“We are quintessential audience members. Elyse is the first to dance and break the ice.” From this Yankee’s point of view, Elyse and Roger Hackett are textbook New Orleanais. Elyse greeted me in a breezy shift printed with a map of the Crescent City. Roger wore a brim hat. Born and raised here; Elyse’s father was a musicologist who arrived in the early 1950s, Roger’s father was an Alabama jazzman who came in the 1940s and helped start Preservation Hall. Elyse and Roger have lived in a century-old frame house in the Carrollton District, five blocks from the Mississippi, for the past 24years. We began a leisurely afternoon visit on the back porch, but when the sun shifted, we moved to the shadier front side, beside a fragrant, overgrown Angel’s Trumpet.
Elyse is an artist who works in acrylic and glitter. She applies paint to objects, often shoes and clothing, and adds glitter while it’s wet. Elyse sells her artwork at festivals and events. Roger boasts, “My job is to be her canvas.” When not sporting his wife’s art, “I am a computer guy. I spent many years providing Unix support for oil companies. We are in a period of oil company layoffs, so I am going to Oshner Healthcare to do disaster planning.”
Elyse and Roger share two things common to all locals: Mardi Gras and Katrina.
They are strategic revelers. “These days, all Mardi Gras parades follow the same route. There can be three parades in a row, from 5 PM until 11 or so. The routes are five or six miles long. You develop a relationship with the people around you; you become friends with the folks nearby.”
This year, their son Robin’s girlfriend came from Portland Oregon for her first Mardi Gras. “The first night of parade is Muses’ Night. Participants create beautiful glittering shoes and to bestow among watchers along the route.” Unlike the tradition of tossing beads, which are plentiful, most marchers have only one or two pair to give away. It is an extraordinary honor to receive one. “Robin’s girlfriend approached a muse, explained that it was her first Mardi Gras parade and how much she would like to have a pair of shoes. She got one.”
After Katrina, Elyse and Roger stayed with a variety of family and friends. “I call it our Katrina Tour. We started in Memphis and wound up in New Jersey.”
How will we live tomorrow?
“I am not going to get into the whole climate change thing because I can’t do anything about that. I think we need to get more compact. We are planning to turn our upstairs space into a studio apartment to rent to someone who can become part of our community, our immediate community of running this household. I see us in coops, with growing our own food as much as possible. My sister has an immense lot. I suggested she lease part of it to urban gardeners.” – Elyse
“Immediately here, I am pleased that we are making progress in managing water without dykes and levies. One of the wetlands groups that came out of the BP spill has made progress in wetland creation. We have to balance dykes and levees with wetlands. We have the first project underway in Gentilly.” – Roger