New Orleans on the whole is a wonderful and magical city. As I wrap up my most recent adventure in The Big Easy, I was able to have a true NOLA experience off the beaten path. I had every intention of writing a more complete story of my adventure complete with pictures after I return home, but for now I would like to write about this one solo experience.
Sunday morning in New Orleans is a special time as brass bands take to the street and parade through a different ward each week. The week of my stay happened to be the parade that passed my house on St. Claire and meandered down into the ninth ward. As I was sitting outside chatting with some of the other tenants in the house, the growing sound of brass and drums crept into my ears. The music got louder and louder and eventually I couldn’t stop myself from going to see what the commotion was all about. I opened the gate to the backyard I was in to experience a street full of people marching down the street with a brass band. The celebration was compelling and could not resist the urge to go join in. I was somewhat out of place, but curiosity being my nature, I joined in the march. I asked a gentleman what the parade was all about. “Every Sunday we march through one of the wards,” he said. “This is all about bringing people together and creating a sense of community. After Katrina, we started these parades as a way of bringing people together, so they knew they were not alone in their struggle to live and rebuild our city”.
I was amazed at the number of people, young and old, who came together through music to support each other and their community. As the parade continued, the music began to pull at my being, I could not prevent myself from dancing in the street with everyone else. I was not alone in this as the further we marched, the larger the crowd became. Everyone was so welcoming and encouraging. The parade finished at a small, neighborhood bar in Treme. Some of the women of the neighborhood got together and prepared food for everyone to enjoy. Potato salad, jambalaya, friend shrimp, and catfish were just a few of the selections upon the table. “Help your self son,” one of the women said to me. And believe me I did. It was true southern hospitality. I spent some time talking with many of the people there and learning about their lives and the challenges they face as they try to rebuild the part of New Orleans that most tourists don’t see.
I don’t feel I can do justice to the experience by attempting to put it into words. I can try to describe the sound but it isn’t the same as feeling the vibrations from the tuba in your body. I could try to describe the smells but it isn’t the same as having the mixture of sea air and cajun spices listing through the air and into your nose. As much as I love the French Quarter, the experience of being embraced by the Treme community knowing full well I was an outsider is one that I will never forget.