bonding versus bridging versus bug off

(I wrote this a few years back and always think of it during event season in New Orleans which is just beginning. If you go to the LPO, or a fundraiser at a private home, look for this behavior yourself to see if I am right.)

In many cases, hanging out in the French Quarter allows you to forge new relationships with people who you do not normally see like people from away, or rich folks, hustlers, delivery guys, strippers, musicians, artists. What is also true is that if you live there you can also engineer it to (purposefully) have little interaction with those unlike you.
I learn this when I go the events for the “haves” in the Quarter. Last night I attended the world premiere for 3 one-act plays of Tennessee Williams. The event was held at Southern Rep at the foot of Canal Street, high above the mean streets.
As I came in, an organizer asked me with a surprised note in their voice, ‘Oh, are you here for the world premiere?”
I answered in the affirmative with a smile that said of course you have to ask. They quickly recovered and all went swimmingly. Well, until I sat next to some people who gave me one of those thin smiles that say, “why, who you?” And then soon enough, they politely got up and  went to stand near other well-dressed people.
Maybe my taffeta rustled too loudly.
It is hopefully clear to you, dear reader that I am never well-dressed.

Don’t get me wrong-it wasn’t a wide empty swath around me, just chatty people known to each other who had little or no interest in actually making eye contact with those unknown.
And yet it was fun to listen and watch and not be “someone” or paired with someone who felt the need to nervously scan the room as they made innocuous talk as they realized they were standing back to back with Peggy Scott Laborde. That matters at TWLF by the way.
And I find some of those “haves” perfectly friendly who have made it to that group for good reason, through accomplishment.

Unfortunately though, they can also be one because they married it or bought it and then they wear it like armor.

In contrast, let’s see what the situation might be if you went to say, John Boutte’s show at dba Saturdays.
-The smiles are freely shared and if a regular has seen you more than once before somewhere it’s likely they will start a conversation to find out about you. Or if they are standing next to you, dancing to “At The Foot Of Canal Street.”  During the break and after the show, the musicians, including John, are hugging people, graciously meeting new converts and hanging about. The only thing off limits at those shows are the chairs that are commandeered as soon as the doors are opened. And the beer is excellent.
Chat or not, shared smiles notwithstanding, the TWLF world premiere food was good; the shrimp were only slightly flavored but the salmon was quite excellent. The champagne wasn’t the worst and they came to give more before we went in. All gratis, of course but you knew that.
Overheard:
“I couldn’t believe my eyes when the taxi stopped here…”
“That one is my most intellectual child…”
“Is this the Village People?” (gay friend joke)
“I did not read the synopsis. I left my glasses in the car. That’s fine.”
“Hello you!” (tone was clearly one of “I have no idea of your name, but let’s kiss and hug in case we are good friends.”)

After the first 2 of the 3 short pieces about people who retreat into illusion when unable to deal with the ugliness of reality, the organizers made an announcement as intermission began that the champagne glasses HAD needed  to go back to the bartenders before the “curtain” had gone up and now those glasses were to be delivered home. With a note in their voice that said, seriously, they may start charging us for the extra time, so PLEASE bring the glasses back out to the bar…
…Finally, I watched the female bar staff person come in and scour the theater as quickly as she could for the orphaned glasses, orphaned by those now standing outside in small, select groups who did not and do not ever hear the call that they should hand their glass back.
Moving fast, you knew when she finished she would go home and get off her feet while we went back to see the last piece about fragile people who talk in poetic sentences.

Lucky people.

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About DW

New Orleans resident, writer, activist. Public market consultant.

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