Faces of Mardi Gras 2012

For me, the best part of Mardi Gras Day has always been the people watching. The rest of the weekend is for partying, but the last and biggest day of the season is generally more about checking out the crowd than being part of it. I love the colors, sparkles, and smiles that abound in the city during the daylight hours of Fat Tuesday. The Man and I rolled out of bed at 9am and got costumed up, then rode our bikes down to the French Quarter to take photos before things got too rowdy, as they tend to by mid afternoon. Here are a few of my favorite faces from around the Quarter and Marigny.

Purple Mask, by Anna Harris

Chicken Dinner, by Anna Harris

Parasol, by Anna Harris

Feather Man, by Anna Harris

Dinner Hat, by Anna Harris

Dancing Dreads, by Anna Harris

Creepy Face, by Anna Harris

Hanging Out in Jackson Square

I’ve been meaning to post these photos for awhile now. These were all taken in Jackson Square, New Orleans, on January 8th, 2012. The Man and I went down to the French Quarter on our bikes to check out the college football crowd and enjoy the gorgeous weather. While we were in the area, we stopped by our artist friend Michael Schiavone‘s booth to see what he was painting that day.

Oranges on a Table, by Anna Harris

Paintbrushes, by Anna Harris

Black & White Paintbrushes, by Anna Harris

Artist at Work, by Anna Harris

Our friend Mike Schiavone, painting a wooden sign called "Jambalaya". He specializes in New Orleans-themed signs when he's selling art in Jackson Square, but has a much greater range than the pieces he aims at tourists. Besides being a fantastic artist, he also gives great hugs, which I find to be an admirable quality in a friend.

The Painter's Table, by Anna Harris

Blue Skies, by Anna Harris

Resolution Update #3

St. Louis Cathedral at Jackson Square, New Orleans

This is a photo of Jackson Square that I took a month or two ago - today it was much more packed with people.

Today was a great day! I went out running first thing, and logged 2.4 miles at a 10:10 pace. The route was different this morning, just to shake things up a bit. It took me through the Central Business District (CBD), by a lot of gorgeous old warehouse & loft-type buildings, all of the new buildings of the National WWII Museum, and then down to Canal Street. This is a huge weekend for football fans in New Orleans, and there were tons of tourists out already, even though it was only around 9am. I had to keep dodging Alabama fans (who tended to stand aside very politely) and LSU fans (who tended to have complete disregard for cars/bikers/runners/walkers that weren’t in their group, often dodging directly into the path of oncoming traffic without looking, then standing still and eyeing down the ‘offender’). No clue what natural conditions would spur on this ridiculous response in such a large swath of people, but I’m guessing most of them have never left the state, or else natural selection would have started taking its toll.

Even though it might sound like I’m over-exaggerating, I’m really not. Later in the day, The Man and I took a 2 hour biking tour of the French Quarter, and again the experiment held true. At any intersection where our lane of traffic had the right of way, we could be assured of being cut off by slow-walking (and even worse – indecisive and stopping) LSU fans. At least in the Quarter they were stopping for cars, but still not for bikes or other pedestrians, and they weren’t walking in accordance to traffic light changes. I had to slam on breaks a few times, just inches away from running over a girl on one occasion when she got to the middle of the street and just stopped, slack-jawed. Maybe they have more sidewalks in Alabama, I don’t know, but I do know that none of the fans who threatened my life with their incompetence were wearing crimson and white. I’m not a college football fan, and I didn’t go to either of these schools or even have an opinion about them until today, but it makes me want to consider supporting Alabama in tomorrow’s game.

Besides the gallivanting around, the other big thing that happened today was in regard to my resolution to train for 5K races and actually run them. I contacted a friend of mine who lives in New Orleans and used to be a runner, to see if he was running in the 5K at the end of the month. He wasn’t planning to, but when I mentioned it, he said he’d love to go, and that he’d start training tomorrow! I’m so excited – this will be an excellent way to also take care of my resolution to have fun. It will be great to hang out with an old friend again, and have someone around to make me want to work harder on being a runner. I’m stoked!

Time to go be a couch potato for a few hours. Catch you on the flip side!

The Moonlit Ride

Victorian Bicycle, by Kitschy Kitschy Cool (click thru to visit Etsy site)

Back in the pre-Katrina days, I was an avid biker.  I rode my bicycle everywhere, at any time, for any reason.  I wasn’t crazy-over-the-moon about my bike in the way that hipsters seem to be, but I loved it. It was a blue Raleigh mountain bike that I spent a pretty penny on in college, and got some good use out of around New Orleans until 2005. I used to ride through deserted patches of the Garden District and Uptown in the middle of the night, breathing in the heady scent of jasmine, listening to jazz on my CD player (I hadn’t caught up with the whole digital craze yet), dreaming all kinds of big dreams. Then one day someone stole my tire, and not too long after that, I evacuated the city with a cat, a laptop, my photo albums, and an extra t-shirt. Like every other thing I owned in the entire world, what was left of my bike was left behind.

My story is not even close to as sad as that of inhabitants of half of the city. I lived in a part of town that didn’t flood. Sure, they broke both my doors in anyway, in search of left-behind pets (none there), but other than that my things were safe. All was well. Except. I left town with $30 in my pocket, and didn’t get a FEMA check. I didn’t go home to rural NC for fear of getting stuck there forever, and instead went to Chicago and slept on a friend’s couch. It was a month and a half until I was able to secure a job, money, food, and other than some much-needed assistance from my sainted grandparents, I was in bad shape. In the end, I couldn’t afford to make it back to New Orleans in time to claim my belongings before my landlord threw them out. She was nice about it, don’t get me wrong, but my life from 1999 to 2005 was tossed out on the street, including my bike. An old friend managed to save a few pieces of original art, my jewelry, and a few other odds and ends, everything that would fit in a small box that he could cart back to his temporary residence in New Jersey. I met up with him that Thanksgiving in Long Branch to pick up this tiny box of belongings, and ended up giving half of my jewelry away to another Katrina evacuee I had known for a few years. She left town with a few changes of clothes, but no baubles for dressing up, and it seemed only right to share. There’s nothing like something sparkly to cheer a girl up, after all.

I eventually moved back to New Orleans in 2006, with barely enough belongings to fit into the back seat of a rental car. In the time between then and when I moved away again in 2008, I never scraped up the cash to buy a bike, instead borrowing friends’ on occasion. By the time I got to Chicago, land of ice, snow, and terrifyingly busy intersections, I had forgotten what it felt like to ride free in the moonlight.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when my boyfriend, The Man, gave me a beautiful little vintage bicycle, candy apple red, complete with a basket and working lights on the front, rear, and wheels. I’ve ridden it a few times back and forth to the gym, and last weekend all the way to the French Quarter. I was scared of the traffic, but it turns out that there are actually bike lanes in the CBD now, and a year of defensive driving in Chicago has endowed me with nerves of steel for New Orleans biking. Tonight I rode it again, to the Marigny and back (about 6 miles in all), the cool breeze on my neck, the moon beaming down as if to say it has missed me all these years. I felt good, strong, capable in a way I haven’t felt for some time.

It’s nice to be home.