"This city is supposed to be a feast for the senses, all brilliant colors and decadent flavors and bright sounds, where the houses are frilly pink wedding cakes and the drinks are made of orange blossoms and egg whites and you can’t walk down the street without hearing a brass band bray, feeling that drumbeat deep in your gut. But there’s something rotten under it all. The houses are termite-infested and for every fancy cocktail there’s a pile of vomit in the gutter and that music, that rat-a-tat, is a thread pulsing back to this city’s original sin, those days when the enslaved gathered in Congo Square to beat out on drums an identity that had been stolen. I walk the streets of the Quarter and I see corpses, piles of them, waist-high. An illusion, maybe, but not an untruth: in 1853, yellow fever killed ten percent of this city, and there wasn’t enough room in the morgues. Here on the streets the dead lay, stacked, waiting, bloating in the unbearable summer heat. In the winter, of course, during Carnival, the living would revel on the same streets, parading until dawn, dancing until they collapsed. Life, after all, shines brighter in proximity to the darkness of death. New Orleans: a living, breathing, dying, rotting contradiction. The line between existence and nothingness is razor-thin, here."
from Ash Tuesday