The Resilience Project was doing interviews on local food systems in New Orleans. Our laser focus on resilience had left us blissfully unaware we had scheduled the interviews for the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Also known as Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras. After the interview (which took place on a the front porch of a house in the Garden District), traffic was heavy and the roads laden with parades, so we decided to just see what New Orleans Mardi Gras was like. It turned out to be pretty smelly with a decided frat boy flavor. The frat boys evidently couldn’t find bathrooms.
Early in the day, before the smell got too bad, the costumed crewes and early parades kept us anything but bored. Families were everywhere early on. The locals told us that no local folk go to the French Quarter at Mardi Gras, but us country folk decided to go anyway because we don’t get to the city much. A litte debauchery won’t hurt us, we decided. So we braved the crowds and smells and found a ratio of 20 frat boys for every girl. And that girl was urged by her 20 compatriots to do something, in exchange for beads, which you can imagine. Several of the more drunken girls did, only to be immediately swallowed in a crowd of frat boys.
We quickly got tired of this rigamarole and found a place to listen to good jazz and let the hubbub die down. After a relaxing session of saxophones and trumpets we followed the road less traveled out to our motel.
In the morning, heading down to the lobby for coffee, frat boys were still straggling in from downtown New Orleans. Others were scattered on the lounge chairs near the pool. Evidently they hadn’t had quite enough energy to get to their rooms, or they had forgotten where their rooms were.
We got our coffee and headed up the highway back to Arkansas before most of them had woken up. We briefly considered going back to the French Quarter to get some ashes on our foreheads at the iconic St. Louis Cathedral across the park from the Cafe du Monde. But we’d already had their café au lait and beignets the day before.
Besides the ashes just didn’t seem really fitting for us white Anglo-Saxon, more or less Calvinist, country folk. We’d had ashes on our foreheads and all over us plenty of times in the past. Especially lately when we have started making biochar and amending our soils with it.
It’s great fun burning wood down to just the right level, burying it in soil, innoculating it with the native microorganisms of our best soils and mixing it in our new beds. Inevitably you get ashes on your forehead.
Going into a gilded building in the city to have a white robed priests dab ashes just didn’t appeal to us.
So we headed north into Mississippi and away from Louisiana debauchery. We made it up highway 1 to Onward for lunch. The only restaurant in Onward has real tamales–the ones wrapped in a real corn husk. Best tamales on the planet, eaten husk and all. We come back as often as our resilience work calls us to make sure they are still the best.
Onward is noted as the place where President Teddy Roosevelt went bear hunting, but pardoned a bear which had been tied to a tree for him to shoot. The press broadcast worldwide his magnanimity and toy manufacturers saw an opportunity and created the teddy bear so many children love today.
But we can’t stay long in Mississippi. It has sold its soul to the casino industry. We speed out on the great highways the casino money has built and head back home to Arkansas. Crosssing over the Greenville bridge, we get to see the Mississippi River one last time before we head north to our Ozarks.
Back to our isolated county where there is no liquor sold, no casinos, no Mardi Gras and never any debauchery.