It was hot and most definitely the wrong day to be wearing pants. I didn’t want to go outside to join Andrew on a corner somewhere in Central City watching some boring, old ladies march in sync to an obnoxiously loud marching band. I was just too tired. I wasn’t even going to go, but when I realized I had nothing better to do except wilt away in my hotel room that’s how I ended up there on a corner somewhere in Central City. I had never seen anything like The Divine Ladies.
Beautiful. Decadent. Vibrant. Jubilous. Never had I seen such unfiltered joy and expression. Why I was concerned about standing dormantly on the sidelines watching various old women parade themselves? I have no idea. That afternoon spent with the Divine Ladies was a party like no other. Floats and costumes and a full marching band playing “The Weekend” by SZA in the danceable arrangement I’ve ever heard surrounding me in every direction. I didn’t even stand on the sidelines at all. Not even two seconds into watching their divinity in awe, and I was engulfed in their court, dancing beside them and their extravagant garments. I didn’t want to dance because I knew I wouldn’t be as good as any of the champion residents that frequent the scene. I didn’t want to dance, but of course I did anyway. It was electric– nearly impossible not to. Never have I ever experienced anything like it.
Apparently, stuff like that is typical in New Orleans and that doesn’t make any sense to me. How does anyone get anything done around here with second lines marching out their windows on Sundays like clockwork? The spirit of the city is overwhelmingly generous and mystical, and everyday feels like I’m uncovering something completely brand new. Although it’s not very large in comparison to other major cities, I could truly get lost here everyday in something completely brand new. The experience of the second line was one of those things– one of those completely brand new out of this world kind of things. Brilliant and bright.
This was Buddy Bolden’s world. Okay maybe not his exact world, but Buddy Bolden (protagonist of Coming Through Slaughter) was a man of the town– a writer, a jazz connoisseur, a barber, and a family man. Everyone knew him, or at least of him because this was his town in every aspect. The only reason he ever left is because at some point this town– his town– became too much too bear, and I can see how. Like all cities, this one doesn’t stop for anyone. Just like life, it goes on and although a little slower, it keeps moving. There will always be jazz on the streets, psychics in the square, voodoo in the alleys, life everywhere… so much so that it can be hard to remember what you came here to do in the first place. What’s up, down? Left, right? In my short time here, I’ve already learned that it can be hard to orient oneself in a city that doesn’t have any orientation. Here, things have an organization to them but it’s all chaotic and hard to place. North and south don’t work here– it’s Riverside or Lakeside. And sure there are crosswalks and traffic lights, but if you can find someone who can tell me how they work, send them my way. This place is wired differently, yet it’s always pulsing and you can feel that heartbeat everywhere. I felt it especially on that Sunday afternoon while watching the Divine Ladies, and nothing made more sense. This. This is the heart of New Orleans, I thought to myself. This is exactly what Andrew wanted us to feel.