To the intrepid and adventurous travelers who have found their way to our lovely and diverse little part of the planet, welcome! This is a great time of the year to be in the southern zone of Costa Rica. It is officially the dry season, but Mother Nature is a fickle parent, and she has been known to sneak into our happy dry lives and unleash a deluge of rain upon us, her unsuspecting children. Even in February. Since I claim New Orleans and Dominical to be the homes of my heart, I must admit it’s also a fine time to be in steamy and sultry New Orleans…
We know all about celebrating weirdness and wildness in New Orleans — it is called Mardi Gras! This year the last day of Carnival season, also called Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday, falls on February 13th — the day before Ash Wednesday, when all the good (and bad) Catholics go to church and the priest smears ashes on our foreheads and we all pledge to give up something we love for Lent. So for weeks before, we drink a lot and eat delicious rich food to get ourselves in the proper mind set to fast. Christians celebrate Easter on a Sunday, as it was the day Jesus rose from the deaad, after being crucified on the Friday two days before. This was determined centuries ago in 325 AD, by a council of bishops who declared that Easter would always be on a Sunday, based on the lunar calendar.
In New Orleans we throw parties and parades to send off our friends who have passed on. We charge drinks on their bar tabs and hope the bartender hasn’t heard the news yet. We make elaborate costumes to wear during the several weeks of parades and partying leading up to Fat Tuesday. Sometimes our costumes make clever political and satirical statements, sometimes they just show a lot of skin. Some have feathers or beads or mechanical parts, but it is big fun and there are many local traditions that are kept every year.
Like getting up early on Fat Tuesday to watch the Rex and Zulu parades. Like throwing yourself on the filthy street to retrieve a plastic go-cup. Like eating King cake, a purple, green and gold sugary concoction where the person who gets the little baby in their piece of cake has to buy tomorrows cake. Politicians, school teachers, sanitation workers and hookers all dancing down the street with abandon to the sound of the Meters singing “Hey Pocky Way”. Dr. John singing by the Mississippi River. It’s a wonderful, creative and goofy time to be in New Orleans. Even the dogs in New Orleans have a parade — the Krewe of Barkus will delight folks with dogs of every description and costume walking in glorious mayhem or being pulled by decorated wagons. Locals do not party on Bourbon Street — that is purely a tourist and drunk college kid thing to do. Unless they are musicians and are working in the Quarter. But there are absolutely no limits to the lengths New Orleanians will go to be noticed and applauded at Carnival. No limits.
Mardi Gras is celebrated in many parts of the world — there are massive parades of Samba dancers gyrating to the many types of music being played in Brazil, all dressed in matching elaborate costumes. 70% of all the tourists who visit Brazil come during Carnival time, many of them paying one of the marching groups to dance along with them. In Belgium it is an important national holiday where they celebrate the Carnival of Binche with non-stop music and dancing. France, Germany, the Netherlands, Russia, Sweden, Colombia and the Cayman Islands all consider Mardi Gras part of their heritage. I spent a few days during Carnival on the island of Trinidad once — they have fierce and fascinating music competitions, called road marches, and the winners of the songwriting and singing challenges rule over everyone and lead the people in dancing and silliness for their reign — they are huge celebrities and the music they produce is innovative and wonderful.
There are a lot of weird holidays out there in February. Many are celebrating national freedom or independence from some tyrannical government or religion. Others mark the change of seasons or pay homage to national heroes, or celebrate some long-dead saint. The whole month is designated Black History month in the US, with the 4th being civil rights activist Rosa Parks Day. For you Canadians, Feb. 19th is Canada Family Day, and the 20th is National Love Your Pet Day. Seriously. The greeting card industry has played a big part in many of our holidays, like Valentines Day or Mothers day, but there are some truly strange holidays that I’m not sure who acknowledges, like National Wear Red Day, or National Drink Wine Day, which is Feb. 18th. Well, I do have some girlfriends who celebrate that one all year. There is also World Wetlands Day (pretty sure they ignore that one in Arizona), the Chinese and Vietnamese New Year on the 16th and on Feb. 28th there is Rare Disease Day, which I don’t think anyone celebrates except for a few scientists and pharmaceutical companies.
Take a short trip to San Isidro del General, also known as Perez Zeledon, where they have a big and fun Fiesta the first week of February. It’s mainly an agricultural fair with flower shows, bullfighting, livestock competitions, sheep shearing, handicrafts, scary rides held together by duct tape, dances and bands and wonderful junk food. Check it out if you have the opportunity — it’s a lot of fun and will remind you rural types of the county fairs we skipped school to go to in our youth! Just head south on the main highway and it’s across the road from the Small — you know, the commercial shopping mall…Just seeing the handsome oxen all groomed and with their proud handlers is worth the price of admission.
February 22nd is the first day of the 8th year of Envision Fest, held on the property of La Merced, just south of Dominical. I have written about this festival before, and have played there a couple of times over the past 7 years, and it is a very interesting and creative event. The stages they build are truly awesome in their creativity and their function. It is a quite well organized and unique event which may not be for everyone, but is pretty darn interesting. Their press releases drive me a bit nuts, as they use every new-age catch word and phrase to promote themselves — “celebration dedicated to awakening our human potential”, “a platform for different cultures to co-exist in sustainable community”, “inspiration through art, spirituality, yoga, music, dance, performance, education and our fundamental connection with nature…” Despite their excessive verbosity, it is a pretty cool event, even if you just want to dance in a field to a reggae band. Many people go to great lengths to attend this festival, and they believe in its ideals and are concerned with the future of this planet. It is an optimistic event and I applaud their attempt to combine all the many artistic and spiritual aspects. It is also a weird combination of Burning Man Festival and Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras. The fashion statements alone are worth witnessing and the live bands that play there are very interesting.
There are lots of options around here this month for fun, whether you want to join the dancing to the sounds of a DJ at 3am or dance Latin style to a Salsa band with a bunch of guys in cowboy hats, we’ve got it! Come by Mondays at sunset to Tortilla Flats on the beach in Dominical and get rowdy with the Tropi-Cowgirls or listen to Ralph Simms and myself playing some real authentic country music. Friday nights for rock and roll at Roca Verde with Ben Jammin’ and the Howlers, who will have Kim Carson joining them for several weeks this month. Check out Drew LaPlante or Jamisun or the fabulous G String Cowboys when they are playing around town. Happy Mardi Gras — expect anything and don’t forget to bring an umbrella!
Music is a safe kind of high. Jimi Hendrix
Music to me is like breathing. I don’t get tired of breathing, I don’t get tired of music. Ray Charles
You know what music is? God’s little reminder that there’s something else besides us in this universe; harmonic connection between all living beings everywhere, even the stars. August Rush
Some people feel the rain — others just get wet! Bob Marley