Sunday, March 30, 2008

Indians, Fish, and Clinton

March has been an eventful month for us. We have both been busy with work and, as always, interesting things have been happening in the city. One of the highlights was the Mardi Gras Indian's "Super Sunday" parade. The Mardi Gras Indians are groups of black people dressed in elaborate costumes in honor of the refuge local Indian tribes offered runaway slaves in the 1700's. Originally these events were violent affairs, a time to establish dominance and territory. Today the confrontation is largely limited to verbal exchanges and competition to see who has the best suit. This tradition is a colorful part of New Orleans's unique cultural heritage.

If you are going to live in New Orleans, you gotta eat crawfish. Lots of 'em. My buddy Devin and I have been feasting on pounds of the little lobster look-alikes. The first step to eating crawfish is learning how to do it. First, you grab the body. Second, you twist the tail off. Third, you pinch the meat out of the tail. Last, you suck the juice out of the head (optional). This ritualized feast is usually accompanied by potatoes, corn, garlic, and/or beans and rice. I am lucky enough to live within walking distance of two crawfish joints: Captain Sal's and The Big Fisherman. If you are planning on coming down to visit, you just might want to time your arrival with crawfish season.

Bill Clinton came to town to continue the development of the Clinton Global Initiative. This organization strives to encourage effective philanthropy. His latest book "Giving" can be seen as a manifesto of Clinton's vision for non-governmental activism. Clinton thinks private citizens are now in a position to enact change regardless of the current political climate. He is right, of course. Social change has historically been enacted largely through individuals outside government, and the technology of today allows us greater opportunity to get informed about and participate in activism around the world.

We had great seats to see him speak. The tickets were free and there weren't any lines; Saint Paddy's day was the top draw that Saturday. Amazingly, there were no security checks. What's with that? Anyway, Clinton was not as good a speaker as I had anticipated. Perhaps I was expecting too much, but there has been a legacy of charisma and eloquence associated with him that led me to this expectation. He did well with the talking points but floundered when he attempted to bring in disparate subjects such as psychology, history, and science to support his message. My hope is that he was preoccupied with not saying anything controversial to upset his wife's presidential bid.

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