Throw me something, mister!
I hate to say it, but most people have a kind of wrong-headed idea of what Mardi Gras in New Orleans is like–mostly because the images that play best on TV are drunken crowds in the French Quarter, baring it all for beads. Here’s my boy Tanker, baring it all for beads. And you can tell how happy he is about it. You probably can’t appreciate it from the photo, but he weighs 90 pounds and is prancing on the sofa.
Actually, for residents of the city and those in the know, the Mardi Gras we know is a great family party that just happens to go on for two weeks, culminating in Fat Tuesday, the day before Lent…and today is Mardi Gras Day! I’m having to miss Mardi Gras this year because I’ll be on the road so much in April on the Royal Street Dog-and-Pony Parade that I couldn’t take more time off from the EDJ (that’s evil day job, for short).
Instead, I’ll share what I’d normally be doing today. Well, actually, this is what I’d have started doing on Saturday. I would not be wearing a shrimp costume like these folks.
My house was located a block off the St. Charles Avenue parade route, so it was a quick walk over to watch a parade, but usually, instead, I’d go a couple of blocks down to my friend Lora’s house. Lora lives in a condo directly on St. Charles. On Saturday, we’d be out by 6 a.m., setting up chairs right on the edge of the neutral ground around the streetcar tracks. (The neutral ground is what New Orleanians call a median, and goes back to the days when the city was divided between the Spanish and French and Americans.) Even at 6 a.m., it would be filling up with people claiming their spaces (note the first parade of the day wouldn’t start for five or six hours). We might have a cooler with drinks and snacks–we’re no match for the folks who set up grills and tents.
And there we’d sit for hours, watching kids play in the streets throwing balls and frisbees, and watching people wander around watching us. It’s a big, friendly party. Eventually, the parades begin, and we lounge around until a float comes by, at which some sort of sickness takes over and suddenly we become madwomen, screaming for beads and even street-diving for stuff that’s fallen on the ground. It isn’t pretty, folks. I once got in a tug of war with some prim Junior League matron over a size 0 pair of bright green panties with “Mardi Gras” stamped on them that neither of us would be caught dead in during a sane time. I still have them. I can be fierce. Here is my friend Lauri with her haul from the Mardi Gras after Katrina. It was a very productive year.
Then we’ll chilll again till the next parade arrives. After roughly two weeks of this, by the time the Boeuf Gras rolls by during the Krewe of Rex parade on Mardi Gras day, I’m pretty much exhausted and ready to rest up till next year. Boeuf Gras is one of my favorite floats…and to me, he signals the end of another parade season.
So, Happy Mardi Gras!