This morning I read a blog post that made me cry. Eleven year old Emily had been eagerly anticipating Mardi Gras and her favorite parade, the Krewe of Muses. She had made a special countdown calendar, decorated with glitter, on which she would cross off each day. To say that this was a big deal for Emily would be an understatement. You see, Emily is a high-functioning autistic child and every day of her life she lives with the awareness that she is “different”. But she told her mother last year when asked what she liked so much about Mardi Gras that she didn’t feel so different from everyone else because during Mardi Gras, “…everyone is a little weird like me.”
You can, and should, go read the blog post but in short, some rude college-age students showed up just before the parade and blocked Emily’s view from the place where they had been waiting for two hours. They spilled beer on her, cussed and almost caught her hair on fire with a cigarette. When Emily’s mom asked them to move over a bit so her daughter could see, one of the guys took note of the patch on Emily’s coat which would indicate she’s autistic to medical personnel and then rudely said while looking her in the face, “This retard is making watching the parade a challenge.”
Poor Emily was devastated and the tears welled up. She insisted that her mother take her home. She went home without seeing her beloved parade and without any of the parade throws she had been looking forward to catching. She went so far as to say that she didn’t think she wanted to do Mardi Gras ever again. Something that had been so special to this precious young girl had been stolen from her by a rude, thoughtless person with no concern for anyone but himself.
Fortunately the story didn’t end there. Emily’s mother had been encouraged to blog about the event and within hours, thousands of people had read the story and hundreds had commented. Now, ordinarily when I read comments on most things online I find myself believing that our society is doomed but these were different. I started crying again as read person after person making kind comments and offering everything from parade throws to a hand-painted Mardi Gras mural in her room. Several offered to share their private balconies on the parade route with Emily and her mother next year. A firefighter offered dinner with all the firefighters at the fire station. A NOPD officer offered one of their t-shirts. Countless people offered to send what they had caught at the parade. Person after person offered something to this child to help ease her disappointment.
And then something amazing happened. Word spread and members of the Krewe of Muses, three of whom I am privileged to know, offered to host a special private “parade” for Emily in their den (where their float resides). Within a few hours not only did Muses gather, but so did a number of other groups who march in parades. The 610 Stompers (who my friend, Roz and I had the pleasure of meeting last October), the Rolling Elvi, the Pussyfooters, the Big Easy Rollergirls and even a couple of our NOLA Wenches turned up on short notice and gave Emily an experience she’ll never forget:
At the end of that video, the woman who offered to let Emily be the Queen of the Pirates is our dear friend, Cher, the current Captain of our NOLA Wenches Krewe. She and another wench friend donned their wench costumes and along with others, put together a “starter wench kit” which they presented to Emily. If Emily is willing, she will get to lead our pirate procession down the levee during our annual pirate event, Shore Leave, this April.
The outpouring of love from the people of New Orleans for a little girl with a broken heart illustrates just why David and I love that city beyond what most non-NOLA folks think is reasonable. We often tell people that the thing we love most about New Orleans is the people. One of our friends who loves New Orleans like we do summed it up perfectly today:
“People ask me why I love New Orleans so much. 100% of the time I say, “It’s the people.” Don’t get me wrong – the food, architecture, history, music, a good stiff drink, the SAINTS, parades? All of those? Good things. But the people make NOLA go ’round and when one stupid drunkass breaks the heart of a precious child they come running to the rescue. Read the comments sent to the mother of this little girl – you’ll see what I mean. If you’ve never been there, you owe it to yourself to discover what I’m talking about.” ~Jana Jansen
I couldn’t have said it better myself, Jana.
“Now and then we had a hope that if we lived and were good, God would permit us to be pirates.”~ Mark Twain (Life on the Mississippi)
I can’t begin to tell you everything about our piratical adventures but I will share a couple of amusing stories. On Saturday night all the pirates and wenches gathered for a bar crawl through the French Quarter. We divided into 4 groups of about 50 each, started in different locations and then were led on a tour of several bars, meeting up on Bourbon Street where we all recited a toast we had learned (one line per bar) and then threw beads to tourists from the balcony of Johnny White’s.
Our group had the *honor* of being accompanied by a brass band on our trek through the French Quarter. This wasn’t planned; they just showed up and decided to follow us. I kept thinking that while it was rather fun, they really weren’t playing that well and they kept playing the same song over and over. At one point we had all gathered outside one of the bars on the tour and watched as a wedding party and its band paraded down the street in front of us. I always enjoy watching these wedding parades with everyone waving their white handkerchiefs and dancing down the street. *Our* band suggested that they should challenge the other to a “battle of the bands” but fortunately for the wedding party, they didn’t pursue this plan.
It wasn’t until the following day, while sitting around with several pirate friends rehashing the weekend, that we found out why the band was a little different. Turns out they had all indulged in ‘shrooms just before deciding to join us. Ah, it all made sense.
The other funny story I can share (there are others I won’t!) took place Sunday. David and I were eating lunch at this fabulous new place, The Royal Street Deli. David overheard the waitress say something to another table of diners about being out of something because of the pirates. When she came by our table he asked her about it. Turns out they were completely out of hot sauce because the pirates had come through the night before and used all the hot sauce in their bloody marys. No hot sauce at a restaurant in New Orleans? I never would have believed it.
I’m finally getting around to writing about our recent 11-day trip to New Orleans. As always, we had a marvelous time. Exhausting, but marvelous. We decided to drive rather than fly this time and I must say, I think I preferred that. It’s about a 10 hour drive for us, which sounds like a lot until you realize that to fly requires an almost 2 hour drive to the airport in order to be there an hour before the flight. We then have a layover, usually in Houston. When all is said and done, it only takes us a couple of hours longer to drive and without all the hustle and bustle that air travel entails. Now that we have a Prius, the cost of gas is negligible. We filled up once each way. It’s a comfortable vehicle and it was nice to not have to worry about how we packed. Plus, it was a gorgeous drive (I wish I had asked David to stop so I could photograph all the blooming wisteria climbing the trees) and we enjoyed having so much time to just talk with no distractions. I also picked up a couple of audio books for us to listen to which was fun and made the trip go by faster. (For those who need to know these things: “The Secret Life of Bees” and “The Sookie Stackhouse Stories”)
We arrived on a Thursday evening, checked into the St. Christopher Hotel and then crossed the street in order to have dinner at Maggie Rita’s. You can see a picture of my meal here. It had been a long day and we were tired so we just went back to our room instead of going out. Besides, we had to be up early the next morning in order to march in the French Quarter Fest parade! Here are pictures of us before the parade.
I won’t even attempt to recount the entire trip but I’ll just share some pictures here:
A long-time fixture in the French Quarter, he has
achieved fame via Playing For Change.
Bryan Ory. We purchased this for David’s office.
and a Robert Shoen statue called “Old Man River”
on a tour of the French Quarter.
The lovely St. Louis cathedral in the background.
Aren’t these charming?
We bought two place settings of the fleur de lis design.
I plan to add more with each future visit.
in the French Quarter told me that there is a
legend which states that if you walk barefoot in
New Orleans, you will one day live there.
David, me and Del, the current captain of
the NOLA Krewe of Pirate Wenches.
She would be perfect in a pirate movie.
Our friend, Jay.
He and David had way too much fun together,
including an impromptu sword fight with Nerf swords
in the middle of the blocked off street during Shore Leave.
This is his, “Hey! I’ve got an idea” pose.
David says there’s a 40% chance it will be a good idea
but he’s in no matter what.
this is the view that made me fall in love
with New Orleans almost 29 years ago.
Me, enjoying the lovely day on the roof of the Royal Orleans Hotel.
the oldest Catholic cathedral in continuous use in the United States.
The Cabildo, once the seat of colonial government
in New Orleans and now a museum.
It sits adjacent to the Cathedral which you see to the right.
Jackson Square, also known as Place d’Armes,
with an equestrian statue of Andrew Jackson in the middle.