A Taste of Wet Ashes
Written by Editors
Thursday, 01 March 2007 14:31
The mayor's Post-Mardi Gras press conference drifted on a gentle breeze; it was sunny, and good feelings were in the air. The Convention and Tourism Bureau's office offered a view of Al Copeland's still-defunct Cheesecake Bistro unmarred by passing streetcars, and as the various speakers lined up to report on the state of North America's biggest party, the press offered well-justified claps of support for the people who made it happen.
Chief Riley, for maintaining order. As the mayor put it, it was "relatively safe until the end, when a couple people got too excited."
By that, he meant that four people met violent ends, three shot, one stabbed following an attempt to burn another partygoer's car. But given the general chaos under which we live, that 800,000 additional people came to party in our fair city and only 4 were murdered seems reasonable enough.
Hotel occupancy was up to 70% of Pre-Katrina levels, we were told; of 31,000 available hotel rooms, 95% were occupied by the big weekend. And unlike last year, with refugees decamped in all but 13,000 rooms, these were all dollar-spending revelers.
While economic impact figures are unavailable until mid-March, the price tag appeared reasonable. For $6,294,498 dollars, the city threw its signature fete. 5,609 souls were detained by the authorities, permits were up 310%, and the major media seemed to deem it a good time. It proved, as per the Convention and Visitors Bureau's new slogan, that "Soul is Waterproof ."
This seems a fairly obvious statement. In the 18 months since New Orleans was decimated, the essence of our fair city's soul is the only thing which remains intact. As whole neighborhoods lay in waste in the shadow of our crumbling levees, returning citizens catch the occasional bullet and the cost of living creeps ever-upward. Yet the Mardi Gras tradition persists; a dutiful sum were found marked with the ashes of carnival's aftermath, and the four dead bodies were proof that Fat Tuesday is a day for committing sin, ultimate or otherwise. It is a tradition which defines us, one that leaves our fellow countrymen confounded by our gallic excess.
The president comes to town today. It is his first visit in six months, as remote as any pontiff's mission and welcome as the taste of ashes, and despite the promising economic numbers, when set against a landscape ruined as ours, you'll find Soul is Waterproof, indeed.