“The street is closed for the parade, ma’am. I can’t drive you all the way to this destination.”

“That’s all right. Just get as close as you can, and I’ll walk the rest.”

It’s normal to get nowhere by car in New Orleans on Mardi Gras. Conveniently, I packed light: one bag for shoes, one bag for everything else. So I stepped out of the cab and into the Big Easy.

I would have been content with an uneventful walk to the hotel. I did not start the shenanigans: the shenanigans ambushed me.

The shenanigans appeared while I was trying to sneak across the parade route. The N.O.P.D. try to prevent you from doing this because, I guess, you could get run over by a float. If you cross fast enough, they just yell at you and then leave you alone. I noticed a large gap between a marching band and a float, and I went for it.

I had made it about halfway across the street when my friend from high school, Olivia, appeared out of nowhere. She bounced toward me in…an aquatic fairy queen outfit, maybe? A cloud of sheer and ribbons and sparkles surrounded her. She was stumbling and about to fall. She landed on my arm, so I stopped in the road to steady her.

That’s when the police got pissed.

So, after eight years apart, the first thing I said to Olivia upon our reunion was “SHIT GOOOOOO!!!!” But Olivia was not in a position to move very quickly.

And that’s how I found myself sprinting across a crowded street with a backpack on my back, a shoe bag on my shoulder, and a fairy queen in my arms…

while being chased by a police motorcycle and a tractor-drawn float of bead-lobbing drunk people.

So thank you, Lucas, for the fitness classes, without which I could not have survived that moment.

If you appreciate kitsch as much as I do, you would love this time of year in Louisiana. Everything is covered in Christmas lights, even more than usual. Giant floats made of polymer and paper mache show off clown faces, mythical creatures, alligators, whales, and deities from various pantheons. A parade’s worth of floats looks like a moving mini golf course. Also, for six full days, grown-ass adults fight tooth and nail over plastic beads and other trinkets that no one will care about at all come Wednesday. I’m not a trinket-fighter myself, but I’ve seen some good tug-of-war matches.

If you, however, want to amass a trinket collection at Mardi Gras, I can tell you the secret to getting a lot of beads: yell somebody’s name. On Sunday at the Thoth parade, my stepmother’s ex-neighbor came up beside me and asked me to help her yell for her friend Archie on the next float. A few minutes later, the two of us started shouting “Archie! Archie! Archie!” A tsunami of heavy beads rushed at us, knocking me off the metal barrier that I had (not wisely) perched on to get a better view. The haul included seven different colors of beads, a Who Dat necklace, and a purple thong.

I’ll bring the Who Dat necklace to the gym as a token of my gratitude for the shenanigan survival training.

I’m currently taking suggestions as to what I might do with the thong.

This weekend in New Orleans reminded me of the adventures I went on before I moved to Chicago. I haven’t been on nearly as many adventures lately.

I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I like my routine. Any time I have put it aside for the past year, I have been relieved to return to it after a few days. This is different from the more adventurous Miami/Louisiana/DC period, when I embarked on a lot of adventures because I was trying to escape.

Also, nowadays it’s harder to get away. I need to sustain a pretty quick pace of acquiring new programming skills, which means a lot of time coding and not so much time cavorting. I don’t want to go dark on the Zooniverse project for too many days in a row. And I don’t want to lose contact with my friends in the city by always being elsewhere.

In fact, I’d consider dividing my life into chunks, some of which have been focused on short-term adventures, and others of which have been focused on longer-term missions. Right now, there’s a lot of long-term stuff that I’m trying to accomplish, and so there’s less running around on whims.

I think that a mission-driven lifestyle and an adventure-driven lifestyle might require separate mindsets. Have you ever noticed that you’ll do things on vacation that you might not otherwise do? Yesterday morning I found myself on a dance floor, swing dancing with my younger brother. I had never done that before in my entire life. My brother and I lived in the same house for seventeen years. It’s not like I’ve never had the opportunity. So what gives?

I think that, when I’m on missions, I focus on my routine to eliminate distractions. I’ve gotten better at doing that, and I like it. I have enjoyed my newfound ability to acknowledge when I don’t want to participate in an activity. I can turn down plans without experiencing the paralyzing fear that I’m missing out on something. I figured this was a bonus of getting older. I see grandmothers do it constantly, usually when it involves going to bed. They’re doing what they want, regardless of what anyone else says. Old women are so badass.

The trick, I think, is learning the difference between activities I genuinely don’t want to do (like hot-sauce-and-Guinness-drinking-competitions) and activities I just don’t want to expend the effort to do right now (like most Meetups, most of the time). Then I can pass on the former and opt into the latter. Once I’m good at identifying the difference there, I think I’ll be able to stay focused without losing my instinct for meeting new people or trying new things.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s