Yesterday there were two street events in New Orleans neighborhoods, and I managed to get to both of them.
In the Central City area, it was the second line for the Divine Ladies Social and Pleasure Club. And, oh, these ladies were indeed divine!
Dressed in coral caped suits, waving their red, yellow and orange fans, the ladies strutted and danced on Washington Avenue alongside Lafayette No 2 cemetery, and the band was hot enough to raise the dead. Indeed, some daring young dancers hopped up onto the tops of the tombs to show their moves.
A woman named Sandra, dressed in orange to match the marchers, reminded me to stay hydrated, for it was a hot day and the sun was bright, and even under the cool shade of the live oaks on Washington it was best to keep healthy. She sold me a bottle of water, and then, later on, a jello-shot.
Across down, on St. Bernard Avenue, the 107th annual parade of the Zulu Social and Pleasure club was rolling. Here, gentlemen in their finest marched, vying to be elected to positions of honor in this influential group.
This was more of a spectator parade than a second line; carriages full of celebrants rolled past, and shiny convertible cars with dignitaries. Groups of hatted men, dressed elegantly in black, white, gold and yellow, strode by.
In common with the Divine Ladies, however, one of the Zulu marching groups wore the most awesome SHOES!
It's two o'clock in the morning and he's out there, shouting at the top of his lungs, cheerup-cheerup-cheerup, cheep cheep cheep, cheetledoodle cheetledoodle, churrip churrip churrip! It's a mockingbird, and he won't shut up. He's doing it all night long and disrupting my sleep.
Mimus polyglottos is the northern mockingbird native to North America. Its linnaean name means "many-tongued mimic." It's a small, grey bird, bared with white on its wings. Mockingbirds copy and remember the sounds in their environment, not just songs of other birds but also animal sounds, like the chipping of squirrels, and human-generated sounds, like school bells or car horns. There was a mockingbird in Los Angeles, it was storied, that imitated the cycle of sounds emitted by car alarms.
Here in my New Orleans neighborhood, the mockingbird's song is everywhere, raining down from the mulberry and cypress trees, or from his perch on the telephone pole. Mockingbirds can remember up to two hundred different songs. All mockingbirds sing, but it is the male that is the virtuoso, the show-off. Male mockingbirds sing to attract a mate, and in breeding season, which runs from spring into early summer, they are singing to the ladies all day and all night long.
Mockingbirds are semi-monogamous; that is, they mate and then take care of the nesting eggs and fledglings as a couple. But one study showed that mated mockingbirds can't afford to take their relationships for granted - female mockingbirds are constantly under the influence of other males' songs, so their mates keeping singing sweet things to them, just as if they were spinning a Barry White LP on date night.
It is said to be unmated males - that is, bachelor mockingbirds - that sing all night long. This must be the case for the bird out in Bartholomew Street. Addled by hormones, he sings and sings, desperate for a lover, as loud as if he were holding up a boom-box to play beneath my bedroom window.
It is 7:47 pm. It is still light outside, although the sun has gone down. It is a New Orleans twilight. I am sitting on the stoop outside my half-shotgun house in the Bywater, waving goodbye to my soon-to-be ex-husband as he gets into his rental car and heads off to the airport Hilton. The car is a Chevy Malibu - "Aloha!" he says as he drives off.
We've just had a pizza dinner and some wine. He has just - so nice of him - set up a new printer he bought for me, and set up the sound bar my new giant 50-something inch flat screen TV. I didn't really want a TV, but we had two in storage, and he suggested I include this one in the shipment of my belongings from California. It's a good idea, and I'm grateful to him. Although I rarely watch TV, it makes sense that I have this one instead of buying another one. And who knows? Maybe I'll start watching, now that I'm living a different kind of life.
I'm thinking a girls' night series of femme fatale movies.
Outside in the street, on the other side of Chartres, the train is rolling past. It has a rhythmic clank-clink-clack thing going, but also a kind of metallic shrieking as wheels abrade on the tracks. It's the soundtrack of life down here.
The sky is still a beautiful blue, shot through with clouds that are suffused with gold. The concrete steps are warm under my bare feet from the afternoon sun. The scent of my potted gardenia is released in the night air. There's a mockingbird going on and on that won't shut up - I hear him even in the middle of the night sometimes.
The rental house I've been living in this year has a front yard hose faucet at the corner of the house overgrown by a huge monstera philodendron plant. Turning on the hose means thrashing through the giant leaves.
But my landlady's yard man tidied and pruned the yard last week, so yesterday when I was hosing down a storage bin for the move I was rejoicing in how easy it was to get to the faucet - until BAM! - I poked myself right in the eye with the tip of a pruned back stem.
Ouch. I now have a scrape around my eyelid and blood in my eye. Cute.