Headline: "The World Will End Tomorrow!"

Trip Start Sep 20, 2007
Trip End May 16, 2008

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Flag of United States  , Louisiana
Monday, February 4, 2008

"Alien Gives Birth in Wembley, Alberta!"
My first day visiting the French Quarter during Mardi Gras. I should call it, "A Day at the Circus...Walking Up & Down Bourbon Street!"
I headed into New Orleans at 2h00 with plans to stick around until after midnight. I decided to park on the north-east side of the French Quarter so that I would be on the right (that is the left) side of Canal Street when the parades would block off the 2 sides of town. By the time I found a parking spot I was a few blocks past the streets indicated on my downtown map. I knew which way to go to get to the heart of the French Quarter but might have problems finding my truck at the end of the night. This area was all residential. No remarkable landmarks. I start zigzagging in the direction of Bourbon Street. The first few blocks aren't quite perpendicular to each other as is indicated on the map of the area that I do have. This is going to make my life difficult at the end of the night. After 5 or 6 blocks the street corner I'm at shows up on my map.
Not many people on the streets until I hit Bourbon. It's almost 3. There are a few people on the balconies throwing beaded necklaces down at the few people on the street. The buildings are festively decorated. I walk a few blocks when the number of people starts increasing. I'm in the heart of party central now. Down one side street towards the river I see a church. I march off in that direction. I arrive at the French Market. Street vendors fill the square. Musicians and artists doing their stuff. I walk to the riverbank and check out the Mississippi River. Follow the river drive checking out the various stores. After a few blocks I head back towards Bourbon. It seems to be the only street with any action.
I turn onto Bourbon and go back towards where I had turned off. The bars are filling up. The street is getting crowded. More people on the balconies. Police presence is visible. Groups of people stand beneath certain balconies trying to get beads, hats, or whatever else is getting thrown down. Those on the balconies try and get those on the ground to do wilder and wilder things. The most popular request is to get the women to flash their breasts. Some women do. A few bars advertise that they do body painting. Occasionally you see someone who is topless and has their upper body and face painted. These someone's are all women. These women seem to enjoy the attention as they attract crowds wherever they are. People want to have their picture taken with the women. They gladly acquiesce. There are a lot of guys (mostly...make that all..old) standing beneath the balconies where women are flashing with still and video cameras. Every time a woman with painted breasts shows up you find a crowd taking pictures.
At some street corners I find the Religious preachers with their signs and bullhorns. In the crowds I start seeing some people dressed up in various costumes. The majority of people have a lot of beads hanging around their necks. A couple of the blocks are filled with strip joints and stores selling adult paraphernalia. Most of this section of Bourbon is bars. Liquor is sold everywhere down the street and is openly consumed. When I get to where I had previously turned off, I turn around and head towards Canal Street. There's a parade going on. Lots of people there with kids. Everyone trying to get as many beads as possible. I wander around Canal Street for a while, then the Parade is over. The street is now open to walk down so I head over to St. Charles Avenue. There I see the "Box Seats". People attach boxes to the top of ladders. People are waiting for the next parade to start. I'm taking pictures of some buildings when someone behind me yells, "Love your Frog!". I turn around and she's talking to me. I forgot I stuck the frog I caught at the parade in my back pocket. I go over and chat. They ask me who I'm taking the photos for. I say my business. She asks if she flashes her breasts if I'll take her picture. She's joking. She's not the type. I grab some supper and then head back to Bourbon Street. It's dark now. A lot more people on the street.
I come up to this group of people standing in a circle. I assume it's a topless woman displaying her "art" to the people. I'm wrong. There's a heated discussion going on between one of the Preachers and a young woman who has taken one of the bullhorns. I've arrived just as the "discussion" ends. I'm wondering who won the argument? Further up the street I come across a large map of the world and people handing out stickers for you to place your home town. I add mine with the few others from Calgary. Then I meet a young lady and young man. They ask me where I'm from. He's wearing a ball cap with a Maple Leaf. We start chatting. They're both Christians from 2 of the southern states (I forget which). They are here to talk to people about Christ. I tell them I'm on a Journey to experience life, meet people, and planning on writing a book on the meaning of life. We chat in the middle of Bourbon Street, with the music blaring from all directions, about Christ, religion and the meaning of life for 10 or 15 minutes.
It is now 7 PM. I am exhausted. My plans to stay here until midnight won't happen. I start walking to my truck. Now where is it? I check my map and I run out of streets. This is where I was zigging and zagging. The streets are no longer perpendicular to each other. I start walking down one street for a few blocks...following it as it curves,  passing a few cross streets. Then I stop at one. Turn down it...walk to the end of the block...and lo and behold...there's my truck. I amaze myself as to how I am able to do that.
"Sodom and Gomorrah vs. Billy Graham"
"Scientists Discover the Meaning of Life in New Orleans!"
" Love-Happiness-Belonging: Heaven on Earth Found on South Pacific Island"

My impressions of Mardi Gras and my thoughts on the meaning of it all.
There are actually 4 parts (at least) to Mardi Gras. The Parades...for the families, the Big Parties...for the celebrities and connected people, Bourbon Street...for the Let Loose Crowd, and Bourbon Street...for the People watchers (the Voyeurs, the Reality Show aficionados, the Main Street America tourist).
I'll start with the easy part. The Parades. I can see how some people enjoy them. The various Krewes organize their own parade with their own theme. So the floats are all different and then there are the various marching bands within the parades. If that's what you like, then grab a spot along a parade route, sit there for a few hours and see the floats go by. To me it's all the same. I like change. Saturday night I watched the parade for a couple of hours from 2 different locations. Tonight I did more walking as I watched. I get more out of watching the people then the floats. Check out this website if you want more details on the Parades. http://www.mardigrasneworleans.com/parades.html
I'm not a celebrity or well connected so I can't report on the Big Parties. From what I've read and heard, the various Krewes organize these big parties after the parades with headliner bands and singers and celebrities and the "A" crowd show up to party. Walking around you often notice men in tuxes and women in evening gowns. Guests from these parties, I'm assuming.
The Let Loose Crowd. Mostly young. Experiencing life. Part of growing up. Any reason to get drunk, lose your inhibitions, and behave in a way you probably don't when you are at home. Every generation does it in some way in a manner more outrageous then the previous one. Think of the roarin' 20s...speakeasies & prohibition. The 50's...Elvis and Rock n' Roll. The 60's ...the hippies & free love. The 70's...the 80's.....the 90's....
It's like the 2 year old pushing the boundaries of the rules set down by mom and dad. It's how humans learn. The majority of people set limits, others have no boundaries. The majority of people get the wild partying out of their system, and others never grow up. This process has been going on since the dawn of time. Do you think this process will change by the end of times? I doubt it.
Women flashing their breasts. It's a power thing. Those goading on the women think they have the power over the women by offering something they want in exchange for the women lifting up their shirt. The women believe they have the power since someone has to give something up to get to see their breasts. It's only a game. It's no longer about the breasts, but power.
Those who paint their bodies. Pushing the limits. Getting some attention. The women who do this probably had grand-mothers or great-grandmothers who showed a bit of skin by not wearing gloves or showing off their ankles. Or mothers who wore micro miniskirts in the 60's. Everybody wants their 5 minutes of fame. It makes you feel good inside to be acknowledged. That maybe you matter.
  It's not only the women. The guys are almost as bad. Actually there was one situation where it was much worse. On a balcony there was one guy with his privates hanging over the railing. I won't say what happened next as it was quite pornographic. Let's just say it was in the gay block.  Then there was the (almost) nude guitar player. He was wearing white briefs, a cowboy hat, and carrying a guitar, but he was attracting as much attention as the painted breasts.
To add to this circus you have the Preachers with their bullhorns and signs. "Salvation is yours if you repent!" "Jesus Died for our Sins!" Seeing all this made the light bulb go on. These people have it all wrong. Nobody listens to them. They just create more controversy and are actually encouraging the Let Loose crowd. The "shouting" match between the young woman and one of the Preachers proved this. The woman wasn't baring her breasts. She might have been provocatively dressed, if she was going to church or school. Some could argue that for the environment she was dressed modestly. She was being vocal to support their rights to experience life.
Throughout all this you have those who have come to see what's the big deal. This is a large part of the crowd. We all love to be entertained. Because I love to watch people, I'm always aware of people around me. I received a lot of smiles from women throughout the day. Mostly young women, for some reason, but also middle aged ones. I probably noticed more young women smiling at me because I spent more time looking at the young women. I'm a guy. I look at women. The young, pretty ones just stand out in a crowd more. Though from what I could see, they did make up a large percentage of the crowd. Why look at old, beer bellied guys. Though, by looking at the young, handsome guys you could usually find a pretty girl nearby. Then there was the knowing looks from those who "shake their head" at the extremes. Whether it's the flashing, the painted breasts, the males dropping their pants or even the preachers trying to save everyone. You look at someone and the message you see in their eyes is that this is all entertainment. Reminds me of the Roman Forums. "Send the Christians to the Lions!"
The discussion I had with the 2 young Christians made me think about everything I had experienced today. It was a fitting summary to the day. Talking about the reason Christ came to earth. His message. A message written by others.
The conclusions I've arrived at are as follow:
The basic human needs are love, happiness and a sense of belonging. People just want to be loved, they want to find happiness, and they find love and happiness when they feel like they belong. Which of these has the priority varies through life...it varies from day to day...and even within a day. Money becomes important because people associate it with happiness. I'll be happy with money because people will love me and then I will belong. It's the same with power. If I have the power then people will want to be with me and they will love me and then I will be happy. The problem is that what we believe to be love and happiness is just an illusion. How do you find true love and happiness?
People do not want to feel like puppets on a string. The Preachers have it all wrong. They are trying to save people. People do not want to be saved. People want love, they want happiness, and they want to belong where they can get the most of both of these. If the Preachers really want to show the people the way then they have to lead by example. They shouldn't be at Mardi Gras. It goes against what they believe in, so don't be here. Lead a life of love and happiness and others will join them because that is what everyone is looking for. Jesus Christ, and other spiritual leaders showed the way. They knew you couldn't tell people what to do. A two year old, or a teenager, will usually do the opposite of what you tell them to do. If they do, do it, it's usually out of fear. Lead the way out of love and others will follow because they will see that you are happy doing things out of love.   Maybe that's how you find true love and happiness...by example. Not by looking for it..but by giving it!

"Do As I Do, Not As I Say!"
Why do people join cliques? The want to belong because if they belong then they feel love. Why do people do as those around do. So that they feel like they belong. It's also a basic human need to experience life. We need to experience how things works. It's how we learn.
Finally, why did I write yesterdays blog in reverse chronological order? To confuse everyone? No. I enjoy having fun and doing things differently. Consistency isn't high on my to-do list. I decided to write the blog starting at the end of my day and working my way back to the morning to be different. It's hard doing that and still having each paragraph make sense. Today's experiences provided another, more important, reason for doing it that way. It showed me that we are living life the wrong way. Looking at the past and then doing things differently as we don't want to make the same mistakes twice. Or we look at the past and try and improve on it. Instead of starting at the beginning and working our way to the present, we should start at the end and work our way to the beginning.
I think we should be looking at the destination and living our lives according to where we are destined to be. A lot of people will argue that that is what they are doing by living the life as stated by God as the way to get to heaven. Or the Buddhist way of getting an improved, next life. But that's living in the past and working our way forward again. So how do we know what the destination is? You see that's the hard part. Our souls know where it is destined to be. To understand the human experience, start at where we are and go backwards to the beginning of time. What has the modernization of life, what has the melting pot of various cultures, what has the globalization of information and economies done to the human experience? How has each generation's souls grown as we made our way forward?  People argue that we are starting to look and act homogeneous. If the destination is suppose to be the same for everyone, doesn't that mean that we are following the right path?
Now jump forward to the end of time and work your way back. You arrive at where we are now. That's the big question. How do we get from there to here?
As I wrap this up Elvis is singing "Why can't my Dream Come True? "  A perfect ending!
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