Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Alt-Mardi Gras

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.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Having fun is exhausting!

One aspect of life in New Orleans is how exhausting having fun is. This was the last weekend before Mardi Gras day on Tuesday, and during the two days of Saturday and Sunday, I managed to see five parades. I'd planned on two others but pooped out before I could drag myself any further. But in addition to the parades, I also attended an Oscar-watching party. It's simply too much!

There are some amusing and uniquely New Orleans aspects of Mardi Gras, however. I'm curious about this - why does every parade begin with a boom truck and end with a fire truck?

What of the crew that follows up after the horse riding groups?

Parade ground amenities:

Viewing ladders and chairs as people stake out their turf on the neutral ground. They say the ladders are for the kids, but as the afternoon goes on guess who takes over....

And here's a look at what folks do during those idle moments when parades stall:

Here for your enjoyment is the all-male dance crew, the 610 Stompers, at the Krewe of Thoth parade uptown:

Saturday, February 25, 2017


I had a great invitation Friday night to watch three of the big Uptown Mardi-Gras parades. My friend's party was on a balcony right at the corner of St. Charles and Canal Streets - a perfect viewing site.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Spring awakening

There are signs of spring in New Orleans, although it's easy to think we've skipped spring and gone right to summer, since in recent days the temperature has been in the high 70's.

This morning on my walk along the river, I spotted redbud trees, cercis occidentalis, in bloom.

The sun on the water was glittering, the breeze was light, and the water of the Mississippi River slapped lazily against the old wharves.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Costume madness

Serious costuming - St. Ann parade 2016
It's Mardi Gras, and everybody is talking about costumes. There are costume parties. Costume sales. The Beauty Plus store on St. Claude at Elysian Fields is crammed with shoppers.

I never really got excited over dressing up for Halloween. My mom once made me a fairy costume, complete with wings. But I felt silly in it. As a pre-teen, the most common costume for my social set was a "bum" which meant torn clothes and dark smudges on my face. Maybe a blacked-out tooth, if I got really creative.

As a teen, I was way too cool to dress up at all.

And as a young woman, I felt too self-conscious to draw attention to myself even with flashy normal attire, much less fancy dress.

I worked in a trade where the standard attire was t-shirts and jeans. I remember one year when I was desperately poor, I stretched my budget to buy a clean flannel shirt to wear to a cast party I was invited to, and thought I was dressing up.

Purple wig, gloves and a cocktail - getting there
At my recent job, my agency had a cross-departmental Halloween party, with a costume contest. The Solid Waste Division seemed to be the most creative, dressing everyone up as recycling bins and composters.

So, as I have now, in my second half-century, moved to a place where costume, fancy dress, and just plain eccentric attire is the norm, I have to get with the program.

Mardi Gras Day 2016 - still dressing down
Last year for Mardi Gras, I discovered head-wear that suited me. I have never liked to wear hats - my head is too small for most.

But fascinators - they're lightweight, fun, and don't leave you with hat-hair. So last year I made baby steps of wearing a red fascinator to Carnival.

At the Race Track
The same strategy worked for me at Halloween this year; and also at the Race Track for Thanksgiving funny-hat day.

This year, I attended the annual Twelfth Night party at Vaughans Lounge, where costumes were mandatory. A mask and a purple wig went a long way.

I have visited some of the wonderful and hidden secret costume sales that pop up all over New Orleans.
Mardi Gras bandeau - good for cold nights
Mardi Gras chapeau
I have discovered a new liking for hats.

Note to self: no more corsets
I have had a few costume mishaps.

This week, I'm putting the finishing touches on my Mardi Gras Day costume. I'm spending a lot of time with a hot glue gun.

I hope to be able to show you my results - without embarrassment.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Gone to the dogs

Yesterday was the parade of the Krewe of Barkus, rolling in the French Quarter.

It's a parade to celebrate our four-footed friends!

Some folks just couldn't take the excitement.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Krewe of Chewbacchus in the 9th Ward last night

The Krewe of Chewbacchus rolled on St. Claude Avenue in the 9th Ward last night.

This parade salutes Science Fiction and tech-geekiness, with people-powered floats 

and bands of marches, including a thousand Princess Leias - the Leijorettes.

Friday, February 17, 2017

World's luckiest dog

He's about six pounds of cute.

He's just a pup. Custody of him is shared between a six year old girl named Maya and her grandparents, Cindy and Big Chris.

His name is Olaf, if you listen to Maya, or El Chapo, if you listen to Cindy and Big Chris.

His personality is more like El Chapo - a scrappy dude with needle-like teeth and a tendency to chew your fingers.

He spends his days mostly with Big Chris, whom he adores.

Sometimes, other people get to share in the love.