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Burning sage in the Big Easy

December 30, 2016

2016 was a complicated year for everyone, me included.

There was a lot of good.  Absolutely.  Also, there was the election, the less said about that the better; so many of our icons left us (they all hurt, but I’m particularly saddened by Carrie Fisher – more on that in a minute – Prince, and the great George Michael, who’s Wake Me Up Before you Go Go really is my most favorite song.  Don’t judge); and for me, 2016 marked the end of a relationship that was dying from the moment it was born.  I thought it died in 2015, but it still wielded a bit of magic and wooed me back. Now, sadly,  but also freeingly, it has breathed it’s last.

New Orleans did it.  That’s where, in 2008, we met.  He wasn’t where he was supposed to be and it was never quite clear why or who exactly he was.  But New Orleans worked her particular brand of magic and voodoo and I was hooked.  For a while I could ignore the voices inside me madly pointing out the red flags along our path, and allow the magic to course through, but eventually the voices won out and I had to admit they were right.  Even knowing that, assuring the voices in my head and of my friends who had joined the chorus urging me to cut ties, I hung on tight, hoping that some magic remained. It didn’t.

I arrived back in New Orleans for the first time since 2008 this morning and I am walking the streets which brought me to him.  I am remembering with gratitude, but I’m also reclaiming them.  Tomorrow, I join with friends to celebrate the coming year and all the hope that it brings, but today I am marking what’s past.

New Orleans pays tribute to that and those past like none other with their second line parades.  And I arrived in time to join the Chewbacchus organization as they paid tribute to Carrie Fisher by staging a second line parade for her most famous alter ego – Princess Leia.

About two miles from where I’m staying is the Bywater neighborhood of NOLA.  Bywater was hit hard by Katrina and many of the houses still bear the spay painted codes indicating if there are dead in the home.  Before I got to the second line gathering park, I made my way through Bywater, admiring the many ways its residents decorated for the holiday and despairing at the reminders of the hurricane.  I happened into a warehouse space filled with graphic and graffiti art commemorating that time.  The art – a street style rendering of hopeful reality – brought out the tears hiding just under my skin.

A cathartic cry out of the way, I found a park full of side bunned women in white, caped men with light sabers, and the occasional wookie and I knew I was in the right place.  Waiting for the parade to begin (an hour and a half past schedule), I was befriended by Leonides and Autumn, a couple with matching nose rings.  He wore a gray three piece suit, she a flowing black gown to match her Leia braids.  In heavy creole accents they asked about me and gave me tips about their favorite places for music and oysters.  I could have chatted all day with them, but the parade began  with the local roller derby team dressed as vintage Leia and dancing to Whitney Houston and I knew I had to follow.  I joined R2 units and Siths dancing in the streets and felt 2016 fall away.  I danced for about four blocks with two young Jedis and a storm trooper and I’m pretty sure I bought a beer from Lando Calrissian.

Under it all though, was true love for Carrie Fisher and sadness for her loss.  It was a really beautiful tribute.  She drowned in moonlight, strangled by her bra! 

A po boy, another beer, and early to bed for me.  Tomorrow is a new day, then it’s a new year!



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