This is so unimaginably overdue I considered not writing it. Then I decided in my late-summer graduate-school-induced cold, I’d wax a bit poetic and abstract. It’s the brain fog.
official day 5 in NOLA: crawfish boil, being driven about NOLA Miss Daisy style, 24 march 2013
Crawfish fest reminded me of the stampede during the National Holiday in Beijing, only instead of people trampling each other in their eagerness to demonstrate patriotism, the crowds of a crawfish boil mosey around in the good ol’ lackadaisical fashion of the South. Generally, people purchase lots of really buttery food, wash it down with tremendous daiquiris, then toss their children onto bouncy houses until someone falls off or throws up, either from the overabundance of butter or poor aerodynamics of too many children on a single oscillating surface.
Crawfish boil is a Louisiana tradition but other southern regions have their own styles, too: come spring, crawfish get dug up by the thousands, washed repeated until they mostly attain godliness, quickly boiled, then steeped for hours in a briny concoction of spices, vegetables, and potatoes. And you really have to work for your food when your food is a crustacean whose head is usually thrice the size of its edible tail.
After partaking in the moseying and finger-food-ing, Katie’s local friend took us around the city in his pick up truck, fully equipped with first-aid kits and enough tools to construct a rudimentary shelter. I felt a bit like Miss Daisy, only substituting Morgan Freeman with a bona fide redneck suth’un gentleman, who carried on a conversation like breathing was a mere inconvenience.
We rode past the tourist regions of NOLA and onto her frayed borders, the places scraped raw by the water. Houses teetered on 15-foot stakes: outside of the levee protected regions and into the realm of the waters, you build your house in the air. Crab-traps nestled in single columns and the wind weaved through the holes. The splintered wood of fishing docks snagged bits of sunset, where squadrons of pelicans rested on the pockmarked stakes.
I looked through the window and saw the places that don’t make it onto a postcard, the wind-burnt houses and water-bleached land. It’s a land that never quite de-colored, and its people never quite forgot that the backs of slaves plowed the land into fields and reined the waters into fisheries. There’s a barely-muted black pride and white elitism and all of these things that America has been trying to file into its history, but the not-quite history is New Orleans’ undeniable now.
I saw the broken and mending and tenacity of living that put me to shame, with all of my middle-class and midwestern complacency, my meager and naive ideals of empathy, of compassion, as if I can understand suffering from afar, as if my brief sojourn can teach me everything I thought I already knew. I saw and realized how little I know, and how infrequently I express gratitude, for a life that I attempt to claim sovereignty over but in fact, is a continual respiration of eucharisteo.
I saw and sought, and this is the kingdom of God.