Have I ever mentioned that I love living in New Orleans?
I come from a Columbus, Ohio suburb where the strangest things that walk the streets are Democrats. And I moved to an area of New Orleans where all you have to do is sit on your front porch and wait for the entertainment to present itself. So I give you: The top five strangest things I’ve seen from my front porch.
1. Tall Bikes:
Tall bikes are like two or three bike frames fused on top of each other, circus-style. And I really don’t understand the purpose of these things. They can’t be that functional or easy to ride. I see people riding these bikes all the time through the neighborhood. I just don’t get it. These bikes are like the proverbial tree in the forest. If you don’t see the hipster mount or dismount a tall bike, did it actually happen? I’m almost convinced that they magically appear on top of these things. I only see them barreling through the narrow streets. I’ve never seen one come to a full stop either. How do they stop at stop signs? Traffic lights? How do they brake? Or is it too "mainstream" to have brakes? Kind of like those fixed gear bikes? Having more than one gear makes you uncool. You might be safer! But definitely not cooler.
2. Nonchalant Silver People:
Sure, we’ve all seen the silver people working in the French Quarter. You see them trying to stand perfectly still in the sweltering heat, although they might start rocking out like a robot every once in awhile. But what you don’t usually see is the casual walk home. But just like you and me, silver people have to make their way to and from work, and it’s a very strange thing to see a silver person moseying on down your street. It’s kind of like seeing Batman on the streetcar. It takes a little bit of the magic out of it. No, kids; like the Tooth Fairy, the silver dude is not real. He’s just a regular ol’ dude with a house and bills to pay. He doesn’t come from a land of silver robots.
Actually, the strangest silver people I saw were a couple dressed in period garb walking down the street late at night. At first I thought they were ghosts because, well, this is New Orleans, From far away, the silver paint played a little prank on my eyesight. But it turns out they were just your run-of-the-mill silver people. At least…I hope so. That’s what I’ll keep telling myself, anyway.
3. Mardi Gras Costumes:
(Mardi Gras black swans)
Nothing from Ohio could have prepared me for Mardi Gras. Fat Tuesday back home is just any other weekday. The local bars might put up a few purple, green and gold streamers or Mardi Gras promotional posters for Bud Light, but that’s about it.
The only thing that could come close to the atmosphere surrounding Mardi Gras was the Halloween party at my college. I went to school in the beautiful foothills of the Appalachians at Ohio University (which was voted the No. 1 party school this year – I’m so proud). Anyway, up until two years ago I had thought that Halloween at OU was the craziest event to go past my house, and at the time I thought it was doubly cool because my roommates and I were probably the only ones in at least a hundred miles to live in a purple house.
Down here, purple houses are not so strange.
The only times that people in Columbus, Ohio go hog-wild with costumes are Halloween and – sometimes – Ohio State football games (I can’t wait for all those "sweater vest" jokes this year). Even then there was never anything like Mardi Gras costumes. By my first Carnival season I had been in Louisiana for several months, but it still didn’t prepare me for the culture shock of being a part of one big month-long party. The only way I could describe it at the time was a "whimsical Halloween". I really had no idea that you were even supposed to dress up. I felt totally stupid as I walked into the Quarter wearing my normal everyday clothes and everyone else was dressed up as fairies, 18th century milkmaids and woodland creatures.
But waking up on Mardi Gras morning this past year and sitting outside to watch all the people walk from our neighborhood on down to the French Quarter was so awesome. I could have probably just sat there all day ogling the craziness and would been perfectly happy. I saw every manner of costume. I saw "black swans", childhood cartoon characters, people who looked like they stepped out of Lord of the Rings, devils, angels and the one that sticks out most in my memory (probably because it was kinda gross): a dude in an adult diaper and a bonnet. And this time I had the wherewithal to dress up along with everyone else. I didn’t feel like such a fish out of water:
My Mardi Gras face painting.
I think New Orleans really has the whole "winter blues" thing figured out. Up north where people are miserable in the ice and snow, with the Christmas holidays over and nothing to look forward to except spring, February can be a pretty depressing month. But down here, we have a month-long party to shake off the blues. I love it. No one up north will tell you that it’s their favorite time of year, but down here people say it all the time. It’s so fascinating to me.
4. All the Other Costumes:
Red Dress Run
If you’re ever wondering what’s going on any particular weekend, all you have to do is go outside and witness the costumes. Do you see a bunch of people dressed in white with red sashes and scarves? It’s the weekend of the Running of the Bulls. Do you see people in red dresses (dudes too) with beers in their hands? It’s the Red Dress Run. Do you see a bunch of people dressed head to toe in white linen? It’s White Linen Night. You get my point. I love this about New Orleans. I love that we have a whole city of people that want to be a part of the "New Orleans experience," to dress up, eat, drink and be merry. More so than any other city I’ve been in, New Orleans treats life like it should be celebrated. And celebrated often.
5. This Guy:
This was taken on your run-of-the-mill Saturday evening. It wasn’t during Mardi Gras season, Halloween or even St. Patrick’s Day. It was the most ordinary Saturday you could think of. And this dude decided to ride around our neighborhood playing his bagpipes.
On a unicycle.
Wearing a sequined jacket.
I so love it here.