An Eight on the FDLS

Note: This entry was written originally in 2006.

October was a busy month, full of work issues and continued settling in. All of the sudden it is November and we are surprised by this because the weather is still largely in the 70s. I was also surprised last week to find out that my boyfriend and I were invited to a banquet in New Orleans Friday night, to celebrate his five-year anniversary with his company. We would be able to expense the travel costs and stay overnight in a hotel room on the company tab. This was too much excitement for me…an all-expenses paid trip into the city AND I would get to dress up?!?!?! Fabulous.

As it turned out, the banquet was very nice and then we were free to play. Since our hotel was in the French Quarter, off we went to throw off our fancy dresses and put on our jeans and play a little in the debauchery. There were about eight of us and we were out until the wee hours: The Funky Pirate for some blues by (very) Big Al, Pat O’Brien’s for some hurricanes and piano, Utopia for some dancing, and then finally to the hotel to collapse into bed at 5:15 a.m.

Needless to say, I paid for my sins on Saturday a.m. We checked out of the hotel and scurried to meet one of the couples who had been at the banquet. Matt and Megan live in the city and invited us for breakfast (which became lunch) at a neighborhood café by their place. Matt was off to a jazz funeral in the afternoon and would we like to come? Yes, of course! My hangover worked to keep me down, but ultimately (after limping along for a little while) I threw it off and rallied because it was all too fun to miss.

The jazz funeral turned out to be amazing. It was a glorious day, sunny, breezy, and sixty-five degrees. Those of you nearest me are aware of my difficulties with tradition, ritual and ceremony. I don’t do well with ceremony. Churches and weddings are a struggle, and even homecoming events or proms at the high schools are difficult for me to swallow. I can’t help it; I feel next to nothing. On this Saturday, however, I had a taste of a ceremony that I experienced as beautiful, delightful, and moving.

A jazz musician well-known in the area had passed away, which was how there came to be this jazz funeral. A jazz band walked through the streets after the church service, with the celebrants trailing behind. The procession made its way around the city and we tried to find it. We couldn’t find it for a little while, however, which led to the happy accident of us bumping into some kind of a little mini Ferrari convention. Two city blocks of antique Ferarris lined up in cherry-red and royal blue glory. My companions were so excited that the jazz funeral became secondary and I was happy regardless because it was a glorious afternoon with all kinds of New Orleans characters strolling about for my people-watching pleasure. And most importantly, my hangover had sufficiently abated so as to allow me to enjoy a cappuccino.

The Ferrari procession came to a close and we remembered our original funeral mission. And then, with seemingly no effort, we bumped right into it. A smart and sharp jazz band walking in front of a hundred or so people, along the Mississippi River, which was their final destination. At the river’s edge, they put the ashes of the individual in the river. The most miraculous thing about this event, though, was that all members of the procession were walking along in time with the music. They all had rhythm. Every person in New Orleans can shake their ass. It was one of the most graceful things that I have every seen. There were no rhythm-less Minnesotans floundering around in that group of celebrants.

This epiphany I had about the ass-shaking New Orleanians was reinforced later on the same glorious day. After quick hors d’oeurves, more live music and more fresh air at the Bywater neighborhood festival, we re-grouped at our friend’s house, and then gathered steam for tapas and a DJ at another neighborhood joint called Mimi’s. The food was outstanding, and as the music began, My boyfriend and I were surprised to see a woman in her 40’s or 50’s assemble her turntables to spin records in this little establishment. Where we are from record-spinning is the territory of the 20s and under crowd; the proud possessors of wide-legged trousers, several piercings, and a solid resume of past hallucinatory experiences.

We were even more surprised by the fabulous array of funk and soul which emerged from her hands. This was a new kind of DJ for us, and we approved. As did the gathering crowd of dancers and patrons. The tiny room filled up and the dancers were of all ages. All excellent ass-shakers, without fail. What secrets New Orleans has.

It was all too much. Ultimately, the exuberance of my feelings for the weekend led me to create a system. I needed a vehicle to manage all of the excitement I was feeling. I settled upon a rating system which would measure the quality of my Louisiana days and experiences. I thought of stars at first, but then realized it needed to be something more specific to this curious Louisiana place. And then I had it! Fleur de Lis…the Fleur De Lis Scale, otherwise known as the FDLS. An absolutely off-the-charts delightful or weekend, rich with Louisiana culture, would receive the highest possible rating: an 8 on the FDLS, which is exactly what I gave last Saturday.