Mardi Gras 2007 in the bag

Man, do I love Mardi Gras. We always have a grand time. This year added a special twist since it’s our first year in the new house just 1.5 blocks off of the St. Charles parade route. Needless to say, we had guests galore. Our house is really set up for entertaining and we did so in a big way.

Last week we watched American Experience: New Orleans on PBS and the narrator asked the rhetorical question: “What do New Orleanians do when tragedy strikes and the city is on its knees…. they throw a party.” This was followed with a little exposition on the brilliantly satirical Krewe du Vieux and this gem of a quote from Tom Piazza:

One of the main things that you learn from New Orleans is how to participate in life as it unfolds. You learn to embrace the fact that you can’t control everything in advance. We have just a little while to stay here, and if we are lucky enough to make it to the table again for one more meal then that fact needs to be celebrated and fully experienced and lived to the hilt. (H/T Maitri who took the time to copy the quote down right from the documentary)

This really captures the essence of New Orleans and Mardi Gras which is such a fundamental part of life here. Tom’s quote encapsulates one of the major differences between New Orleans and the American protestant/puritan tradition and goes a long way to explain why a lot of people really don’t understand us and why some even seem to hate this city from afar.

Mardi Gras is the essence of that idea. Pictures, video, and blog posts can’t come anywhere near capturing Mardi Gras; it must be experienced. And it probably needs to be experienced multiple times to really feel what it means.

So we lived it up the past couple of weeks and celebrated with friends and family. Many people who only have an outside view of Mardi Gras can’t imagine kids being here but it is, of course, a wonderfully kid friendly experience. A friend of ours visiting from Jackson compares it to tailgating before a football game. I’ve always likened it a bit to the period between Thanksgiving through Christmas. Mardi Gras is a whole season with its own music, foods, traditions, and events with family and friends.

We cranked up Thursday night for Muses and Chaos. My mom came out and I had a colleague in town from Canada on a brief contract gig. I specifically got him in to town so he could experience a taste of Mardi Gras. At one point he said “This is a different world man!” He also commented on the contrast of the cerebral satirical floats with the pure silly bliss of leaping for plastic trinkets. He also asked if it was common for people from New Orleans to stay in New Orleans. He was getting a sense of how deep the traditions run. It’s always fun to see Mardi Gras through new eyes.

Friday started to really pick things up for us. We had two families from Jackson, MS come to stay with us. John and Stacey housed us during our Katrina exile so we were excited to have them over for a party. Friday night was cold, but I’ve never had a better spot for Krewe D’Etat. We were able to get our hands on the newspapers they handed out and see the floats better with such light crowds.

Saturday was Tucks and Endymion. We cooked all day long and the weather warmed up a good bit during the day. We met some neighbors who saved our parade spot for us which was really, really nice. Somehow, Jennifer and I managed to stay awake long enough to clean up after all the kids and parents went to sleep.

John and Stacey stayed for Bacchus for the first time ever. John said it was the best parade he had ever seen. We’re hoping we can get them one year to stay all the way through Fat Tuesday to experience it all from end to end. So that left Jennifer and I alone on Lundi Gras. Proteus was quite pretty though stingy as ever with the throws. We watched a bit of Orpheus and bailed to eat at Zea on St Charles about halfway through. It was nice watching the parade through the restaurant windows.

Mardi Gras day we awoke to the sounds of music and cooking. I cooked a little breakfast and we walked to St Charles to see a bit of Zulu. We then quickly made up our costume and walked to the Quarter. We followed what is now our established tradition of eating at Mona Lisa on Royal on Mardi Gras day. We were then privileged enough to take everything in from our friend Jimbo’s Royal Street balcony. This is the way to experience Mardi Gras in the Quarter!

Our favorite costume, hands down, was towel guy. (and apparently, we weren’t the only ones who thought so). I laughed so hard I cried. It wasn’t the costume so much as the way he sold it. It’s one of those things you had to see in person to understand. We stayed on Jimbo’s balcony far longer than we’d ever stayed in the Quarter on Mardi Gras and walked back home for a much needed rest!

Note: I’ve linked to pictures throughout the post. The front page for Mardi Gras 2007 pics is here.

Scott Harney

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