Saturday Night Krewe du Vieux,| and BP Doesn’t Matter


     We have a saying around the house: “You know why it doesn’t matter? Because it doesn’t matter.
     It’s a pretty silly saying, but I like it because it’s true.
     It was rescued from a hopelessly young, drunk couple during Halloween 2009 as they made their way through a shoulder to shoulder crawl of rowdy Halloween revelers in the Faubourg Marigny.
     If I remember correctly, the guy was wearing a porkpie hat. continued




     Okay, I don’t remember at all what the guy was wearing. What I remember was the conviction in his voice as he coaxed the girl down the crowded sidewalk (his words were meant to comfort to her, I am sure of it), running over partiers, smoking cigarettes and talking loud: “And do you know why it doesn’t matter?” the guy said, “Because it doesn’t matter.”
     That must have been right around the time we lost the camera.          
     We resurrected “it doesn’t matter” in the Faubourg Marigny Saturday night. Only we were the drinking couple, talking loud. We were sitting with our friend I’ll call Andrew at a stolen table in a Japanese Restaurant on Frenchmen Street. We weren’t actually talking about BP or the oil spill, or the Mardi Gras parade at all, but we knew what we were talking about.
     We were talking about things that didn’t matter.
     Saturday night was the night of Krewe du Vieux, the first parade of Mardi Gras season.
     For our friends in the North who don’t have the fortune (and hassle) of celebrating carnival, you should know Mardi Gras happens to fall extremely late on the calendar this year, March 8, which is great because that means the weather is fine. Actually, the weather is dreamy, but not to get off track – Krewe du Vieux kicks off the Mardi Gras season every year and goes through the French Quarter and Faubourg Marigny. Carnival lasts a long time in New Orleans. Krewe du Vieux, as a signature, is the raciest parade.
     Probably the most shameless part to our having stolen the table at the Japanese restaurant after watching the Krewe du Vieux was that neither Giuseppe nor I were even hungry then at all.
     We ate just before the parade started. Maybe getting so hungry so early was the result of seeing all the guys dressed like tarred and feathered BP execs, waiting for the parade. We listened to their parade-made bullshit company line then ducked into Mona Lisa’s for some chicken parmesan.
     The waitress at Mona Lisa’s gave us a bona fide table (one we didn’t have to steal) and sat us, without our even asking, adjacent to a friend of a friend.
     Both the friend of a friend and his dinner partner spend the work week driving out to remote Louisiana areas in an RV to provide mental health services to people who couldn’t otherwise access it.
     “So how are things out there? Has it gotten worse since the oil spill?” I asked him as he and his dinner partner were getting up to leave.
     “Oh yeah. Since the oil spill it’s much worse,” he said. “You wouldn’t even believe it.”
     “What about physical stuff? Have you seen a rise in sickness?”
     He was doubtful, but his dinner partner had a very strong, very different opinion.
     “Oh yeah!” he said. “Are you kidding me? With all those dispersants BP sprayed all over everything? Millions of gallons of dispersants! There are going to be some serious health problems.”
     They left. We watched the eager parade crowd outside the restaurant, finished dinner, went out to Royal Street, bought a bottle of Champagne from a convenience store, divided it into cups to go and walked down a ways until we ran into friends.
     The parade started.
     We stood in the crowd of people, watching floats pass that satirized a rifle-wielding Sarah Palin sitting in a tea cup, Stormy Daniels, the real-life Republican leaning porn star who was recruited by fans to run against Republican Senator David Vitter, floats taking jabs – for the sake of jabbing back – at lingerie-clad TSAs, and a float called “Do Ass Do Tail.”
     Palin with a rifle made for great decoration, but it was the tarred and feathered BP execs who stole the show.
     The parade came to a temporary halt just as the BP execs arrived in front of us. A man from the crowd came out to the street to tell BP his situation: he worked on a fishing boat that was chartered by BP over the summer; he worked all summer and hasn’t seen a dime from BP; his family is hungry. When will he get paid?
     The exec fanned himself with funny money and looked bored.
     “We’ll put our people in touch with your people. Don’t you worry about that,” he said.
     When the parade ended we followed our friends into a courtyard along Royal Street where their boss was throwing a Krewe du Vieux party. All the guests worked for advocacy centers and rebuild centers, with people whose daily lives are spent finding ways to make New Orleans work.
     Some day I hope to write a collection of character sketches based on the characters I’ve met around New Orleans.
     Probably I could just shamelessly steal the ideas from the 1919 book on how to be a proper debutante I saw in a Florida antique store last summer: A true debutante wears light pleasant colors, such as white, and knows that a smile without any feeling is counterproductive.
     Someday I want to write about the captivating young lady I happened to meet last summer out on the patio at the Beau Rivage in Biloxi.
     I think it was July then. Probably I remember meeting this lovely woman so well because I remember that whole day perfectly. The windows to my room looked out over the Gulf, and that morning when I woke, I lay in bed and watched as dozens of dolphins broke through the surface of the water close to shore. I’d never seen anything like it.
     Oil hadn’t yet made its way to Mississippi. In fact, that morning was exactly a week before the oil would arrive. But you could see by the flood of dolphins, oil was coming.
     Oil was coming and it felt like nothing.
     Nothing in the way millions of years of hot compressed earth upon fossilized matter melted to make oil to fuel jets means nothing.
     Nothing the way someday the land dividing the Mississippi River from the Gulf of Mexico will melt into brackish water.
     Nothing in the sense that if BP thinks it picked a city it can drown, that’s a matter of wild misperception.
     Well you know the end of this story. So there we found ourselves, at the stolen table in the Japanese restaurant, talking smack with our friend Andrew.
     Incidentally, following the parade, we came across Andrew’s studio and just happened to make out his shape inside the dark room, standing against the window, watching the crowd through the slats in his blinds.
     He was hungry. We found ourselves at the stolen table, ordered three large bottles of Japanese beer.
     Then we talked about this and that.
     “It’s all good,” one of them said at the end of a tired story.
     “God, I hate it when people say that. It isn’t all good.”
     “Okay. It’s all bad.”
     “No. It isn’t all bad at all.”
     “Okay, it doesn’t matter.”
     “Exactly. It just doesn’t matter.”
     We were having a nice time.

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