NEUTRAL NATION MEETS NEUTRAL GROUND
Part of the beauty of writing in New Orleans is the chance to meet people from around the world and, hopefully, launch my blog internationally; as a writer in love with irony, it wasn’t lost on me that I met Krewe of Rocckus’s first international attendee, Barbara Schweizer from neutral Switzerland, on the neutral ground of Canal Street!
Neutral ground is the N’Awlins term for the common area between roads (medians is the closest word I can think of) where tourists and families line up for Mardi Gras parades. These areas tend to be wide in New Orleans (Canal was once planned to have a canal running down the middle, thus its impressive width), making them de facto public parks, particularly during carnival season. When I met Barbara, Canal was so packed we could barely get close enough to view Endymion, one of three ‘Super-krewes’ (the largest krewes known for long, lavish parades and generous throws). At the time, KoR was hanging out with coolers full of beers “like locals” awaiting Saturday’s show at House of Blues. As we chatted, I made a date with Barbara to sit down and pick her brain about how she got from Switzerland to New Orleans.
HOT LIKE WASABI
Barbara, now 47, has been spending her vacations following favorite bands around the world since age twenty when, lacking the benefit of the internet research, she simply flew to London to see who was playing. (Oh, the scary pre-Google world! I can relate, having never been able to see Jimmy Buffett until the internet was invented and I found out about shows before they happened!) In 1995, she was living in L.A. when “Good” hit it big. Although this made her familiar with the band, she was not yet a fan. She was, however, a huge Barenaked Ladies fan. When BTE released Closer in 2001, calling out BNL in “Extra Ordinary”—Just like that Barenaked Ladies song: I’m hot like wasabi when I’m next to your body—they caught Barbara’s attention. Now back in Europe, she collected all their albums and soon sought to see them live. In 2009 when she was in the States to follow BNL she kept her eyes open for a BTE show but all the dates kept overlapping with BNL. Finally she saw her chance and drove from Milwaukee, WI to Louisville, KY to catch them, driving back to Wisconsin the next day. In December 2011 she returned for BTE, following them from Austin to Houston to New Orleans to Biloxi. Now she’s here for her first Mardi Gras as KoR’s first international attendee.
SLEEP THROUGH THE SITES, PARTY THROUGH THE NIGHTS
Although she travels alone, Barbara has made friends all over the world that she runs into over and over again, though she has no problem falling in with new crowds when she sees no familiar faces. This way she is never alone but still has the flexibility to wander off by herself when she wants. When traveling she sleeps late, caring little for sightseeing, so she can spend her evenings exploring all the local clubs and seeing at least one show every night. When not seeing an old favorite, she is always eager to discover new music.
Back in Switzerland Barbara works in the research department of a company that creates robots for lab tests. In addition to BTE and BNL, she’s flown to New York to Billy Joel and has upcoming plans to see Ben Folds in England and Matchbox 20 in Dublin. Mardi Gras has made it’s biggest impression on Barbara by how the entire city comes together to party, and she says the biggest difference between New Orleans and Switzerland is the mix of races and cultures, though she adds her home is slowly becoming more multi-cultural. She hopes to return to Rocckus one day, but vacation days are scarce and the world is wide. Hey, maybe she could just quit her job and move here to write a blog!!!