March 9, 2002
"Let me fall out of the window with confetti in my hair…" -Tom Waits

Scott, Matilda and I awoke today to a brass band banging out "The Saints Go Marching In" in classic, New Orleans funeral style. Scott heard it out the back door, off in the distance but moving closer, he said. He wondered what it might be. I stuck my head out and smiled. Like a kid of 10 or 12 catching the carnival music sounds of an ice cream truck and leaping from his tree house, hitting the ground running, I bolted out the front door and down the street half a block to the cemetery to catch the action. I love a good funeral. I mean, a New Orleans funeral. Admittedly, this was only my second. But trust me, it only takes one and you're hooked.

The idea that people can set aside their own personal grief a moment to honor the dead with a dancin'-in-the-streets, trombones, trumpets and drums celebration of life, now that's drop-dead cool. I've worked in a mortuary. Trust me when I say it's a bore, and your typical Anglo-Saxon Christian or Catholic funeral is more painful than a root canal. Nope. Not for me. Give me dancin', writhing in the sand around a bonfire, breast beating, beating of drums, shaking fists at the gods, shaking maracas, rattling of bones, howling at the moon, brass bands, waterborne funeral pyres, and naked satyrs spitting fire. Give me a Hale Bop flip-flop dew drop moon walk. Give me chicory coffee and grits in the morning and frozen daiquiris at Lafitte's in the golden light of late afternoon sun. Give me fun.

So we run the gauntlet of happy drunken revelers on Bourbon Street in Duke the Art Car, cruising at a snail's pace, putting smiles on every face as the wave of cheers rolls with us, undulating along, rising, rivaling the techno music blare of a club and blowing Scott's mind as he sits, slack-jawed and stupified in the passenger seat of my 5000 pound nut ball, gum ball googoo gaagaa zing bang walla walla ting tang whiplash magic art metamachine, all eyes on us and smiling.

We rolled Bourbon Street late this afternoon, and man was that fun. I mean, I get it all the time: the cameras out, flashes popping like the paparazzi swarm around a starlet, the hoots and howls and cheers and raising of beers in mutual salute. But Bourbon Street is definitely a more concentrated example of my daily Duke experience. And for Scott it was, I sensed, something new. "How's it feel to be a star?" I asked him. The question was as moot as he was mute, stunned dumb by the spectacle. I knew what it felt like. There's a line in a little-known movie called "Happy, Texas" that comes to mind. A ditsy but proper schoolteacher woman struggles for words as she compliments a guy, saying, "You're.. well, you're fucking great!" That's what it feels like to be an art car star.

RSM

©2003 Rick McKinney ALL RIGHTS RESERVED