By Sarah White
Hurricane Katrina was the deadliest and most destructive Atlantic tropical cyclone of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season. It was the costliest natural disaster, as well as one of the five deadliest hurricanes, in the history of the United States. -Wikipedia
In tribute to the great city of New Orleans, which nearly drowned this time eight years ago, I am posting this reminiscence of a visit there some 36 years ago.
It was 1977 and I was in New Orleans on Spring Break. With me this particular morning were two friends: Seth, who like me was studying (if you could call it that) at Indiana University, and our friend Dale, who had moved to New Orleans the previous fall.
This morning we decided to take acid and a riverboat cruise. We downed our tabs just before boarding the paddlewheeler near Jackson Square.
It’s never a good idea to take acid while in enclosed places crowded with people; even less advisable if the place is inescapable. But we were experienced trippers and knew how to roll.
The philosophical conversations you have while on acid are the main point of doing it, along with the entertainment value of the synesthesia. The cruise was pleasant enough once we adjusted our antennae for crowded conditions. The sights along the Mississippi river mixed with the sounds of the Dixieland band and the bedlam of fellow pleasure cruisers to form a backdrop to our acid-inspired philosophy symposium.
Our topic was the dichotomy of good and evil that New Orleans reveals to any new visitor. Bourbon Street has its happy tourists and sad bums, its sweet jazz clubs and seedy porn shops. (Back then you could “Wash Your Own Girl” in a storefront window.) The beautiful French Quarter architecture and the ugly riverfront warehouses. The sweet beignets at Café du Monde and the bitter black chicory-coffee. The daytime buskers and the nighttime heroin-addicted children in Jackson Square. The contrasts just go on and on, enough to keep a trio of acid-rappers busy for the cruise.
We gave the phenomena of New Orleans good and evil our own name: The Pink and the Muddy. Pink stood for all that was daylight, sweet, and simple. Muddy stood for all that was dark, bitter, and complicated. The combination of Pink and Muddy might occur nowhere but New Orleans; we weren’t well traveled enough to know for certain, but we were pretty sure. We thought we were onto something important, as all acid-trippers do.
We disembarked in the late afternoon. Our minds were still atwirl but we were fully in command of our human-community interface. In other words, we could pass for normal.
Staggering a bit as we transitioned from sea-legs to land, we looped behind the Café du Monde, found a park bench on a small plaza, and sat down. At the center of the plaza a shallow circular fountain splashed quietly, perhaps 15 feet across and surrounded by a low wall. Light music filtered in from the café. We simply grooved.
A little girl entered the plaza from the direction of the café, holding a pink balloon on a stick in one hand and her mother’s hand in the other. Suddenly she broke away and ran full-tilt toward the fountain. She stuck her balloon into the water with a giggle of pure joy.
“The Pink and the Muddy,” we cried out, breaking into insane giggles ourselves.
The Pink seeks out the Muddy. That was the mystery the tripping fairies were trying to show us in New Orleans that day. The tourists visit the Café du Monde by day, but “wash their own girl” by night. Without both, would they still come?
Even in the innocence of youth, the Pink will be curious about the Muddy. And the Muddy will always be on the watch for more Pink, to complicate with its dark undertow.