Friday, March 25

March Madness

March has been such an exciting, wonderful month!  Right after wrapping up a super cool job for Cleveland Magazine (which I be posting samples of as soon as I get the final layouts) I took off for two back-to-back super fun adventures: my very first Mardi Gras in New Orleans, then my very first time to the SXSW music festival in Austin, TX!

Anyone that knows my work (or me personally) knows how much I love music....and food. Both these towns and events are completely about music and food and celebration—so I felt right at home and extremely inspired!

This was my 4th visit to New Orleans, but my first for Mardi Gras. A huge fan of costumes, parading, and all-around shenanigans,  Mardi Gras has been on the very top of my bucket list for awhile. I also have fallen quite deeply in love with the city of New Orleans from my annual visits over the past 3 years—I love absolutely everything about it. From the incredible food to the colorful culture; from the warm, fun people to the pretty sights and funky sounds; I truly cannot get my fill of that wonderful, amazing city!!

And Mardi Gras is one of the oldest, all-encompassing cultural celebrations the city holds annually. I'd been told by locals that it's truly a representation of what the culture is all about, and something that I just have to experience at least once in my life—especially if I really love the city. This year was just the year! After having gotten familiar with the city the past few years, I felt prepared to have a true (i.e. NON-frat boy) experience of this amazing celebration.

My best friend—New Orleans travel companion extraordinaire and costume-parading cohort, Kristin Smith—and I created some of the best costumes we've conjured up to date. Playing off the traditions of the Mardi Gras spirit, we designed something bright, beautiful and feathery, and made quite a splash! We were definitely a big hit and fit right in with the locals on Mardi Gras Day!! The amount of fun had in three days of dancing, parading, laughing, eating (and of course bead-catching!) is really hard to sum up or capture in pictures....but here's an attempt.  It really was one of the most fun, colorful, exciting things I've had the chance to experience!

Exactly one week after returning from New Orleans (meaning just one week of much needed recovery!) I was off to Austin for the SXSW music festival. My first time to Austin, I fell in love! It's such a cool city--It actually, in ways, reminded me of the spirit of New Orleans and Nashville—it's another city with music everywhere, every hour of the day, and some of the nicest local people I could imagine! I also really love the sort of "weird" eccentric, retro feel that the whole city has—there's was all this super cool signage all over the place. And I has some of the most interesting and most delicious food there—"artisan" hot dogs at Franks, the best BBQ I've ever had at Stubbs and Iron Works, Guiness ice cream at Amy's, fried avocados, breakfast burritos, bacon bloody marys and of course the Triple Lindy: Makers Mark, pickle juice, and beer shots (yes, each one chasing the previous! Yum!!)

One of my highlights was a double dose of Dancing Man 504 in both New Orleans and Austin! Dancing Man—or Darryl Young—is this amazing guy...a staple of New Orleans who's devoted himself to 2nd line dancing and sharing it with others—especially children. He's founded a program, Heal 2 Toe, where he teaches second line dance and culture to kids. He's all around an amazing guy with a ton of talent and personality, and I was able to meet and hang out with him for a bit in NOLA, then able to jump in his 2nd line parade down 6th St in Austin! If you are in NYC, he'll be doing A Jazz Funeral for Coney Island on April 3rd—I absolutely recommend checking it out!

And as far as the music festival—it was just awesome. Music everywhere!! Almost overwhelming to navigate, so we just kind of winged it, popping in cool little places for free shows as we walked around rather than buying a badge or rsvp'ing to get into the bigger shows. But I loved it that way. Got to see and hear a ton, found a few new bands that I super love—like the Orbans—and really just got to soak in the city as a whole. I can't wait to go back again sometime!

Just had to share these little tidbits....feeling really creatively inspired from weeks of celebrating life with great music, food, art and people! Ready to translate that into some good new work ...then on to the next adventure! :)

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