Mini-parade in the French Quarter

Mini-parade in the French Quarter

Music was one of my favorite things about New Orleans.  I liked that so much music enlivened the streets — you did not have to pay to attend a concert or even sit down for a live show.  The music wafted from open doors and street musicians sent their sounds into the world for passersby to enjoy.  When we walked down Frenchman’s Street in the middle of the day, musicians and small bands were performing at virtually every restaurant, even when there was only a handful of patrons at the tables.

Second line in the French Quarter

Second line in the French Quarter

The group invited passersby to join in the revelry.

The group invited passersby to join in the revelry.

The first time we walked through the French Quarter, we happened upon a small group celebrating with a private parade.  While this seemed impromptu to us, they must have planned and secured a permit, because the parade was accompanied by policemen on motorcycles who cleared a safe passage on the street.  I don’t know whether this was one of those second-line parades I had read about.  I know that there is a more formal calendar of second line parades hosted by social clubs in the city.   Regardless, this seemed like a quintessential New Orleans moment — the brassy sounds, the dancing in the streets, and the drinking from plastic glasses.

“In New Orleans, second lining is a noun, a verb, and a cultural institution: it is a parade, a cultural practice, and a way of dancing in the streets. . . . A second-line parade is an annual house party that moves lightly like the feathers on our faces yet inexorably like a tank through the streets.
— Eve Abrams, “Sentinels and Celebrants,” from Unfathomable City

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There were street musicians making music on street corners and in parks.  In Jackson Square, the various groups vied for the attention of the crowds — a cacophony with a jazz music on one side and a marching band sound on another.  New Orleans seems like a land of opportunity for musicians.

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“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.  Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”
— Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Drummers, Shadle Park H. S. Pipeband, Tieton Highland Days Parade

This week Thoreau’s quote again celebrates individuality, but it is also a call for tolerance.  I think I am a fairly tolerant person, but the bigger challenge for me is to embrace differences.  Surely enjoying the company of people who are different from me will enrich my life in ways I cannot predict.

If I want to continue growing as a person, I must stretch myself — find the opportunities and lessons in the hardships that come my way, invite conversations with people who are not like me, travel to places outside my comfort zone, and use  my imagination to bring me closer to understanding and acceptance of the world I live in.

At the same time, I must find the beat of my own drum, even if it takes me out of step with the conventions of the day.  This is a lot to reflect on!