Pervasive Spirit

610 Stompers [crop]

The Thursday before Mardi Gras is one of my favorite times to catch some parades. This year we had a multiplicity of invitations Thursday from a variety of friends who live in the vicinity of the uptown parade route. With so much hospitality on offer it was a tough call, but we eventually made our way to hang with the infamous G-Bitch and DSB NOLA and their lovely daughter. It took just over half an hour to drive to their place from our home in Mid-City, and we were mighty surprised to we learn one of their other guests lives right around the corner from us.

In short order we were on St. Charles watching no fewer than three parades in rapid succession: Babylon, Chaos and Muses. For the next three hours we were entertained by a total of sixty floats, perhaps fifty marching bands, and I’m guessing twenty-five dancing/walking/marching/scootering clubs, to say nothing of the mobile jazz and rock bands, the flambeux bearers, and the horses. The whole show was free, and not only that, we walked away with enough dolls, toys, beads, and other assorted “throws” to stock a small boutique. This morning, Persephone played with her magnetic Muses dress-up doll while I played with my light-up Muses yo-yo. Hard to say who was having more fun.

It wasn’t all fun and games, though. Carnival has a dark side.

For example: I caught a small white box from one of the first floats in Muses. When I opened it, I found it contained one of the Muses balls which I’d seen on the front page of the paper. It appeared to require a minor amount of assembly, which a crafty young boy next to me offered to perform. I foolishly allowed him to do it. In short order he had the ball glowing and cycling through all the colors of the rainbow. Of course, he kept the damn thing for himself.

Also: A horse bladder can hold a truly astonishing volume of urine. We got a visceral reminder of this fact when one of our equine friends let it rip on the street directly in front of us. The subsequent riparian deluge of urea headed down the sloping asphalt right toward us, and we enjoyed the aroma for the remainder of the evening.

On a more serious note, anyone deluded enough to think our school systems are desegregated need only observe the racial makeup of the fifty-odd high school marching bands that passed by us last night. They tended to be either all-white or all-black, and any exceptions to this rule were minor enough to be missed completely.

Nevertheless I think of Carnival as a time when New Orleanians of all races come together to celebrate. Even though I’m not the most ardent parade-goer, I do love the idea and the pervasive spirit of festivity.

Or maybe the fumes from that horse urine have addled my brains.

610 Stompers / skooksie / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 see also: video

Chaotic

Xy and I went to see the Knights of Chaos last night. Schroeder’s posted a couple of pictures. It was a good satirical parade that made fun of all our so-called leaders.

Last year, I wasn’t really feeling the Carnival spirit until I saw Chaos and Muses.

This year, not so much.

For one thing, it was really cold. I was dressed warmly enough to be comfortable but Xy wasn’t. I gave her my coat. She also wasn’t feeling well. So we went home before Muses rolled, which was a shame, because Xy hasn’t ever seen Muses and I think she’d enjoy it. She’s not a big fan of any of the parades, and frankly neither am I, but after seeing Muses last year I’ve got to admit they are something special. They are the best of the major parades, with beautiful floats and more interesting throws than anyone else. I was bummed not to see them, but even more bummed for Xy’s sake.

For another thing, I’m in much more of a funk than I was a year ago. I know that the recovery of New Orleans will take a long time. A marathon, not a sprint, as the saying goes. But you can never finish a marathon by going in the wrong direction, and that’s what it seems like lately.

I’m still hoping against hope to have a little fun on Mardi Gras. If only I had a good idea for a costume.

PS: Thanks to Adrastos & Dr. A for the hospitality along the parade route.

KdV

Last night was the first and best parade of the Carnival season: Krewe du Vieux. Even though I’ve been pretty down lately and not feeling celebratory, I would never miss this parade.

It seemed to me like there were more people turned out to see KdV than I remember in years past. We couldn’t find parking anywhere near Frenchmen (where we’d hoped to hook up with some friends) and so ended up in the Bywater, much closer to the beginning of the parade route than I’ve ever been. The Friendly Bar was way too crowded to get a drink, and things didn’t feel quite so festive.

Still, a great parade which maintained Krewe du Vieux’s status as the most satirical and obscene of all parades. I didn’t take a camera but through the miracle of the internet I can still show a picture of my favorite float:

Krewe du Vieux

Photo by dbs nola

In case you can’t tell, this papier mâché masterpiece depicts a woman, representing New Orleans, being violated by the famous Louisiana State Capitol building. Yes, there were many other floats that were more clever and more subtle, but there’s always one that makes an indelible impression. The symbolism of this float is crude, rude, bitter and painful and hilarious all at the same time. Kudos.

The parade went by far too quickly. A whirlwind of raunchy political satire and great brass bands, and then it was gone. Afterward, as we made our way back to our car, we passed through the staging area where the parade had begun. Man, what a mess. Empty plastic bags all over the street. I wonder if anyone goes back to clean up the next day?

We hurried back home so Xy could work on her lesson plans. Yes, she usually works on Saturday nights, and pretty much every night. Such is the life of a teacher.

Note to self: Next year, go earlier and take some wine in a plastic bottle.

St. Patrick’s Parade

I had a new experience today: I went to a parade in New Orleans and I didn’t have anything to drink. I thought that might make a difference; I thought maybe I would be more bored or feel more awkward. But it didn’t seem to make any difference at all, and I was just as bored and awkward as ever.

Actually I had a good time. But it was truly surprising to me that not consuming alcohol just didn’t make a damn bit of difference.

Xy got pretty drunk, though. Many thanks to our host in the Irish Channel, David Bryan, for keeping her upright as we walked through the streets.

I’d never seen the St. Patrick’s parade before, and I was amazed that it was as big as a Mardi Gras parade. I’m not sure when I’ve seen so many white people in one place in New Orleans. Oktoberfest, maybe.

After the Party

The party was fun. We actually drained the keg, which made me happy. PJ & Gina showed up with instruments and jammed in the living room, which made me even happier. All the gumbo and the vegan okra stew and the guac got eaten, though we still have a bunch of salsa. Many friends came by, and I met many new people from out of town, including a contingent from Austin and a guy with an anarchist marching band from Brooklyn.

I realized after the fact that my last post may not have made a lot of sense to people outside New Orleans. In recent years, all the big parades of Carnival season have consolidated on to more or lesss the same route. There are variations, but they all basically start Uptown and move down St. Charles Avenue to Canal Street. Even the Krewe of Mid-Cty doesn’t parade in Mid-City (where we live) anymore.

In fact, there’s only one krewe let that still rolls through Mid-City, and that’s the biggest one of all: Endymion. It is a massive, gaudy spectacle.

Endymion

I’m not a diehard parade-goer or a big Endymion fan, but I love the festive atmosphere surrounding the event. This year I even got out of the house for a little bit to see some of the parade. I posted a set of pix to Flickr.

I had a good time at the party — a little too good. Had a little too much to drink, woke up Sunday morning with a mild hangover, I slept it off, and by 10:30 or so I felt almost normal. I’d wanted to go see the Krewe of Thoth Sunday morning, but I didn’t feel up to it. We spent most of the day cleaning up the mess. Our house is actually cleaner now than it’s been in a long time.

O.A.K., Burning

Last night Xy and I rode our bikes uptown for the Midsummer Mardi Gras celebration. This takes place every year in late August. I guess that qualifies as “the middle of summer,” never mind the fact that midsummer is technically the first day of summer, which falls in late June. It’s confusing enough even if you’re sober, and nobody’s sober at Midsummer Mardi Gras. For sure it’s the hottest, sweatiest, stickiest time of year in New Orleans — in other words, perfect time for a pack of half-naked drunkards to strut through the dark uptown streets accompanied by a funk-blastin’ brass band. It’s the Krewe of O.A.K second line parade. O.A.K. stands for “outrageous and kinky.”

What freaked me out more than anything else was how big this thing’s gotten. I guess it’s been going for 18 years or so. When I did it a couple years ago, it was relatively tiny. Now it’s huge. There were motorized vehicles: a bunch of golf carts with giant heads on top. And there were political ads: Una Anderson is running for re-election to the school board, and she had signs and literature all over. And there was a “real” brass band there: the Li’l Stooges.

Somehow the whole thing seemed a little crazier and a bit more fun when it wasn’t so massive. But it was still a good time. The coolest thing I saw a guy (Frenchie?) with a light strapped to his head and a canvas mounted in front of him via a chest harness; he was dancing and painting a picture of the parade. I saw Heather Weathers there with the Pussyfooters. There was a also a large contingent of scantily-clad women called the Bearded Oysters. A Xavier prof was with the Not-So-Swift Boat Veterans for Bush. And of course there was an Olympic Synchronized Drinking Team.

My friend David Bryan was dressed as a priest. He decanted Jesus Juice all night: red wine spiked with Skol vodka. Every bit as nasty as it sounds, I’m sure, but I was already too anesthetized to care.

The parade starts at the Maple Leaf and proceeds to Carrollton Station, then to Snake & Jake’s, then back to the Maple Leaf. Xy and I got some grub, then rode our bikes back to Mid-City.

We got to bed around two or three o’clock Sunday morning. Then, around five o’clock, Xy heard sirens, and discovered that the house across the street was on fire. Yikes! It’s been divided into four apartments, and huge flames were shooting up from the back of an unoccupied unit. It was really quite terrifying, but the fire was extinguished in short order and no one was hurt.