Today the weather was simply exquisite. We rose in our hangovers to a mild breeze, sixty-something weather outside, just cool enough to be refreshing. The recent rains have cleaned the streets. And, admittedly a little late, I had my first crawfish of the season.
Crawfish. As a child I caught them in streams in Oregon, much larger ones than the Louisiana crawfish, but in our northwestern cultural primitiveness we did not know about Crawfish boil, the seasonings that are added to the water they are boiled in down here, and thus we had a fraction of the experience that natives of Louisiana have daily every spring.
I cannot tell you how good they tasted. We spread newspaper on the table and my housemate and I ate them with a greedy slowness. Break the tail off, extract the meat with your teeth and a little pinch of the fingers, and then suck the juice out of the back of the oversized head.
Yes, the world has fallen apart. But we have crawfish.
Crawfish says a lot about us. Other Americans get squeamish about eating from the heads of animals. We have no such reservations about this, just as we have fewer reservations about poverty and sex. When eating crawfish there is no way to stay clean, as ones fingers always get wet with the residue. We typically eat crawfish in large groups, in semi-public places. It is a shameless and entirely un-Protestant activity, like much of our lives.
This is how Louisiana survives. Things have always been a mess here. This hurricane was bad but not as bad as the plagues that hit in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, where in one bout of yellow fever ten thousand died. And the city kept going. Who else could shake the world with music played out of abandoned confederate army brass instruments? Who else could make a delicacy out of red beans?
Yes, yes, I know- City council is trying to get rid of the poor people by mandating the demolition of their homes, there are still folks in OPP who have not been charged with a crime from before the storm, we won’t have adequate levees for hurricane season, I know all that.
But… Jazz Fest starts tomorrow.
I think I finally have figured out what I like about Ray Nagin. Lately he has developed the air of a man who has been through so much shit that he is simply no longer able to take things as seriously as others think that he should, including himself. His flippancy suggests either wisdom or insanity, both of which are respected here. In that way, he is one of us.