Today is Fat Tuesday! If you have not been to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, you should put the trip on your bucket list. It is a time of camaraderie, revelry and carousal. There are weeks of parades, but the biggest parades start the Thursday before Mardi Gras. There are family areas for the parades as well as not-so-family areas. There are king cakes, costumes, and coconuts. There are beads, doubloons, and shoes.
To encapsulate the notion of Mardi Gras as nothing more than a big drunk is to take the simple and stupid way out, and I, for one, am getting tired of staying stuck on simple and stupid.
Mardi Gras is not a parade. Mardi Gras is not girls flashing on French Quarter balconies. Mardi Gras is not an alcoholic binge.
Mardi Gras is bars and restaurants changing out all the CD’s in their jukeboxes to Professor Longhair and the Neville Brothers, and it is annual front-porch crawfish boils hours before the parades so your stomach and attitude reach a state of grace, and it is returning to the same street corner, year after year, and standing next to the same people, year after year–people whose names you may or may not even know but you’ve watched their kids grow up in this public tableau and when they’re not there, you wonder: Where are those guys this year?
It is dressing your dog in a stupid costume and cheering when the marching bands go crazy and clapping and saluting the military bands when they crisply snap to.
Now that part, more than ever.
It’s mad piano professors converging on our city from all over the world and banging the 88′s until dawn and laughing at the hairy-shouldered men in dresses too tight and stalking the Indians under Claiborne overpass and thrilling the years you find them and lamenting the years you don’t and promising yourself you will next year.
It’s wearing frightful color combination in public and rolling your eyes at the guy in your office who–like clockwork, year after year–denies that he got the baby in the king cake and now someone else has to pony up the ten bucks for the next one.
Mardi Gras is the love of life. It is the harmonic convergence of our food, our music, our creativity, our eccentricity, our neighborhoods, and our joy of living. All at once.
Finally, for those of you who may be curious about the parades, I leave you with a video from the 2013 Endymion parade and a video from the 2011 Rex parade, both of which I found on YouTube. Now, Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler!
Krewe of Endymion:
Krewe of Rex: