Sunday, February 18, 2007

Mardi Gras: Last Year

Last year, during this time of the Mardi Gras season, I was in New Orleans. The feeling of the place was interesting. There was a sense of accomplishment in having managed to pull off Mardi Gras, despite the ravages of the storms of 2005. There was a sense of optimism, of people returning home to their comfort zone, after a long time away. As I have written elsewhere, these positive feelings have been replaced by a sense of frustration and disappointment. All the broken promises have taken a toll on the City, almost as great as the storms themselves.

Last year, we arrived in time to walk down deep into Uptown, just in time to meet the Krewe of Mid City coming the other way. This is an interesting crew. It is the fifth oldest of all the Krewes, having been founded in 1933. Their floats were festooned with memorabilia from the storms and exhibited a certain poignant gallows humor. There were many interpretations of the letters of FEMA and strips of the notorious blue tarps were used in many creative and amusing ways. The final float depicted Mayor Nagin and Governor Blanco getting married. Although the humor was dark, the spirit was light. The parade was at least running again. Fat Tuesday was ahead.

After the Krewe of Mid City had passed and the light was beginning to fade, we walked on a little further, exploring the sites and sounds of the crowd. In this part of town, a good way from the French Quarter, the people were almost exclusively locals. We stopped in a hotel bar to rest a little and drink. Eventually, we found a spot to stand a wait the short while for the next parade. The wait was far from dull, as many impromptu Krewes and colorful revelers walked up and down the parade route, entertaining the crowd.

As is traditional, the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) began cruising up and down the parade route, clearing the way for through the crowds for the Krewe of Bacchus. The Krewe of Bacchus parade is one of the most spectacular of them all. It features celebrities on some floats. Last year, Willie Nelson was there. It also has mounted riders and many torch bearers and bands in addition to huge and spectacular floats.

Last year, the parade was as spectacular as ever. However, it moved slowly, until it eventually it ground to a halt. It turned out that one of the floats had collided with an overhead power cable and the parade had to stop until a linesmen could be found to render the downed power line safe. However, as many parade goers know, a stalled parade provides excellent opportunities to interact and converse with the people on the floats. Thus, we came away with many fine strings of beads and other trophies. As we left the parade route, we made our way to Magazine Street, to a small cafe, where we ate a hearty supper. Afterwards, we walked back and caught the end of the parade of the Krewe of Endymion, that had been postponed from earlier.

The following day, we went to Uptown again. There we found the Krewe of Proteus forming up for their parade. This Krewe was formed in 1882, making it the second oldest of all the Krewes. Many fine catches were gained from this Krewe.

Immediately following this parade, came the Krewe of Orpheus. This is one of the newer crews, having first paraded in 1994. Orpheus counts as a 'super-Krewe', with a large number of highly elaborate floats. This Krewe also featured celebrities. I caught a long string of large pink beads from Steven Segal. Form these two parades, we caught many fine beads, along with all sorts of other wild and wonderful Mardi Gras curiosities.

The New Orleans parades of last year were profoundly wonderful. Indeed, it counts as one of the happiest and most signature experiences of my life. Regrettably, since that time, little has changed in the City. My partner on that journey though has changed. They finally succumbed to the triple specters of paranoia, delusion and madness, that have haunted their personality for many years. These are both sad things.

The CP


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