Monday, December 27, 2010

Traveling South. The Culture of Tradition

As I recall, in my younger years birthdays were a big deal. They usually had some type of theme based on whatever cartoon I was obsessed with at the time and a cake decorated with anthropomorphic reptiles or masked heroes. Looking back I still get a strong sense that my family tried very hard to make those days totally about me. Most parents don't wake up on their kids birthday and think, "I can't wait to have 15 screaming second graders in my house sticking tacks in my wall on through a cardboard donkey!" Nope, as a kid birthdays were all about me; the things I liked, the presents I wanted, the people I wanted around me.

Ironic that in the over indulgence of celebrating myself I would find my frustration with commercialized retail spectacle this generation has come to know as Christmas. Disenfranchised by the subjugating nature of holiday tradition I felt like it was time to hit the reset button and re-calibrate the ideology I associate with Christmas. Be it selfishness or an inward fear of being disingenuous I felt a deviation from the norm was necessary.

PART 1 - The Road Trip Begins
I got a call from my friend Mark about a week before Christmas, "Hey man, I'm in Memphis you wanna hang out?" It's about a three hour drive from my house to Memphis and I really did want to go however, I had just thrown out my back a few days before and was right in the middle of a series of chiropractic and message therapy treatments. I also had a few meetings I really couldn't get out of. I declined his invitation regretfully. The next day I received a call from a close friend of mine who lives in Dallas. She informed me that she would be meeting Mark in Louisiana later in the week. This timing was much better, the only problem was getting to Texas. As it happens my roommate was leaving the next day for Mt. Pleasant which just a couple hours east of Dallas. I worked out the rest of the details as best I could, packed a bag and headed west.

PART 2 - Natchitoches
Mark asked Lore and I to meet him in Natchitoches La. A small town a few hours North of New Orleans. Initially we were under the impression that Natchitoches was just a town chosen with utilitarian motives as a central meeting point. A good part of the day was simply spent attempting to figure out how to say Natchitoches, each of the locals had their own interpretation it seemed. It's a place known for many things including meat pies, racism, the set location for Steel Magnolias and an it's "World Famous Festival of Lights". Which as it turns out was the reason for our trip there. Mark is a photo journalist and works for a number of major publications in New York. He was working on a story there. The light show was a mix of religious iconography, Santa centric imagery and athletic axioms like "Who Dat!" and "Go Saints". And I that's what the Holidays are about right? Raindeer landing on the roof of the manger where baby Jesus is met by the three line men. "Who dat kid be in that krib? Who Dat? Who Dat?

PART 3 - Camping
Mark and I parted ways with Lore and headed for the state park. It was a perfect evening for camping. At least it was for mark. With his sleeping bag and bed mat and optional tent in case of a early morning rain. I had not really planned on camping and thus my plush pillow and down blanket were supplemented by a small tarp and extra cover that happened to be in the car. We built a fire. I played some music for a bit trying to finish a song I had been working on. Mark and I caught up and drank beer. Remember those back problems I'd been having? I admit sleeping on the ground wasn't the greatest exertion of wisdom I'd had of late but it worked as well as it could. We woke up early covered in due like a lawn in spring, packed up, and headed for New Orleans.

To be continued....
Photos Courtesy of Mark