Tuesday, February 28, 2017
It was 6:30 in the morning, I was exhausted after a late night of revelry. But suddenly the sound of beating drums broke through my sleep. At first I thought it was the garbage men, but this wasn't their pick-up day.
Then I heard brass band music. Good Lord, I thought, who's practicing this early?
But something made me jump out of bed, throw a jacket on over my pajamas, grab my camera, and look out the front door.
There on Chartres Street, a few costumed people were assembled, and they were looking with anticipation downriver. The sound of the brass band got louder. I ran down to the corner. "What is it?" I asked a young woman there.
"It's Eris," she said. Then she looked me over. "You might as well come with, Looks like you got everything you need."
Named after the Greek Goddess of Discord, the Krewe of Eris is a renegade parade. In one 2011 neighborhood rag article, it was described as a "permit-disdaining anarchic foot parade....an explosion of beautiful costuming and craftsmanship that runs wild through downtown, clogging streets in boisterous celebration of unrule."
It was a wild, raucous, rag-tag bunch. The smell of marijuana was strong in the air. Costumes were made of rags and bits and tree branches and palmetto fronds. Paraders balanced on the bullwarks, crowded the verge of the levee. Some young men clambered up the side of the train cars and danced on top of them, waving flags.
I tagged along for three blocks. Then came to my senses. It was not yet 7:00 am, I was in my pajamas, without a cent of money. They turned the corner of Pauline and Royal Streets, and I stood on the corner, watching them go.
As I stood there, a young woman came up to me and pressed something into my palm. It was a tiny sharks tooth. Then another woman came and did the same - this time it was a small round acorn. "Water is life," she said to me.
As I watched them go, another resident stood outside his house. "I just got up to pee," he said in amazement.
"A bunch of crusties and stoners," said another guy on the street.
"I'm going back to bed," I said, and I did.
NOW - there is a follow up to this story. I did go back to bed, and when I woke up, about two hours later, I decided to go out for breakfast. I headed uptown to the Marigny, and at Press Street, where the train tracks split the Marigny neighborhood from the Bywater, there was a train on the tracks. While stopped there, I could see the blue lights of police motorcycles, and I could also see young men scaling the train cars, going up and over them.
I waited for about 15 minutes and then did what every Bywater resident has learned to do - go around. I illegally backed up half a block and then headed toward St. Claude Avenue, to cross it and go up to Claiborne Avenue, which arches over the tracks. But to no avail.
St. Claude was jam-packed - the train stoppage had halted a convoy of floats destined for uptown and parades later that day.
Just another example of living in New Orleans at carnival time.