February 19th, 2012

Garden State: This Is Life.  This Is It.

Personal: Non-Theological Days; Mardi Gras; A Day of Conversation

These last few days have not been terribly productive, theologically, I suppose, unless you count the exploration of traditional aspects of Catholic culture surrounding Carnival. I have a few days effectively "off" and the restless (Catholic?) guilt of feeling unproductive begins to catch up with me. That said, I can feel the gears in the back of my head having begun seriously turning the last few days as I start to dwell on the content of the article that I've got cooking on Rahner and Aquinas. So something's starting to happen. And one of my other Trinitarian projects is moving forward.

I headed down to Mardi Gras on Thursday night with Chris Bauer to take in the Krewe of Muses parade. We got there early enough to catch a decent amount of the Krewe of Babylon parade beforehand, although we called it quits as the Knights of Chaos began to roll in. By that time, it was after ten and we'd been standing in the same spot for about three hours and that was getting old.

But we met up with a number of the other students of the quite consciously Catholic set down there, cheering the bands, laughing at the gags, competing for the throws and such. Alex and Michelle, two friends I had in my first Catholicism course last year – the same one where Chris was first a student of mine as he was coming into the major – were there, as well as Bridget and Chad, two students from last semester's Jesus course who are taking me again this semester for Catholicism and Modern Christian Thought, respectively, with Bridget consulting with me as she begins the Catholic Studies minor, and also Carissa, a friend of Bridget's in the same Catholicism section, who rounded out those students among the group that I knew. A few of the others introduced themselves, and it was just a fun crowd to enjoy the festivities with.

Alex had greeted me, laughing, wearing a fetching red dress, and admitting that he had waited until after Modern Christian Thought had finished an hour earlier to change, not knowing whether I would look askance at the distraction of his wearing it to class. Given that the entire group was getting slap-happy with Mardi Gras (or just their general) good nature by the end of class (I wryly told them that they were beginning to feel more and more like my children: and all of them about five years old), I don't see that the dress would have made much difference. The combination of brilliance and fun in the lot of them is really making the class a blast, although I admitted that I was taken a bit aback by how stuck they seemed to have gotten on Hegel and Feuerbach, not that I didn't find Hegel really hard going, myself.

One of the best moments of the evening came when one of these students, remaining nameless, asked me what I think he should do as he solicited his friends' opinions when a few underaged girls asked him to buy beer for them. "What do you think I think you should do?" I grinned with a little extra dramatically pedagogical flourish, prompting him to reply, "Oh, don't do that to me." The two girls looked on with a bit of confusion, so I then explained to them that this was a natural teaching moment and that I was his Theology professor. Horrified, they slunk away into the night, unanswered.

I did better with throws that night than I'd done all last year at Mardi Gras, no doubt because I got a lot closer to the street this time than I did on Napolean over by Tim's place, where I watched last year. (Lots of beads, a pink bowed Muses woven hairband, cup, mini soccer ball, portable clipped bag thingie, and glowing diamond power ring. Teased with two different examples of the coveted shoe throw, but no luck.) So I texted the nieces that night, showing them a few of the sights of the parade that I had caught on my iPhone, as well as the authentically-thrown (not store-bought like a desperate tourist) Mardi Gras beads that I could bring them at my next visit. The marching bands were great, and it being New Orleans, you also had a fair number of jazz and blues bands carted by as well. The St. Augustine's High School Marching Band, held by many to be the best in the area, played as the marched by (at our location, lots of marching bands marched by without playing, just with the drumline keeping them marching), but the musical act that most caught my attention was something like a group of singing Greek Chorus-dressed Muses, with New Orleans singer Theresa Andersson as Leda upon the back of her giant swan singing leads, to the music of a band marching behind her. I caught the tail end of that on video, along with some of the Loyola students starting to line dance to it.

Marid Gras since Thursday night has been too rainy for my taste. Parades have been getting rescheduled and shuffled around some. So I'm glad I ran into Chris and went out when I did. I'm content to be a fair-weather Mardi Gras-er in these matters. That kept me at home for some epic trans-Atlantic conversation pretty much all day Saturday with Anne Marie in London, as the thunderstorms rolled through New Orleans. The transcript of that would be a fair sample of the sort of wildly enthusiastic and tangential conversation I enjoy. We covered some more Sherlock details, European chocolate tastes and manufacturing, 19th century arboreal monuments to Horatio Nelson, music fit for representing Horatio Nelson, a fairly vicious disagreement on Mel Torme vs Joe Williams as more emblematic of the American Voice, local geographic details visible via the magic of Google Earth and Street View, secrets of our respective libraries, Notre Dame in 1995, former residences, job details, and even comparative London/New Orleans weather. Good times, and woosh! a day gone!