Notes from Nan: Having a great time in Opposite Land!

Notes from Nan
by HF Contributing Writer, Nan Parati

Elmer's (c) Hilltown FamiliesHaving a great time in Opposite Land!

This is your ace reporter reporting from Opposite Land, where I have been residing for the last two weeks.

Opposite Land is on the other end of the earth from Ashfield, MA, and it is located inside the New Orleans Super Dome with a population 111 times the size of our fair town up north.

One of the most interesting things about Opposite Land this year (and one origin of its name) were the bounding rings of joy that radiated within this week in contrast to the pictures of horror from the Dome that the whole world watched almost exactly two years ago when all those people were stuck there during Hurricane Katrina. The building is nearly entirely back together and that which isn’t yet done, we (I and my design crew) wrapped and swagged and draped and festified so that no one could ever tell that anything bad had ever happened there.


We were building the Essence Music Festival–“Essence” for Essence Magazine, an African-American women’s magazine:

“Music” for Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, Chris Brown, Ludacris, Maze, Public Enemy, Common, Ne-Yo, Ciara, and a host of other monikers you may not find in your every day Ashfield household list of names (hence furthering the name of Opposite Land).

“Festival” because that’s what it was, a big, joyous hip hopping festival of Black Music in N’awlins —another one of those things you don’t find in my new native land up N’awth. Designing festivals was what I did before I opened Elmer’s. That’s why Elmer’s looks so festive and why it sometimes seems as though I know more about the party than I do about the business of running a restaurant and grocery.


And at this festival we (the festival goers—certainly not I) specialized in festive high fashion! There’s an old saying ‘round here that you ain’t lived until you’ve lived as a black person on a Saturday night. (You say that all the time around your house, huh?) Apparently that’s the most fun one can have in life and most a y’all in Ashfield done missed out on that.

So I’m here to report on the fashion I witnessed on all three of those Saturday night-like evenings: Fabulous tailored suits in shiny neon colors with hats and shoes to match and big diamond earrings in each ear! And the women outdid that! They made those neon-suited, earring-wearing men look drab. The women had on anything they wanted to wear! You know how if you’re white and large you dress with all your stripes going vertically and no loud colors and such? If you’re black you wear just what you wanna and everybody says “yeah!” Tall hair! Tiny dresses! Sparkly fabrics! All KINDS of anti-gravity footwear that I just cannot imagine wearing for an entire evening! There was nothing to stand on–just little points! This is not Hilltown wear, this is what they wear in Opposite Land! Not all the women were large, they came in all sizes, but the thing was, they all wore what they wanted to wear no matter what the rule books said and everybody said, Amen!


The crowds were huge—a total of 200,000 over the three nights and, contrary to what one generally reads in the New York Times about Black New Orleans, there wasn’t an inch of violence. (The only blood I ever remember in all the years of the Essence Festival was the time the friend of the mayor’s came to the festival with a little gun in his pocket and accidentally shot himself in the private parts in the elevator.) There wasn’t nothing but fun and dance and food, lectures by excitable types like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the most expensive clothing I see every year, and The Electric Slide. You know the Electric Slide? Do you and your kids do the Electric Slide at Fall Festival? (You know, we should do that!)

The Electric Slide is a line dance and every time Frankie Beverly and Maze close out the Essence Festival (which they have done for all 13 years of the festival) they play one particular song to which the ENTIRE Superdome full of people rises up and begins doing the Electric Slide all together. ALL together. On the floor, in the stands, ALL TOGETHER. A thrill of my annual life is to climb up as high as I can in the Dome to look down and watch seventy-five thousand people all moving together doing the exact same dance all in the same direction at the same time:

  • 4 steps to the right (tap and clap on step 4)
  • 4 steps the the left (tap and clap on 8 )
  • 4 step-walks back (tap and clap on 12)
  • Left foot forward
  • Tap right toe at the left heel and snap
  • Right foot backward
  • Tap left toe at the right heel and clap
  • Repeat last four steps
  • Left foot forward with quarter turn left
  • Hop onto left foot with right leg in the air
  • Start again.

And that’s how we have fun here in Opposite Land. Not that there’s anything wrong with how we have fun up North. It’s just diff’rnt. That’s all.

WHAT’S UP AT ELMER’SBig Fun at Elmer’s this week with Fish and Chips!You hear me, all of you who have told me that Mary’s fish and chips were the best meal you ever had in your whole life? People wrote songs about that meal! (I am not kidding! They did!)

Friday Night’s Menu (07/13/07)

  • Fish and Chips, with a big old summery local salad
  • And, if you don’t eat fish, Vegetarian Chili.
  • With watermelon for dessert!

So come on in and eat light and happy and with your fingers! Like you do in the summertime!

Your Ace Reporter in Opposite Land,

Big E

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