I was recently regaling my friend Tommy, an old college buddy from San Francisco, with stories of the first post-Katrina Mardi Gras. My mother and I, so eager to hurry out to the parades, parked hastily and ran to St. Charles Avenue without making a mental note of the cross streets. We had a fabulous time. We laughed bitterly at the dark Katrina-related humor of the floats on the truck parades; we wept as the MAX Band, that amazing ensemble cobbled together from the talented and tenacious students at St. Mary’s, St. Aug and Xavier Prep, marched past with their heads held high; we hugged strangers on the parade route as if they were old friends; we stamped on doubloons and ran after cups and yelled ourselves hoarse. Hours later, our necks weighed down with beads and our faces streaked with tears, we tried to find our car. And tried. And tried.
After we walked past the same party for maybe the fifth time, the hostess stopped us. “Having trouble?” she asked. We confessed that, despite 20 years of living here, we’d made a newbie mistake and completely forgotten where we parked. “Oh, Lordy,” she said. “Well, come on in. We’ve got jambalaya and King Cake and champagne. Once it calms down, someone’ll drive y’all around until you find your car.”
And that’s just what happened. We ate and drank and made a houseful of new friends, and a few hours later, someone drove us around in a grid until we found my trusty teal Honda. That might have been the moment that I realized that New Orleans was going to be OK, I told Tommy. That was when I realized that the spirit of this city was intact and strong, that the discussions over whether to rebuild were moot.
“So, wait,” he said. “You just happened onto strangers who had amazing food and booze, and they invited you in and then drove your dumb asses in circles for an hour? That would never happen here.” He paused for a second. “But it seems New Orleans is a place where unlikely things happen regularly.”
I can’t dispute that. People here are friendlier, funnier, quirkier –– and, of course, often drunker. All of those factors make unlikely things more likely to happen. The very existence of this city is unlikely; its recovery from Hurricane Katrina unlikelier still. And Carnival is a season full of unlikely events.
With Carnival kicking into full gear this month, it’s easy for Valentine’s Day to get overshadowed, but we’re picking up the slack: Our February issue is a love letter to this fabulously romantic city, its architecture, its people, its food and everything else that makes it such an amazing place to call home.
In addition to showcasing some of the best balconies in the city — which are perfect for a couple to share a bottle of wine and stargaze or for a crowd to share a keg and raise some hell, depending on the holiday being celebrated — we’re taking you inside the classic New Orleans home, the shotgun. The Uptown home of Lee Adler and Robert Marks has been modernized from a double shotgun to a single, and the couple has decked it out with bright colors and a blend of traditional and funky décor. In Mid-City, friends Libra LaGrone and Bradley Sabin renovated and raised a double shotgun and filled it to the brim with art of all kinds. (In a typical New Orleans coincidence, Libra and I met at the photo shoot and discovered that, in addition to knowing about 50 people in common, we’d lived in the exact same house on Toulouse Street. Unlikely? Absolutely. But this is a city where unlikely things happen regularly.)
It doesn’t need to be Valentine’s Day for me or any of us to declare ourselves in love with this city. It doesn’t need to be Mardi Gras for us to have a good time here. And you don’t have to have forgotten where you parked your car to remember that this is, as has been said before, a wonderful city in which to rely upon the kindness of strangers.
Happy Valentine’s Day! Happy Mardi Gras! And long live New Orleans!