Recently we hosted visitors from San Francisco, Buddhists, who live and share the wise teachings worldwide and yet visited the Gulf South for the first time just this month, perhaps doubting America has anything more to offer outside of our national parks, other than strip malls and generic housing developments. The beautiful people, inside and out, lived with us for a short time, and our 1835 Creole townhouse, a structure haunted by the ghosts of slaves, prostitutes, French nobility, and famous authors, near-floated with their presence.
In honor of our culture, they wavered from their vegetarianism at Sal’s Seafood on the West Bank (a running joke, since they returned from Jordan and the “real” West Bank the previous week), with prayers of thanks over every sea creature, as our devout guests learned to pick crabs and peel shrimp.
“You’re having a beer at 11:00 a.m.?” they asked, amused. I motioned to the salty crabs, shrugged my shoulders, and they joined me.
Louisiana — the people and the place — surprised our visitors. They promised to return, spend more time, and bring their daughter. As I dropped them at the airport and we hugged good-bye, they asked,
“Now we’re curious. Is there anything unique about Mississippi and Alabama?”
It wasn't a rhetorical question, and regrettably I didn't have near enough time to answer.
Given the option, I would have kept them here forever, like living shrines breathing new life into this old house, this wonderful, sinful city, and these ever-older bones.
I especially miss them today.
“It’s the Mardi Gras bug!” insists my husband, as I complain, even as I honestly try not to complain, about my aching calves, immobile right shoulder, and slumberous brain.
But I paced, I insist, knowing how I purposely held back from previous years, careful not to over-indulge, practicing yoga in the morning, and fitting at least five hours sleep into a night.
On Lundi Gras, we attended a friend’s annual event, a lavish, totally New Orleans affair at Commander’s Palace, complete with outstanding musicians Amanda Shaw, Tim Robertson, and David Seering, and topped off with Grand Marnier soufflé.
“You can’t miss it,” insisted George, as I groaned from beneath the comforter.
I slowly dressed, garnished my dreary eyes with rhinestone crusted false eyelashes and practiced my talent: compartmentalization. (That’s where I shove an issue, in this case my broken body, to one side of my head, worrying about it another day, ala Scarlet O’Hara, and focus instead on the crisis at hand, in this case excellent Bloody Marys* and a Lundi Gras party).
By mid-afternoon, George caught me sneaking out behind the palm trees, and he knew that the collision occurred: the wall and I met, and the compartment blew open, sending me like a bullet to my bed.
That night, as I lay shivering and sweating, George marveled at the 101 degrees on the thermometer.
“You may really have something here.”
I listened to Mardi Gras Day from our Faubourg Marigny bedroom, the lone tuba, bass drum, or trumpet, the occasional family parade, or some well-meaning preacher expounding through a bullhorn how we’re all headed to hell.
And now? I’m on the upswing, but stressing, because the fuzz (a little video gift from our Buddhist friends, shared with you here) is building, weaving, tangling inside me, growing worse by the hour.
But I won’t think about that today. I’ll think about that tomorrow.
Wendy Rodrigue (a.k.a. Dolores Pepper)
*Each time I have a Bloody Mary, I think of my mother-n-law who, when George ordered a Virgin Mary, laughed and laughed, assuming she misheard. When he confirmed the name, her face suddenly darkened: “That’s not funny.”