Tag Archives: American English

LSS: Everybody out to Mardi Gras and here’s why:

This is a column about Mardi Gras.

But bear with me.

Nearly 20 years ago, I planned to take a trip to Africa for early February. I planned it for that time because my friend, who had lived there 12 years, assured me that was when Burkina Faso was at its best — meaning that the temperature rarely topped 100 degrees and most roads were passable because it wasn’t the rainy season.

I was living on the East Coast and was accustomed to trudging my way through snow for much of the winter. That winter, however, was different for me — the cold and dark days passed much more quickly than usual. The time seemed exciting and full of anticipation. I didn’t take long to figure out it was because I had something out-of-the-ordinary-winter-doldrums to look forward to.

Every year since then, I’ve tried to plan a trip during February. I just like the way having something to look forward to in February makes my year work out.

For years, I thought I was so clever.

Then I moved to Louisiana — and learned that Louisiana was clever long before me.

Even though Louisiana didn’t invent Mardi Gras, the state has certainly perfected it, but the harsh reality is that folks in other states just don’t get it.

Really, they don’t.

If you’re not surrounded by the hullabaloo that is Mardi Gras — it’s just Tuesday. Remember the year Bobby Jindal gave the response to the State of the Union address, which happened to fall on Mardi Gras? He started off with a big, toothy, “Happy Mardi Gras!” — and it fell terribly flat.

The rest of the country hasn’t the capacity to appreciate the balls, the pageantry, the royalty or the parades. I’m convinced that they can’t get it even if they come to visit a year or two or three. Appreciating the intricacies of Mardi Gras takes time, repetition and a degree of generational perspective.

For example, most folks across the rest of the country (I could safely include the world here, but I’ll stay domestic) would not think it perfectly natural to happen upon a lady in front of her home on a Sunday afternoon as she meticulously photographed 31 highly decorated, brightly colored, glitzy, glimmery high-heeled shoes — only to be told that she was a Muse.

That should have been explanation enough.

I was (and remain) ashamed to admit my lack of knowledge before last Sunday of New Orleans Muses and their shoes. Yes, she and the other members of her krewe are each allowed to throw 31 shoes during the course of their New Orleans parade.

When she explained the situation, it all made perfect sense to me. My first thought wasn’t, “How bizarre.” Nope, my first thought was, “I wish a Lafayette krewe would throw out something handmade and beautiful like a shiny, shimmery shoe — I’d love a shoe.” Followed by, “Perhaps they do? Maybe it’s another level of the secrets of Mardi Gras that haven’t been revealed to me yet?”

The Muse went on to explain that she took about four hours to carefully decorate each of her 31 shoes she would throw to “special people along the way.”

She pointed to one shoe that included a King Cake baby, “This one’s for a friend who’s just has a baby.” She pointed to another shoe and said, “The backless shoes are the easiest, but even still they all take a lot of time.”

If you do the math, through the course of the year — or the months leading up to Mardi Gras, she spent about 124 hours decorating her shoes. By the looks of the shoes, which were basically works of art, I’d surmise that she enjoyed every minute of the time.

And such is the fun (and point) of Mardi Gras.

Laissez les bons temps rouler.

LSS: Unsolved mystery rules

Mystery ruled my week.

I keep going through the pieces like Columbo in a whodunit — inch-by-inch, slice-by-slice and moment-by-moment. I love a puzzle, but early on, I recognized that this conundrum was beyond my skill set.

So, we called in the authorities. At this writing, they too are confused even though this is a mystery with serious consequences — my dad’s health.

Ten days ago, he and my mom came to visit from their home in Mississippi. Dad had an eye infection. His doctor at home had diagnosed it and prescribed some medicine — and that’s when things began to get complicated. The very short version of a very long story is that my father’s health began going downhill, leaving him spending the better part of this week in the hospital, as a very sick fellow.

Watching a parent — who has always been so vibrant, so full of vim, vigor and readily bandying his personal version of funny at every turn — become disoriented and quite ill is a rite of passage that adults anticipate. Even so, none of us end up being prepared to handle it when it comes to pass.

As of this week, count me in that group.

In a culture that rallies around just how fast things that used to take a long time can happen — from meals to downloading files, most of us are looking for answers and looking for them fast, especially when it comes to the health of people we love.

But sometimes, no matter how hard people try or how much many people want to help or search for the solution, a clear-cut answer does not exist. That has been the case this week with my dad and the many medical personnel who have done so much to help.

Since my parents are away from their support network, I’ve used social media and tried to walk the fine line of providing enough information without going overboard. Both my parents taught school for decades in and around the town where we all grew up. As I’ve posted updates on my father’s health developments, watching the litany of prayers and wishes roll in has warmed our hearts.

Sitting in the hospital, I’ve read messages from former students and players. Messages like, “Jan, please tell Coach to hang in there. I know it is stressful on the whole family. Hopefully, there will be a diagnosis soon and a clear plan of action for the doctors. Praying for Coach from Qatar! He is loved all over the world. Literally!” Both my parents have been amazed at the outpouring of people who wished them well. There is nothing like being on the receiving end of positive thoughts and prayers to add a degree of peace to the situation.

Meanwhile, I certainly wish that someone could produce a magic pill and make it all better, that’s just not the way life works, is it?

Think of how society’s attitude toward sickness and medicine has changed from our grandparents’ generation to our own. Like our grandparents knew, sometimes we just have to wait it out. Then again, sometimes sharp, immediate and conclusive action is required. Finding the happy place between those two extremes, I suppose, is the sweet spot of modern medicine.

I’ve spent time this week being the primary mediator between my dad and his medical team. I’ve spent more time this week playing the role of primary mediator between my dad and the host of people who love him. Through it all, I’ve been reminded that the vast majority of folks are in the sharp-immediate-and-conclusive camp, rather than the waiting-it-out crew — and I’ve surely been there myself. But this week, I’ve learned to appreciate the value of waiting, rather than rushing, and ambiguity over absolute.

Sometimes accepting things as they are rather than dissecting why they are is a big step in the healing process.