks that remember the New Orleans that I grew up in, the city I left 16 years ago. The New Orleans of my ancestors. It made me remember that life is fleeting and the real lesson of the city is to live in the moment. That’s the mark of the Crescent City.
Celebrate life, y’all!
This is what happens when you try to hand someone you’re camera when you’re drunk on Mardi Gras and forget to mention the back button focus…
Part of the reason that I went home this time is that my family needed me. What I realized is that I needed my family. My home. My place. As I settle back into my life here in Boone, I aim to bring a little bit of New Orleans with me. That probably means that I will curse too much and offend someone, I’ll make someone feel uncomfortable with my openness and that I’ll probably shock you with how much I eat (and drink). But I also know how to have a good time regardless of how much money is in the bank, no matter the weather and I can roll with the punches. As they say, “laissez les bon temps rouler!”