I woke up and walked down to Envie to be greeted by a line out the door, with the baristas work at their max. I waited the line out and found a good spot at the bar, watching the people inside and out of the bar. There is a jazz festival going on across the street, which was kicked off by a brass band leading a second line through the Quarter, marching past my perch twice.
I walked through the Quarter, moving through some big crowds up around Jackson Square to the Rouse’s and ran into two other small second lines and Doreen Ketchens playing in front of the store. I bought a loaf of bread and walked it back through in the warm afternoon, dodging cruise ship tourists and panhandlers while admiring the artists and musicians playing in the street, trying not to crush the po-boy loaf. Not everyone takes their lunch for a walk.
I stopped at Harry’s Corner, and watched the end of the first half and beginning of the second of a good Premier League match. A group of golfers from Texas, quite a combination, came in and complained that they were playing a non-American sport on TV and the bartender switched to a golf tournament. It wasn’t my crowd anyway. Mollie’s is a soccer bar, so I headed that way to watch the rest of the game.
Mollie’s was a little fuller than usual at this time of day, and there was a woman in a sequined flapper dress standing at the table closest to the door, but there was a seat at the bar and the game was on the TV at the back of the bar with a dj playing music. I ordered a Guinness and the bar started to fill up with people dressed entirely in sequins and glitter. I felt a little underdressed, in black head to toe in the afternoon, matched only by the dj, proving the New Orleans aphorism that you can’t overdress in the city.
There is a burlesque competition in town, and I thought the dancers had come out to play as part of the festivities. A group got their swag bags full of sample size glitter makeup and hair accessories, and stood next to me applying their makeup. One was a beautiful man dressed in sequin hot pants and suspenders and nothing else except for glitter and a sequined hat, and another was one of the Pelicans basketball dancers, who put her makeup bag on my po-boy loaf and stood touching me as she glittered up but not otherwise acknowledging my existence. The back room opened up, and this small group moved on to the back.
I asked the woman at the front table about the event, and she said it was the pre-party for the Sequin Second Line, to kick off around two, or whenever the band made its way through the traffic. Somehow I never got the invitation. Two drag queens showed up, and the bar began to fill up with all sorts of people dressed in sequins, wigs, and glitter. A woman, clearly a cruise ship tourist, stood next to me and said she had been told at the French Market that this was a quiet place to get a drink, and asked with wide eyes if New Orleans was like this every day. I was kind, and told her “only during Carnival.” She seemed relieved, and I didn’t tell her that Carnival lasted most of the winter.
As the bar filled up, the crowd changed from professional dancers and entertainers to the Uptown crowd (derided by the Touro Street Irregulars who escaped from there) who were dressed like the professionals, with short skirts, skimpy outfits, sequined go-go boots, and extravagantly styled hair or wigs. This is what sorority life prepares you for, I suppose. One of the drag queens, who I have seen around town a couple of times, put on a longish set of four dances, which is probably enough for one day. A little drag goes a long way. I waited around, hoping to see the second line take off, but had my fill of Guinness and didn’t want to compete for the one-holer with the drag queens dressing, so wandered before the party hit the streets.
I saw later in the paper that half a dozen of the Mardi Gras balls were that evening, but I had not walked towards the big hotels where most of them were held. These balls are invitation only, and people in the krewes dress formally to a theme, meaning a particular color or accessories, but not in costume. It is still a fun people watching opportunity. There will be more and more as the season goes on, with the first big, and fun, parades like Chewbacchus and Krewe d’Vieue the first weekend of February.
A front came through, and the temperatures dropped from the 70s to the 40s in an hour. Still nothing to complain about, but the couple of weeks of perfect weather were enjoyable.