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City of Bacchus
So my partner and I are currently vacationing in New Orleans. Neither one of us had been to this city before but oh I am glad that we came. This is a city belonging to Bacchus if ever there was one! We've been here only about twenty four hours, and most of that time has been spent meandering through the French Quarter with no destination in mind. We have plenty of time to do cultural things and to shop. For now, we've been trying to get a sense of the city spirit, and a taste of the energy of the city itself.
First of all, there is music everywhere. We're staying in the French Quarter in an old, land-mark hotel and from the moment we walk outside, there are street performers, sometimes several along the length of a block, plying their trade (some with more finesse and talent than others, needless to say). There are living statues, and today a man doing gymnastics on stilts. Wow, that boy could jump! Made my knees ache just watching him. Bacchus is everywhere. Every shop that we've gone by, somewhere there has been His image. It's become a game for my partner -- a Dionysian--and I: who can find the image of Bacchus in this shop? So far, he's winning. There are diviners everywhere. I don't mean psychic shops (though there are those as well doing what they can to capitalize on the notoriety of Voudou mambo Marie Laveau) but rather diviners setting up shop with table and chair all around Jackson Square. I think I counted fifteen in a row and all the while they were reading clients, a jazz band was serenading us in front of the Cabildo.
The food is amazing. I'm a foodie and so my partner has been and will continue to be dragged to every type of eatery from four and five star haute cuisine to local diner fair. I"ve had everything, in the span of twenty four hours, from hamburger to catfish po'boy, to turtle soup (delicious and tastes something like spaghetti bolognese, in case you're wondering). late at night we walked Bourbon street. A visit to the cemetery is in our future too--this is not a city to visit without paying proper respects to its honored dead.
Some cities thrust their presence at you immediately and others taken time to open up. New Orleans is neither. It enfolds and reveals subtly, almost before one realizes it. There is a richness to the energy of this city, a decadence and an edge, and the flow of history lurks very near the surface of one's awareness. There is a thread of something here that reminds me of Venice and first I thought it the residue of mardi gras and all the masks one sees for sale in shops. Thinking about it now though, I think it has more to do with the nature of the city itself. I can sense the energy of the market, of trade and sea-faring mercantile pursuits, the desperate, raucous abandon of the carnival, the bustle of living in between those moments of riot, and the undercurrent of a richly textured history (well-seasoned with a bit of debauchery here and there). This is a magical city and the spirits that dwell here know it. It seeps out of every crack, and beckons with a conjure all its own. Granted, I tend to stick to the older parts of cities, in this case the French Quarter, but it's interesting : the tales the stones and bricks may tell.
I"ll be writing over the next two weeks about New Orleans and our visit and all the ways in which we brought our Gods along, and found new ones along the way. Stay tuned.
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