Today I’ll write on a lighter note. Whew.
Now that we have been in New Orleans for nearly 2 years, I can confidently say, along with my wife, that I have fallen in love with this Cajun space. Really. Truly.
I told someone up North that, and they said with a slight twinge of irony, sarcasm or some other Northern sneer, “Why?” Well, it’s hard to say exactly why, it’s mostly intangible, and as ever it’s bound up with the fabulous friends we’ve made. But it also has something to do with the untidy mix of faith, churches, culture, vice, virtue, food, drink, color, water, personality, voodoo, rosaries, relics, beignets, Po’Boys, football, family, jazz, parades, feasting, fasting, canals, gators, bayous, chicory coffee, a local accent that I simply cannot replicate, Abita Amber, the Sazerac and oh so many other things. Somehow, local Catholicism entrains all of these things into its embrace, whether that embrace be with arms of welcome or with arms of purifying fire!
American author and devout Catholic Walter Percy aptly described its sui generis, island-like identity:
New Orleans is both intimately related to the South and yet in a real sense cut adrift not only from the South but from the rest of Louisiana, somewhat like Mont St. Michel awash at high tide. One comes upon it, moreover, in the unlikeliest of places, by penetrating the depths of the Bible Belt, running the gauntlet of Klan territory, the pine barrens of South Mississippi, Bogalusa, and the Florida parishes of Louisiana.
It was after reading Earl Higgins’ very funny The Joy of Y’at Catholicism, which plays wonderfully on these irreconcilably reconciled contradictions that constitute our Catholic-shaped, Christ-haunted menagerie culture, I was confirmed in my love. As a New Englander steeped in a more or less pragmatic cultural puritanism, maybe my greatest joy is simply in quelle différence!
Someone sent me this fun and upbeat music video reflecting on the local character of New Orleans. To break the intensity of my writing of late, I thought I would share it: