I ponder these thoughts in relation to wandering Vieux Carre', or the French Quarter, over the course of several days. My first reaction was some level of disappointment. My second reaction was some level of intrigue. My third reaction was some level of comfort in the waves of humanity that have washed over the quarter. My fourth reaction was some feeling of blankness for what the quarter has now become. It led me to read a book on the quarter called Madame Vieux Carre': The French Quarter in the Twentieth Century. I was curious as to what the twentieth century had brought to that part of the city and what life after Hurricane Katrina looked like. In short, fullness to emptiness. Today's quarter is effectively a shell of the past, from 5,000 residents now down to 1,200. From middle-class and working-class "full-timers" to upper-class "part-timers" who come in and out of condos a few times a year. From "sporting people" who mixed discretely with madams and their women in the quarter, to rites of passage for college kids with beads, boobs, and booze. Somehow, the quarter has maintained a certain joie de vivre, which still attracts the same sorts today as it did yesteryear, those who let lascivious pursuits carry them to points of oblivion.
We stayed for the first weekend of Mardi Gras, witnessing the Krewe du Vieux and its "naughty satire" parade by on Royal Street. For a moment, with our masks on, we connected with that feeling, and surrendered for the moment, to something that I'm sure grandparents and great-grandparents would have understood - that feeling of being alive.