Mauve pants. Violet shirt. Gray suspenders. Dreads down to his waist. Summoning suaveness from six decades ago. St. Charles Street was flooded. My knees dared the flood’s ferocious desire to wholly submerge them. The trombone and the tuba provided the base. Hundreds of Black Uptown Swingers, dressed in dapper white suits, scarlet bow-ties, cherry lipstick dresses, and orange shirts danced in front of the brass band. The rising water reflected a disco ball of red, white, and orange ecstasy, with the spattering of Mr. Mauve Pants’ movements in the mix.
Both sides of the band were constricted by two men rowing forward twin yellow twine ropes. The area in between the ropes seemed to squeeze all New Orlean’s breath into its centripetal force, exploding outward in musical form. Notes bowed to raindrops, wickedly prancing above our heads. Mixed in with those who belonged, the outsiders danced as lightening created our flashing lights, thunder our percussion, and buckets of rain the sparkle in our hair.
Palatable feelings, the kind where it doesn’t matter what the emotion is because the source sears through you, wove the community together. A community that I joined on the margins, along with the other intruders: Tulane students, hipsters, and uptowners watching in from their uptown bars. The Swingers took over miles of streets, walking past houses covered in Spanish moss, jungle reaching out through shattered, bullet-torn Katrina windows. Libations flowed freely from lips and air, intermingling until you couldn’t tell what was cement, sky, water, beer.
Mr. Mauve Pants, broke free from the group, ran towards the bronze burnished street-car tracks, and backflipped, showering us in slow-motion style with puddle debris, our own mud-version of confetti. He glanced at my dirt smeared shirt and shorts. Then, he grabbed my hand. I was either in or out. Black wet curls tangled across my face, leaves the wind threw at me plastered to my legs, and laughter I couldn’t stop from bubbling bit my lips. I choose in. He swung me into a jitterbug flip. And then I slid. Bruises, branches, and beats took over my world. And so began, my first second-line.
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