When contemplating the true essence of a city and its inhabitants, I cannot name two places more fundamentally opposed than New Orleans and New York City. Which is why I was so very excited to participate in one of New Orleans oldest rites of passage right here in my new home, a second line parade. To give a very brief history of this event, a second line forms for many occasions: births, deaths, holidays, celebrations, mournings, or just a sunny afternoon. It is an impromptu parade in the truest sense of the word, for the only people actually part of the 'parade' are the select few initiating the event, always including members of a brass band. The rest of said parade are merely people the revelers pick up along the way and form a 'second line' of paraders, in other words people strolling along behind the band and in effect forming a second line of marchers.
This type of event symbolizes a selection of New Orleanian values: music, comradery, and relaxation. Participating in such an event across the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City highlighted a true clash of cultures. At its climax, the parade probably reached about two hundred people. Understandably, this large of a group, along with a few tubas, dominated the path of travel in both directions. Of course, this made New Yorkers not involved with the event more than a little frustrated. New York is a culture built around a fast pace of life, a driven energy, and the desire to get from point A to B in the fastest possible way. As bicyclists and runners encountered this second line parade, many became frustrated and turned around, a few got angry and forced their way through the slow moving crowd, but an even greater number were captured by the light-hearted sense of togetherness the parade emitted. Bikers dismounted their rides, joggers slowed to a stroll, and together we crossed the bridge in true New Orleans style.
The second line was lead across the bridge by the ever energetic DancingMan504... a Treme resident. Check out his website for a more informative history of the second line and some videos of his sweet moves.
and he dances on long into the afternoon...