And I don’t have my costume ready yet!
After the city-wide 5 day party, Ash Wednesday is the designated hangover day. The Carnival switch is officially turned to “off”. Nothing moves, including me. I did put my costuming stuff away, careful to leave the St. Patrick’s Day stuff on top. Glitter gets everywhere. I spent the evening cataloging photos. This morning I made it back to the pool for a short week of recovery swimming before more tattooing next week. Making the leap into color this time, and only one more session before I head back north.
This was a great carnival season for me, with lots of new experiences and lots left to explore. I put together a different costume for each day of the weekend, including a lot of work on the home-improved King Tut for Mardi Gras Day. I took advantage of the spirit of Carnival and ate some excellent crawfish, po-boys, red beans, and muffaletta, and had probably too many good cocktails and some bad ones. I saw some great music, on the street from some great marching bands and fun brass bands, and in the clubs from the Wild Magnolias and John Papa Gros with Big Chief Monk Boudreaux.
I love the smaller neighborhood parades, and our little neighborhood is flooded with maskers a couple of times during the weekend. Touro Street is a great place to be for the Queen Anne’s parade-not too crowded or wild, but a short block away from the crazy. It is good to have a refuge when your neighborhood bars turn from quiet corners to party central. I walked Bourbon a couple of times, including a few hours on a balcony for a private party, and early in the evening on Mardi Gras itself.
I never did make it Uptown to the parade route on St. Charles, not getting farther than the Mayor’s reviewing stand at Gallier Hall at Lafayette Square, but did see parts of a few of the big parades. I didn’t re-connect with the Krewe of Kosmic Debris or the Krewe of Yes, both informal krewes with some degree of organization that we marched with last year, but not enough to actually get parade permits or police escorts or have websites or such. There is always next year.
On Friday evening, Chris had wristbands to the official mayor’s reviewing stand for Hermès and Morpheus. I wore a black and gold glittery tux jacket with a bowler hat in honor of the mayor. His daughter, Jen, and a friend were in town, and we went across the Quarter in a cab. We went into the reviewing stand, and were seated right behind the dignitaries. A judge was in the box directly in front of us and he and his crew were dressed in the blue blazer, tan slacks and tie uniform of the off-duty attorney, but were completely shot faced, barely verbal. They were kind about the throws, passing some of the beads and other stuff back into the less advantageous seats. The high school and small college marching bands are a highlight of the big parades as well as the flambeaux marchers.
We stayed about an hour, and then Chris and I walked the Quarter back towards Frenchmen Street. We stopped for oysters at the bar at the Redfish Grill, and then split up. I walked the crowd on Bourbon, a little overwhelmed by the sheer mass of partying people, and we met back at Harry’s Corner to regroup. I went to dba to see the Wild Magnolias, a Mardi Gras Indian group chanting through the Mardi Gras classics. It was a fun show, and they were out in their blue suits.
Saturday was a slow starter after the late night show at dba. I made a quick grocery run and then I took a short walk through the Quarter, with a stop at Harry’s Corner. The bartenders were in superhero costume, probably appropriate on this weekend as they were working heroically everywhere I went. I stopped at the Hole in the Wall, and took some street pictures. A college girl in full beads and feathers asked me to take some photos of her, and Mz. Tina had to get in the act. Working it every day!
I went to the mask market and purchased a quality leather mask. The mask market is on the uptown side of the French market the weekend before Mardi Gras, and there are a couple of dozen artisans selling homemade masks. Some of the feather creations are costumes in themselves, and I saw several of them out and about later in the weekend. The rain and wind picked up and I ducked into Mollie’s for a couple of beers, massaging my mask like a baseball glove to break it in. I walked next door to Turtle Bay and they were cooking crawfish.
My friend Susie gave me an invitation to a balcony party on Bourbon Street. I had not been on a balcony on Bourbon during Mardi Gras, so I had to do it once. The costume for the evening was all black with a pirate hat including a black and gold feather. A solid base for a more elaborate costume later!
The party was sponsored by Yuengling Brewery, and they provided throws and beer as well as the space, the upstairs of the Maison on Bourbon. There were some fun people on the balcony, and some boorish thirty something ex-frat boys. The religious weirdos had posted up on the corner under the balcony carrying large crosses and haranguing the crowd with their “the end is near” message. I almost converted, they were so convincing. The frat boys started throwing beads at the cross bearers, feeding their sense of righteousness, and then the Christians started throwing things back, hard, at the folks on the balcony and challenging them to fight. Turn the other cheek and all that apparently doesn’t apply if you are preaching the word to the sinners. The state police were out in a group of about a dozen on the corner protecting the zealots, but not correcting the threats. They did break up a slap fight between two girls dressed in skirts and body paint, but I think they were picking and choosing who they wanted to interact with. It is hard to blame them, as the experience was overwhelming. The whole scene was a bit weird, even for Mardi Gras, and a bit of a downer. It was time to go. One of those supposedly fun things to do that you should do at least once.
Sunday started out still in summer temperatures, in the 80s. Cecile had invited me to go Uptown to a party on the parade route and then to stage for the big parades at her parent’s fancy condo on St. Charles. I made my way over to Touro, but the house was dead and there were sleeping people all over the living room. I went for coffee and came back, and folks were up and moving, but not ready for an afternoon out after a four in the morning bedtime the night before. I went with the more subtle Uptown costume, playing Johnny Depp playing Hunter S. Thompson, with tropical slacks, a bright Hawaiian shirt, a panama fedora, and dark glasses.
Around 3 in the afternoon, it just started to pour rain. I waited out the storm at Tujague’s, having a sazerac and an old-fashioned. After the rain passed in the company of groups of wet tourists, I took a break before going out to see John Papa Gros playing with Big Chief Monk Boudreaux at dba. Monk Boudreaux is 77 years old, and one of the first Indians to be recorded as a musician with Dr. John, John Papa Gros’ mentor. The highlight of the show was Monk calling Indian Red with John Papa Gros backing him.
Lundi Gras, Monday of the week, was the day that the Red Beans parade rolled through our neighborhood. The costumes are made from beans glued or sewn into creative costumes. this year’s was a little somber because two members of the krewe had been killed by a drunk driver the day before. It was hard to tell they weren’t partying hard by they got to Buffa’s, my neighborhood bar. After the parade, I ran over to Frank’s to buy a muffaletta for my contribution to the buffet on Tuesday.
In the evening, I met up with Jen and her friend and we went to the reviewing stand to see Orpheus. My costume was a jester hat, a tie dye shirt, mask, and glitter tuxedo jacket. It was a little less formal, but more fun as Mardi Gras approached.
We got to see a few of the big floats, and the rain started again driving a lot of people away from the stands. I experienced being showered with beads, too many to catch. I held my arms up and beads just strung themselves on my arms. It was too cold to stay for long, so we walked back across the quarter, this time doing the pub crawl from the Chart Room to Harry’s Corner to Manolito and back to Touro Street. A nice relatively mellow way to prepare for the big day.
Mardi Gras came early. I got dressed in my full King Tut outfit, with the addition of fleece underneath, as it was about 40 degrees. I planned to try to intercept the Krewe of Kosmic Debris on Frenchmen, or to walk with The Society of Queen Anne, both informal walking krewes, in the morning and then head back to Touro Street to hang out with Cecile and Chris and the rest of the neighborhood.
I headed towards Frenchmen a little before 9, fully decked out, and saw a large crowd gathered in front of the R Bar, all in costume and enjoying the day. I went to dba, the rendezvous spot for Kosmic Debris, but they had not arrived and the street was full of costumed people headed towards the R Bar and the Quarter. I went back to the R Bar where they were charging $10 for a Bloody Mary, and decided to change plans. I hung around there for a while, not recognizing my friends in their homemade costumes, and being photographed a lot. I ran home, gathered food and liquor, and made for Touro Street.
The Queen Anne parade rolls on Royal, just a couple of doors up from Cecile’s, and she keeps an open house going all day. Ellen across the street also throws a party, and people migrate back and forth. Parade goers walk up and down the street, and another neighbor is the founder of the Krewe of Confetti, which consists of half a dozen confetti cannons they use to greet the parade by shooting off every half hour or so in a brief ceremony. The street is absolutely packed with people from Royal Sushi to the R Bar, and the parade rolls right through the crowd with bands and dancers and small human powered floats. It seemed to be a long parade, or perhaps just slow.
It was sunny in the front yard of Cecile’s house, and I stood out front talking to the people passing by. I ended up serving as the de facto doorman, with dozens of people asking politely and offering money to use the bathroom. As they say, “Ain’t no place to pee on Mardi Gras Day”. I didn’t take money, and Cecile was graciously allowing folks into her house. I was gifted with a black leather flogger by a woman wearing no shirt who was extremely grateful to use plumbing. I didn’t refuse it or pursue it, and she she ambled off down the street, hopefully for home.
Cecile, Chris and I took a walk down Bourbon late in the afternoon because I had never done it and they had not done it in years. It was a crowded fun mess, with everyone dressed up or undressed and having a good time. The rabid religious folks seemed to be taking a break when we walked, which was a nice change from earlier in the weekend. We ended up dancing briefly in a couple of clubs and heading back to Touro Street. The parading had mellowed out at dark, but people were still walking up and down in costume.
A great Mardi Gras!