It hit me that this is my sixth St. Patrick’s Day in a row in New Orleans. I guess it’s getting to be a habit. Happily, blue tarps are no longer the color of choice. Green is back!

Hickory Street, March 2011.

I did figure out a neat trick the Mississippi River Bridge toll takers have. Three days in a row, I have had to give them a large in bill. On the Mass Pike, the toll taker making six figures might get mad. In New Orleans, they smile, say thank you, and then hand you 19 one dollar bills.

I knew it was going to be a good day when I got in the car and WWOZ was playing a lovely version of Hoagy Carmichael’s “New Orleans.” And then in honor of St. Joseph’s Day (March 19th), they moved to Mardi Gras Indian tunes. When I got to the work site I parked along the curb, rolled down the windows and cranked it up.

By the time I got to Hickory Street, both groups were fully engaged in house painting. As promised, Molly saved the detail work on the front porch for me. A win-win: the job I like best, close to the tunes. The morning flew by as the students were much more engaged than the day before. And that is when the “po-boy effect” kicked in.

Post lunch nap, March 2011.

Some of the students packed lunches, as did I. As much as I love them, a daily diet of po-boys is a bit too much. As it is, I’m thankful my doctor doesn’t read this blog (if you stumble upon it Dr. J, I sometimes make things up). But for many of the rest, it was predictable: lunch > po-boys > sandwich induced stupor.

In talking to the residents, I did learn some important information. On St. Joseph’s night, the Carrollton Hunters, one of the Uptown Mardi Gras Indian tribes, begin there evening right here on this end of Hickory Street. And the homeowners have welcomed me back to watch. Last year it was St. Bernard Avenue, but this year I’ll be Uptown for the spectacle.

We made it through the afternoon with most of the first coat done on both houses. We packed up the gear for Molly and Duncan and headed back to St. Raymond’s to wash brushes and eat out final dinner there. It was Volunteer Appreciate Night and Duncan opened the event with a beautiful statement on the importance and meaning of volunteerism. Who, knew? Under that tough, New Jersey exterior is an old softee. And then one of the homeowners who told her story about losing literally everything. It got a little preachy for some of the students, but it had a big impact nevertheless.

We filtered back to Madonna Manor to shower and get back into town the downtown St. Patrick’s Day parade. It’s smaller and more erratic than the ones over the weekend, but tries to close the gap with liquid refreshment consumption. And if appearances were any indication, the French Quarter crowd was in “high spirits.”

Chelsea and Kelley on the firetruck, St. Patrick's Day, March 2011.

The Zulus got stuck in traffic on Elysian Fields, where the police close the street to let the parade through on Royal Street. Everybody but Tom got out. Somehow some of the girls got talked onto a firetruck from Baton Rouge and spent much of the parade helping firemen throw beads to inebriated parade goers. Not one of those things that happens in the average town on the average day. The other groups enjoyed walking around or listening to music.

The silliness lingered long after the parade had passed, but the evening was beautiful. Most bars along Frenchmen Street were packed, but the best place was on the sidewalk, in the warm air, listening to the distinctive sounds coming from each doorway.