One more round of similarities between Mardi Gras and the Burning Dude and we’re done:
You can either pay someone else lots of money to build your floats (theme camps) or get together with your friends and work on them really hard.
Your parade can have all the permits and map placements it wants … or it can be as underground and DIY as a basement rave. Except Mardi Gras will always be infinitely cooler than a basement rave, because it’s been going on for a couple hundred years, and the ornate and variegated etchings of tradition have deep-ass roots like unkillable kudzu vines.
On big-time fancy parade days, you hang out streetside with the plebes, waiting politely to catch the shiny plastic gifts thrown by “masked” krewe-members atop bus-sized carnival-exhibit floats.
And on neighborhood parade and second-line days, you crawl over streets with slapdash costumes and beat-up tuba players, surrounded by 300 regular folx and punks who also “retired early” to New Orleans, all high-stepping around floats made of bikes, shopping carts, and whatever else. Either way, the cars stuck in traffic behind you never honk, either. Never. That’s why we moved back home to Dixie, really: MANNERS.
Oh and … The Saints euphoria contributed to the most well-attended and peaceful Mardi Gras on record. Who dat who dat who dat. Over a month later, the city has slowed down on talking about it some, but the afterglow remains.
We all go about our business, happily humming through spring cleaning and concerted efforts to get some more renovations done before God turns on the swamp-oven in a couple weeks.
On Mardi Gras, we saw a kaleidoscopic clash of shouting feathery Indians, a lecherous gorilla throwing boas off a balcony, a man covered in paint samples, and a million other impossible things. It’s too hard to recall what they all were, since our camera committed suicide. We’ve felt this kind of overstimulation before. It takes a while to get over, in the best way.
The Mardi Gras Indians’ spyboy woke us from a disco nap in the car at 6am. We followed the tribe’s whole song and dance for a few hours, watched them clash with other tribes in the street — in the old days, there would have certainly been gunplay — and then walked back through the city to meet up with less sleep-deprived friends in the Quarter.
Through the Garden District we trailed the parade route … the sounds of crowds, and plastic beads hitting pavement, and the Ying Yang Twins’ “Who Dat”-themed song blasting on endless repeat … down to the Superdome, to the concrete-jungle urban-assault Claiborne underpass, now brimming with expansive family BBQs, booming sound systems, and cars roaring on the interstate above … on into the Central Business District:
A lady stopped this writer and Miss Led just to hug us, to tell us Jesus loved us and that we were all blessed. She looked square, but her Rastafarian boyfriend dutifully trailed behind her, gently and adoringly herding her like an owner whose puppy jumps into everyone’s lap. It was mighty sweet.
Past the tall buildings and into the Quarter, the St. Ann’s parade was raging cacophonously. We’d imagine the whole affair was a PG-rated version of the night before on Bourbon Street. The only people we saw showing tits for throws were male. And yes, it was funny every time.
Any pictures of the Quarter on Mardi Gras would’ve just looked like people milling around in some of the best costumes we’ve ever seen, and we were too overwhelmed and overstimulated and sleep-deprived to stop anyone and ask them for a picture except this guy, who couldn’t really get away.
Then, while we changed the neighbor’s baby’s diaper on the corner of Chartres and Big Scary Power Station Across From The Train Yard, a lone reveler in party wings rode her bicycle, weaving, past one of the many Jesus buses transporting well-meaning warriors for Christ.
“Yeah!,” she cawed, and waved to the bus driver. “Honk it, Jesus!,” she shouted.
He honked, of course.