Oh It’s Carnival Tiiiiime…

3 03 2014

Today is Lundi Gras, the day before Mardi Gras day — the culmination of a weeks’ long celebration in the city of New Orleans and the place I call home! If you’ve never been to New Orleans during Carnival Season, might I suggest that you find a way to add it to your bucket list? It’s the ultimate party.

Families are gathered around, dancing and eating (and yes drinking) in the streets. Parade revelers are shouting to masked acquaintances, prodding them to throw them down a rain of beads and doubloons, plastic cups and medallions. And because New Orleanians are so “polite,” even the screams are peppered with platitudes. “Throw me something, mister” we scream out.

At Zulu, the most beautifully decorated coconuts are handed to parade attendees, but only the lucky ones. And Indian chiefs show off the grand majesty of their attire — the hard work they’ve put into crafting their head gear and their costumes. At Muses, men and women alike clamor to catch the best heels thrown out from the floats, knowing that getting a spectacular one is quite the bragging prize.

The balls are a sight to see as well. Folks dressed in their best — gowns and tuxes and suits and furs mix with streamers and liquor and the best food you could ever taste.

Little kids are laughing, adults are enjoying their moment to have not a care in the world, all while marching bands strut through the city, showing off their hours and weeks and months of hard work.

I’m telling you, there really is nothing like New Orleans during Mardi Gras.

The masks and colors will amaze you. The purple, green, and gold filling every space imaginable. The people drawing you into their charm — the same charm that makes my home like no other city in the world. The charm that makes it perfectly reasonable for cashiers to chat up the patrons in the drug store before ever ringing up their items. The same charm that Lil Wayne described perfectly on his last appearance on First Take when he explained that the people of New Orleans are not nice, because that implies that we have to work at it. No, he said, we are humble, so it oozes out of us naturally.

The truth is there’s something special about the city, the residents, and the way we celebrate life. And that something special makes me miss home even more on days like today.

I definitely need to be amongst the crowds this time next year. I need to be in my rightful place. I hope to see you all down there too.

Happy Mardi Gras everyone!!!

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A French Market Date: A Shoe Story

20 03 2013
Photos: H&M flats worn by Darby/ French Market photo courtesy of www.amberhuez.com

Photos: H&M flats worn by Darby/ French Market photo courtesy of http://www.amberhuez.com

“I’ll be there in 5 minutes to pick you up. Are you ready?”

“Yea, if couuuuuurse,” I said, lying through my teeth.

Of course I wasn’t ready. But, in my defense, it was our second date, and I’d been tearing up my suitcase and closet trying to figure out what the heck I should wear. After about 15 outfit changes (amazing since I was only in town for a week), I finally settled on an outfit, but hadn’t quite figured out the shoes by the time he called.

At the last minute, though, I decided to just slide on my new cobalt blue flats from H&M. And by last minute, I mean right as he was pulling up in my parents’ driveway. A few seconds later, I heard the doorbell ring.

“I got it,” I screamed out to my sisters, attempting to cut them off before they could get started on their usual teasing when dates came over.

I straightened my outfit one last time and then swung the door open.

“Hey!”

He stood there with the biggest grin on his face.

“Hey, ” he replied. “Are you actually ready?”

I could tell he was giving me the once over, so I let him take it all in before answering.

“Yep, I just need to…”

“I knew it! I knew you wouldn’t be ready.”

“Ummm, I just need to get my purse, interruptor,” I said, using my best ahaaaaaa voice and trying to keep myself from laughing. “See what happens when you assume? Say you’re sorry.”

“I’m not going to say that because you probably just finished.”

“First of all, you don’t know me. And second…”

“What,” he countered. “Second, what?”

“And second… So what if I did! The point is I’m still on time!” I folded my arms in mock protest, letting him know that I was sorta kinda serious about wanting that apology. Even if he may have been a little right.

“Alright baby, sure… I apologize.”

And with that, my smile matched his from when I first opened the door. I quickly grabbed my purse, hollered out bye to my family and skipped to his car.

“You’re real happy about that apology, huh?”

“And you know this…. Mannnn!”

We both jumped in the car and headed to our destination… the famed New Orleans French Market. Even though it was technically only our second date, we’d been talking on the phone long distance for the past month and 1/2, and so when I told him that I wanted to get my friends their birthday presents from the French Market year, he eagerly suggested we could incorporate that into some “us” time.

I was pleased with the idea, so we went with it.

By the time we pulled up to the Market about 20 minutes later, I’d already caught him giving me the googly eyes during red lights on a few occasions. And by the last one, I was even starting to return them and not just laugh them off, a feat for someone like myself who tries to pull off a non-mushy demeanor for most situations. We pulled into a spot, and he immediately informed me not to get out of the car so he could open my door for me.

A bit much, I thought, at first, and then quickly scolded myself for being that girl who doesn’t just enjoy someone doing something nice for her. I was going to enjoy this, I told myself. I’d even worn my flats so I’d have no excuse of my feet hurting to cut our time short. We began walking and everything was flowing normally until I realized something. He was reaching for my hand. I was so caught off guard. Wait, was hand-holding a part of the deal for a 2nd date, I wondered. Wasn’t that a bit much? Eeek – I totally was NOT a pda kinda girl! Didn’t he know this? Hadn’t we discussed this before? Ohhh, what was I going to do???

Oh yea, I was in pure freak-out mode.

But the longer my hand stayed there, in his hand, the less freaked out I remained. And suddenly, we were traipsing through the French Market, me in my blue flats and him in Nike’s – the two of us half-walking, half-skipping, but completely joined with each other. We were picking up knick knacks and trying on silly hats, tossing around doubloons and playing with the masks and second line umbrellas.

We were having a blast, just shopping for my friends! This was like a woman’s dream, right? A man who enjoyed shopping with her! A man who couldn’t stop smiling at her. A man who she’d grown so comfortable with in a few hours that she was now perfectly okay with him giving her kisses on her neck and cheek and chasing her around the market. I mean, I’d gone from side-eyeing him and his googly eyes in the car to letting him feed me samples from the food displays. WHAT?! That just wasn’t me, I thought.

But I’d realized one more thing, in the midst of us playing around the market, and despite the fact that he was more of a Nike guy than I was used to – I liked it. I liked spending time with him. I liked having him mock chase me and use silly accents when we tried on the masks. I liked him. And maybe, just maybe, I was beginning to be interested in seeing where this could go. I was also really happy I chose flats and not heels, because it probably would have been a totally different experience.





New Year’s Eve in New Orleans: A Shoe Story

5 09 2012

Photo: Follybeachnow.com

10…

9…

8…

7…

6…

5…

4…

3…

2…

1!!!

Happy New Year!!!

Anita* and I looked at each other with much relief and excitement while we toasted our glasses and screamed out the countdown for the last seconds of 2009. We’d actually made it to her uncle’s house, running in with our best heels, just in time for us to have champagne glasses placed in our hands at the very moment the crowd started with the number 10.

“Whew,” she said to me. “Happy New Year girl!”

“Same to you honey. And this year, we managed to not be in the car, traveling from one place to the other, during the countdown.”

“I know, we definitely need to get better at this.”

She was right. This was our third year in a row of spending New Year’s Eve together in New Orleans and yet, somehow we still hadn’t perfected getting to our next location with time to spare before the New Year came. The year before, we found ourselves in the car, driving into the French Quarter, and when we heard the radio start the countdown, we just pulled over by the river and toasted by ourselves. We made it to our 2nd destination 5 minutes later.

We were a little better off this year, but I still found myself running into her uncle’s house, praying that I didn’t trip over my 4 inch leopard print heels. They had a red embellishment on the side of each shoe and the last thing I wanted to do was add to the red with my blood. But thankfully, none of that occurred. Instead, we grabbed our glasses and toasted the year with her family, and all was well.

Anita’s uncle had managed to serve up a beautifully delicious spread of food that was just what we needed to coat our stomachs before heading downtown. And so for the next hour or so, we ate and drank champagne and took pictures, posing like we were on our own special runway – making sure to tell everyone “not to forget the shoes!” We posed near his fountain in the backyard, posed in the dining room, posed in the kitchen, the living room, the front yard – anywhere and everywhere we could, really. We also probably ate and drank in all those locations as well!

And then, just as quickly as we’d run into the house an hour or so before, it was time for us to leave and head downtown to Bourbon Street. We gathered our things, packed ourselves back into her car, and then I realized what I’d done. I’d made the ultimate rookie mistake for Bourbon Street. Not attempting to go there sober, which is bad enough.

No, I’d forgotten to bring a change of shoes for the evening.

You see, one thing you have to know about Bourbon Street is that you never ever ever go there wearing shoes that matter to you. And since I didn’t want to start crying by the end of the night because someone had completely ruined my babies, I was at a loss of what to do. Sure, we could go back to my house to get some sandals or sneakers, but that would have taken up way more time and gas than either one of us wanted to spend.

We thought. And thought. And finally, Anita remembered that she had an extra pair of sandals in her trunk that I could wear. Perfect! Except that Anita’s shoe size was about a size and 1/2 bigger than mine, so while I was thankful for the spare pair, I was horrified about how this would actually be executed.

As it turns out, it was just as clownish as you would think. But since desperate times call for desperate measures, I buckled those sandals up, sucked up my pride and literally flip flopped my way along the streets of downtown New Orleans. “Most people would be drunk by now, anyway,” I decided, probably as a way to justify looking like a little kid walking around in her mommie’s shoes. “The last thing they would be worried about were whether or not my shoes were too big.”

And I was right. A few drinks and plenty of dancing later, I barely remembered that my feet probably looked like they belonged to a clown. What was most important was that me and one of my besties were having a great time (she even battled a drag queen to Single Ladies by Beyonce’!!) and for one night only, the shoes I had on were much less of a concern.

* Name was changed in this story.





A “Quick” Note on Katrina

27 08 2010

On Sunday, it will be five years since Hurricane Katrina hit and devastated a large part of the Gulf region – including, especially notable for me, my city – New Orleans. And because of that, a lot of people and organizations have been doing things to acknowledge the 5 year anniversary. The sound of five years tends to seem like it should be a benchmark, a time that we should reflect on what happened and see where things are progressing forward. So you have your Spike Lee documentary, PBS specials, MSNBC specials, CNN specials, and articles written galore – and I wasn’t going to pile onto that mass of commemorative musing, but in the end, I decided to write a quick something on it (which if you read the blog and/or you know me in real life, you know that quick is relative anyway… but I promise it won’t be as depressing as this post I did a few years back).

Anyway, the first thing you should know is that I don’t typically like to talk about that time, which is especially difficult when you meet new people, say where you’re from and the typical reaction is one of immediate concern. I get that – and appreciate it, but as someone who can be too introspective sometimes, it’s sometimes better for me just not to venture into the conversation at all. I get really emotional about it and it’s not pretty. I do NOT cry pretty – like at all. I cry like someone who tries to hold in her tears until she can’t anymore and the tears come gushing out in big ugly crying fits… because, well that’s exactly what happens to me. BUT as much as I love that city and I am thankful for everything God has done in these five years and what He did to keep my family safe during that time, I figured I would be remiss not to say anything.

So here goes.

August 29th will always be a day that I never forget. I had just moved back to DC less than 2 weeks before to start grad school and in the days before August 29th, I’d spent my time getting my schedule together, unpacking my apartment and convincing my family that I understood we’d never left for a hurricane before, but this time seemed like as good as any to get the hell out of dodge. The problem was that my dad wanted to take my mom, my sisters, and my grandparents (my mom’s parents) to Northern LA where my dad was from and his parents still lived; but my grandmother didn’t want to leave her house and without her agreeing to leave, my grandfather wouldn’t leave and thus my mom wouldn’t leave (and neither my sisters)… so I was tasked with convincing a 70 year old woman that she needed to go. Thank God I did. I didn’t realize it then, but it was just one of the miracles that God would perform during this trying time.

With that, my family left – went up to Northern LA and called me on August 28th to let me know they made it safely and they’d be watching the news just like me. Even though I hadn’t heard from all of my friends and all of my other family members, I knew the core was safe, so I could breathe kinda. Except that I didnt breathe. I watched CNN nonstop… never turning my TV off at home (or turning the channel), reading cnn.com on the train, and watching CNN on the TVs on Georgetown’s campus – I literally mean nonstop. It was not a good thing, but I couldn’t not watch it – I couldn’t not know what was going on. And for a brief moment it really looked like everything would be fine. The storm had miraculously turned and now wasn’t going to hit New Orleans dead on (another miracle!) and I remember thinking, “whew, that was a close one.” And then… while watching CNN, I saw everything fall apart in an instant.

Water kept gushing through the city and they reported that some of the levees had broken. My God – I knew then it was not going to be good. Growing up there, you always knew (and we would always say in casual conversation), we’re fine here – until something happens to one of those levees… and then it’s bad business. At that point, the storm was still heading north, I couldn’t get in touch with my family, my friends – basically anyone with a 504 area code, you weren’t reaching them.

And days and days went by with no word on if any neighborhoods had been spared… all you saw was water, and all I could think about was how it was all gone, and I couldn’t even talk to my mom to see how they were doing. I was a wreck – not a crying wreck, but an out of it, constant TV watching, no one could get me to talk about anything wreck. Eventually, my mom was finally able to get through to me and slowly, I started hearing from other friends and family and while I definitely know people who were stuck in the storm and went through some terrifying experiences, I am one of the most blessed people to be able to say I don’t know anyone who died in the storm.

That is not to say that I don’t know people who died because of the storm, because I do. I know people who couldn’t handle the aftermath of that time. I know people who, even though they are technically alive, are almost dead inside – still, because of what happened. But on the other hand, I know sooo many people who triumphed after Katrina – who looked at their destroyed homes, cried for a moment and then got to work. I know people who are still struggling to make it back, but they’re making progress so that’s what counts. I know people who went through so much during that time, but they’re standing and I look at them as some of the strongest people that I know.

These people are who I think of when I think of the anniversary of Katrina. I think of the miracle of some of their lives. I think about how God blessed my family and made it so that a foundation repair that we did the year before saved our home. When my parents went back after the storm – the only things wrong were some broken concrete in the driveway and a blown down fence. Our house stood strong in that storm, even while the very house next to us crumbled to the ground. You can’t tell me that’s not God’s favor and blessing.

So on this *quick note* (lol) on the anniversary of August 29th, I’m trying not to think of the bad things that happened 5 years ago. I don’t want to think about the depression I went into at that time or how hard it was when I went home for Thanksgiving and had to call my friends one-by-one and tell them all that their homes were destroyed or how hard it was to hear my baby sister crying after every storm for years. No – I want to think about the things that God did to help us through all of this. I want to thank God for helping me through all of this, as well as the people He put in my life who were there to help as well. At that time, I had to be strong for my family – but there were people up here who were strong for me. Some of them are still in my life now and some of them aren’t, but every single one of them were God’s blessings – and that’s what I’ll think about on Sunday – and hopefully there will be no big ugly tears that come flowing down because of it.