Our first plan was to reprise last year’s costumes which we didn’t really get to employ last year. But then it became clear that this Mardi Gras would be unseasonably cool, and perhaps downright cold. Costuming as Olympian deities seemed like it would be uncomfortable, and so I scrambled at the last possible minute to come up with an alternative.
What could we wear and still be warm? Robes, I thought, big robes, big enough so that we can wear anything we want underneath. Since the Saints won the Super Bowl, I could make gold robes for all three of us, and we could wear black beads, and we’d be set. (Black robes with gold beads just seemed too easy somehow.)
I found instructions that looked simple enough. Most of the gold fabric had flown off the shelves of the local fabric store, but I managed to find some drapery-type stuff in back. Couldn’t settle for yellow, mind you — it had to be gold. I also got some gold rope to use for belts.
I borrowed the use of a friend’s sewing machine and soon enough we had our costumes. We added black caps for good measure. We borrowed a wagon from another friend.
Mardi Gras is primarily an early morning holiday, at least to me. It’s kind of like Christmas in that way. This is contrary to the image many casual tourists might have in mind, due to the common association linking revelry with late nights. But I rarely stay out late on Mardi Gras, and for me the best part of the day is generally before noon.
We some friends in the Marigny for a breakfast party. We donned our costumes and around 10:00 AM we joined up with the Societé de Sainte Anne which seemed to be passing by. I say “seemed to” because the Societé de Sainte Anne is so secretive, so mysterious, so surreal and chaotic, that it’s really kind of hard to tell exactly where the parade is, even when you’re in it. It is a collective hallucination.
Soon Persephone was dancing with a beautiful stranger.
Isn’t that what Mardi Gras is all about?
Persephone has a great time. She had a fever last year, so this was her first real Mardi Gras. At one point she was literally agape, mouth hanging open is amazement, to see so many wild and colorful characters.
I did not take many good photos. I was juggling a toddler and a wagon and of course Xy’s always a handful.
Xy pulled the wagon at times, but most of the way I found myself carrying Persephone in one arm and pulling the wagon with the other.
We saw a guy in an egg costume. He told Persephone he was Humpty Dumpty, then thought better of it, saying, “You probably don’t even know who that is.” Persephone whipped out her Mother Goose book and immediately turned to this rhyme.
While wearing mittens no less!
Later we saw another Humpty Dumpty, a guy with his head made up like an egg, with tiny articulated arms on either cheek which he manipulated by a clever arrangement of rods, complete with a brick wall under his chin. I didn’t get a photo but it was pretty amazing. I saw so many amazing costumes. A Kachina doll. A bicycle hidden inside a giant shoe. A fully functional sound system sheathed in metal shaped like a bull and bellowing steam. Hindu deities with multiple arms. A mobile drum set with stripper pole. Saints-themed costumes were of course ubiquitous. I didn’t even get a picture of my friends as the three big quarterbacks the Saints took down. Imagine Brett Favre with a walker and you get the idea. Everyone wanted to take his picture but somehow I failed.
Perhaps the most mind-blowing costume of all was this tree house.
How tall is that thing? They are looking down on people in second story balconies. And somehow it’s moving around. It’s a riff on a recent local news story about an artsy tree house that ran afoul of city inspectors.
I wish I’d had the presence of mind to get a portrait of all three of us together in our matching costumes. Some random stranger took a photo of us that looked pretty good — he showed it to me on the viewfinder — but I’m sure I’ll never see that again. Here’s a photo Howie took showing my daughter and me on Royal Street.
Probably the best photo I took was this portrait of an older man in a wheelchair, wearing a pink boa, smoking a cigarette and taking it all in.
It was a great day but not without incident. At one point I crossed Royal Street a little too hastily. I was trying to dodge what appeared to be a large ocean-going vessel when a king’s ermine cape got snagged on the wheel of our wagon. For this act of carelessness, I incurred his royal displeasure.
The other near-disaster came when we stopped at a friend’s condo. Persephone was playing with a toy that belonged to the resident canine, and they got into a fight. I got in between them right quick and the girl emerged with only a tiny scratch under her left eye, but she was quite frightened. The dog bit me on the leg, and I shudder to think what might have happened.
We were back home shortly after five. The girl was utterly exhausted.
If this Mardi Gras could be said to have had a theme, deeper than the Saints mania, it was perhaps a renewed snese of optimism and confidence, the hope that we’ve turned a corner in our recovery, that, as Adma Karlin puts it, “deep down the 2010 carnival season marks when, at long last, post-Katrina New Orleans became, again, just New Orleans.”