Wednesday, January 18, 2017
It's Mardi Gras season, and people are talking about costumes.
Although Twelfth Night kicked off the season on January 6, the first real parades start rolling on February 11 this year, with Krewe de Vieux and Krewdelusion in the Marigny and Bywater.
So - costumes. I am NOT a costume person; I've never enjoyed Halloween, and I have a natural reluctance to dress in a manner that calls attention to myself. But here in New Orleans, the person who doesn't wear a costume is the one who stands out. So I'm trying to ease my way into this.
I've got a few ideas that I'm working on; maybe they'll work out. But there is an inherent danger here, in a city that celebrates creativity, a little naughtiness, and a tolerance of indulgence.
Do not go shopping on Amazon.com late at night after having a couple of glasses of wine!
Somehow, I managed to buy two corsets. What a great idea, right? Made in China, they arrived yesterday. They are quite pretty and sexy, but, despite the fact that I carefully studied the size chart, they don't even remotely fit me.
I tried to cram myself into them, unlacing the laces all the way. I even managed to get the zipper on one of them to start. But the quality of the zipper is so poor that I feared to zip it further. It strained against my bulging cellulite. What if it jammed? I would have to find a scissors and cut myself out of the damned thing.
So I have had to admit defeat. Fortunately, the quality of the corsets match the price - they were about $12 each. Which should have told me something.
I think this year I'm going to dress up as a Snuffleupagus.
Monday, January 16, 2017
The twilight skies over the Mississippi River in January. This is the Mazant Street Wharf, most often inactive but this week a huge ship has been moored here, unloading.
This is just a block from my house. I can hear the faint whine, thrum and quiver of the cables running through the sheaves as the cranes unload. It goes through the night, a soundtrack.
Sunday, January 15, 2017
This seems to be a time of people passing. Here in my neighborhood, yet another loss. I did not know John Sipos, but if you read his obituary at the link, you will feel, as I do, that you wish you had.
His memorial, held at Vaughan's Lounge yesterday, drew a huge crowd of friends and family that spilled out into the street, danced and sang, and marched around the block.
Big Chief Honey Bannister of the Creole Wild West led the throng, who waved white handkerchiefs through the streets of the infamous "Barmuda Triangle" in the Bywater.
There was food, drink, joy and laughter. What could be better?
Monday, January 9, 2017
Saturday it was so cold in New Orleans - 31 degrees Fahrenheit, even during the day! It was also crisp and clear, with a hard breeze blowing. It was the annual second line parade for the Social Aid and Pleasure Club Perfect Gentlemen, and the cold didn't hold them off.
I stood on the corner of Simon Bolivar and Martin Luther King, Jr. and felt the wind whipping at me. But on marched the Gentlemen!
And Ladies, dancing!
The cold of the day was belied by the warmth of the company - people were happy to be out on a joyous day.
A lady festooned with Mardi Gras beads stopped and saw me taking photos. She pulled a handful of strands over her head and handed them on to me.
Another lady was strung with feathers matching the colors of one of the marching groups. She unclipped one strand and gave it to me.
The capacity for joy and generosity of my fellow New Orleanians never fails to amaze me.
Saturday, January 7, 2017
Last night the temperature dipped down into the low 30's (Fahrenheit), and by midnight it was below freezing.
The cold and rain forced a reschedule of the St. Joan of Arc parade to this evening, but the revelry of Twelfth Night went on. Vaughan's Lounge threw its annual costume party. Costumed revelers entered for free, but if you were a costume scofflaw, you had to pay a $20 cover charge.
I wore a combination of odds and ends - a purple wig I bought last year for Mardi Gras, a mod-patterned tunic, black leggings and my witchy boots. At the last minute a friend lent me a mask, which seemed to put the finishing touch on things. I put on make-up for the first time in over a year!
Last night two people who I see almost every day totally did not recognize me. Yet at the same time, another person immediately knew me. Later I asked him how he knew me when they didn't. He said it was my voice he recognized.
Other time, I had people come up to me and say hello like we were old friends, and I did not know them.
|The band is the Storyville Stompers|
I decided it was time to go when the tie-ribbons on my mask began to relax and the thing started slipping down my face, no matter how many times I re-tied them. Also at some point my wig started getting crooked and wonky. I finally plucked the thing off my head and called it a night.
This weekend is yet more revelry, marking the season to come!
Friday, January 6, 2017
January 6th is Twelfth Night, Epiphany; the date the Three Kings supposedly visited the Holy Family and the Christ child. It is celebrated in the Catholic tradition, within which the city of New Orleans is deeply steeped.
What Twelfth Night really means here is the start of the carnival, or Mardi Gras, season. The first parade and celebratory events of the season take place on this night. There is the Joan of Arc Parade*, which celebrate the birthday of the martyred girl saint - the 6th of January being her birthday. But that tradition, begun in 2008 is much less venerable than the heralding of the arrival of Mardi Gras season by the Phunny Phorty Phellows, a costumed and masked krewe that have been riding the St. Charles streetcar on this night, a tradition of celebration that goes back to 1878.
There's also a new krewe on the block - the Société Des Champs Elysée, who ride the brand spanking new Rampart Street streetcar line in a similar fashion to the Phellows.
It's all rolling tonight, though our weather is cold and raining, with thunderstorms and wind.
One of the traditions of Twelfth Night in New Orleans is the King Cake, which is a special pastry baked to celebrate the night. Traditionally, a bean is baked into the cake. Traditionally, whoever finds the bean is crowned king or queen of the night. However, in modern times, the bean has been substituted by a plastic baby doll, and whoever finds it is supposed to buy next year's cake!
Vaughan's Lounge is throwing a Twelfth Night Party tonight, and in preparation, some of the organizers brought several boxes of King Cake into the bar this afternoon, baked by a new bakery that has just opened here in the Bywater. The cake was sliced and offered for the day-drinkers to sample.
Several years back, I purchased a Rosca de Reyes cake from a little Oaxacan bakery in Santa Monica, on the west side of Los Angeles. This cake is part of a similar tradition in the culture of southern Mexico. Surprisingly, the first slice I cut from it held the baby!
Tonight, as I ate my slice of the delicious egg-based yeast pastry filled with chantilly cream, I bit down on something solid. Guess what? It was the baby!
Guess I'll have to bring a King Cake to Vaughan's next year.
*Latest update, the Joan of Arc Parade has been rescheduled to January 7 this year due to weather.
Wednesday, December 28, 2016
Saturday, December 24, 2016
It was about 9:00 o'clock in the evening - pretty early in this socially active city. The streets were packed due to the annual yuletide Noche de los Rabanos festival. I was sitting at the bar with my three companions in a mezcaleria on Calle Cinco de Mayo. A mezcaleria is a little place where you can sample mezcal by the glass and buy it by the bottle if you like. Some places are part of restaurants, and serve cocktails like any bar, but this little place only served mezcal.
We were sitting at the bar comparing different pours, sipping the smooth smoky liquor. There was a guy from New Jersey crowding my shoulder. He was drunk, and he was checking my Jersey bonafides by asking me whether I knew which town exit number 115 was.
"Turnpike or Parkway?" I asked him.
When suddenly from outside was a loud boom, following by the unmistakable sputtering squeal of a bottle rocket going off.
The drunk paid for his bottle and, twirling a set of BMW car keys on his finger, headed out the door.
"I sure hope he's not driving," said my friend Alice.
"Oh, he's driving," said the young woman behind the bar. "Look." We watched a black BMW roll slowly down the narrow cobbled street.
The fireworks continued, increasing in frequency and proximity, and suddenly there was one going off right out in the street. We could hear music. "What's going on?" said Janet.
"It's a calendaro," said the woman behind the bar. She explained it was a private celebratory parade people give for weddings and other occasions.
A man had an apparatus set up in the middle of the street, and as we watched, he shot off another bottle rock. The sparks glowed orange in the dark, the streets here being far more poorly lit than streets in the United States. The music grew louder, and in the darkness we could see huge fantastic shapes floating toward us.
They were papier mache puppets and spinning globes, held aloft by marchers. They headed up a cortege of parading people - women in flowered and feathered headdresses and others carrying glowsticks. Behind, a brass band blared, clarinets trilled, and cymbals crashed. Crowds of spectators ran alongside.
"Hey," I realized. "It's a goddam Second Line!"
The video I took is very dark, due to the darkness of the street, but the sound of the parade rings true.
I think I like this place!