Thursday, February 18, 2016

Mardi Gras Part I

Mardi Gras took me by surprise.  I'm not a party person, so i just assumed i'd lay low, practice my fiddle, sleep in.....mmmmmm.....

Thursday night, Muses; one of the Big parades that passes through the wealthy uptown neighborhoods.  There's a science to proper parading, involving the logistics of getting yourself through parade traffic to the parade start, and ensuring your transport home at the parade's end. I rode my bike to the parade's end on the glitzed out Canal Street and met up with John David. We took an interminable busride through the parade route traffic to the end of its abbreviated route, a mile from the parade's start.  The final mile was a treat, viewing floats, ogling dance troupes, riding on the mounting energy in the streets.  

Muses Naughty Floats

We made it to the meet up point for Bloco Seirea, the Brazilian drum and dance troupe that i'd been praticing with and began the 2 hour spree of final costume touches-face painting-whiskey to stay warm-dashes into winn dixie for /last minute supplies/pee breaks.  The winn dixie was teeming with feathered folks, sequined, shining in different colors and themed costumes.  It was like a colorful carnival caravan had exploded in the middle of your local grocery store.  

finally we got the word that it was time to fall in; we were the parade's caboose in front of the final float.  the drums kicked off and we launched into our choreography.  people screamed and cheered for us.  We were a cloud of blue, metallic shine, LED lights dancing through the streets.  our supply truck followed behind towing a flat bed truck with a beautifully decorated portapotty and coolers full of snacks and water.  we stumbled through the choreography, then grew more confident and soon we were one united block of drum and movement, ecstatically moving through the street.  For.  four.  HOURS!!!!! of solid dancing.  i took a couple of breaks, sitting on the flat bed and pretending i was a float rider, resting and eating clementines.  people smiled and waved at me, delighted at the quirkiness of riding on a portapotty float.  towards the end we got a block of free dance and the energy surged through me, of this amazing music, of the night, the people cheering us on, LIFE.  45 degrees warm we arrived, exhausted and ecstatic, at the end.  

Friday, rest day.  

Iris Float
Saturday--up early and with a plan and backpack full of supplies. biking through the quiet morning,wheels crunching on last nights beads.  bike locked at the parade's end (today:  Tucks).  a quiet and speedy busride, pre-parade, to uptown.  a bus stop stool seat as i ate my sandwich in sequined booty shorts.  Iris parade gathers, and I enjoyed being a spectator for 30 minutes cheering on the High School bands and ducking under the flying beads.  Then, heading to the parade-start for Tucks to linger with my fellow orange and blue clad dancers.  wandering to the nearby park, a staging ground for at least 10 different HS bands as they battled, breaking into their finest numbers, overlapping one another starting as one concluded.  confident, sassy girls whipping through choreography.  electric.  

High Schoolers on the March

parade kicks off; finding the motley crew of panoramblers, jazz/balkan/klezmer brass brand extraordinaire.  we kick off early in the parade, cutesy choreo in our small band of sass and sequins.  parading and prancing through the sunny day, warm.  relaxed, leisurely breaks on St. Charles.  shakin it.  a pleasant pace, people love us.  Tired and happy, we arrive back to Canal Street and the parade's finish. Seems like the right time to view an entire parade so i linger and cheer on the remaining paraders as they round the final bend; beleaguered High School marching bands, having marched 5 miles with their instruments and their pride.  accidentally catch a throw; giant rubber snake that i wind around my bike.  endless parade--another hour but i'm committed to seeing at least one of these giant spectacle parades despite my aching feet.  finally, chill sets in as evening comes on and i don my layers for the bike ride home, shining and happy.  must.  sleep.  

My fellow revelers at dawn
The Mudlark Theatre
Home; with a plan to sleep early and wake at dawn for Eris, the secret witches parade rumoured to end at The End of The World.   A live wire, I drift excitedly in an out of sleep for a few hours, and eventually awake promptly at 1am.  New outfit; layers and sparkles and flowers.  To the Mudlark Theatre, where folks are cuddled on the floor for the midnight nap time show.  Sweet Harp music and a live reading from Italo Calvino's Cosmicomics.  Around 4am, the mystically costumed creatures begin to gather in front of the theatre.  Grocery

sunrise bagpipes
 cart floats and a somber brass band fall in and we parade through the middle of the night mist and chill, down to the river, through the french quarter  where we briefly merge with the dregs of the middle of the night revelers, back to the river where we get briefly separated by a passing train, then reunite at the river front.  my group remains for the sunrise; as the orange breaks over the Mississippi, a bagpipe's keening wail floats out over the water.  home and joaquin cooks us shrimp and grits.  tired happy rest.  

post eris revelers at dawn

To be continued in next post....

Mardi Gras Part II

and...awake! Just hours later at 11am!  Rallying for Box of Wine, another secret pop up parade that steals the main uptown route briefly, in-between the giant official parades  i bike through town, weaving around tourists and skirting the parade route, spotting other secret revelers painted in gold en route, distinctly separate from the out-of-towners in their green/purple/gold hats and bead poundage weighing down their necks.  a brief biker gang, we separate again in uptown and i abandon my bike at john david's house, changing back into my sequins.  i call out to passing orange-blue bikers if they know the starting intersection for this mini-parade, and john david joins me for the stroll over through the sweetly calm and sunny afternoon.  crossing the parade route madness, I find my way over to the freaks and geeks artistic BOX OF WINE madness.  This parade paves the way for the superkrewe Bacchus by filling everyone's cup from their boxes of wine. Joyful and motely, we steal the route for a brief time with our antics and music.  People are surprised, delighted, reinvigorated for the final parade of the day on this 4 parade marathon.  

The zulu king grants a painted coconut to his fans
Monday, Lundi Gras.  a bag packed and a bike ride to the waterfront park for Zulu fest; bands, and so much soul food.  dancing by the riverboat, fried catfish, okra, peach cobblers. The Zulu King blesses his fans with the most coveted throw: gold painted coconuts.  i purchase my food (catfish poboy, okra and rice, peach cobbler), preparing for a good tuck in before the days adventures.  a towering black man in a track suit says "how you gonna eat all that food???  you'll have to roll down the street afterward!"  we chat about where we're from and his daughters.  after eating, I bike over to the marigny/bywater for the red bean parade;  a sweet and low key local scene.  Intensely creative bean based bead work outfits mingle with a mariachi band, the Treme Brass Band and  parade slowly along, stopping frequently for dance parties in the street.  

terrible shot of the flotilla before my phone died
I break off on esplanade, and head up to city park to catch the Slow Danger Brass Band flotilla parade. John David joins me and a kind boater invites us into his small watercraft. Climbing aboard he offers us brandy, a flag to wave, and endless stream of enthusiasm.  Floating down the Bayou St. John, brass band to one side, surrounded by pirate ships and fellow vessels ducking under bridges loaded with cheering dancing freaks and revelers.  At the final bridge, fireworks are lit and  a couple makes out heavily in the flotilla beside us.  

Mardi Gras Day! An early wake up call from our 9th Ward neighborhood Mardi Gras Indians as they wander the streets shouting “Wake up!!! Its Mardi Gras day!!!” We are a houseful of electric excitement, everyone outfitting, joaquin making eggs and biscuits that we all try and choke down.   I head to the bywater to St. Anne's parade; beautiful costumed people filling the streets.  A stop at Audrey's for a second breakfast of beans and rice.  People wander, parade, linger.  Noah from Noah's arc/bar offers me a bloody mary and i accept.  Later, king cake vodka and sweet chat with middle aged man from buffalo.  I find the bloco seirea mini-groups and free-form samba with those pulsing drums down the street, through the quarter.  We take a break and i get my face painted by fellow Seiriean.  We break off for food, then head up to the Treme and chase the indians where they confronting each other with ritual dance in the streets.  Finally, walking back down to the quarter for Brazilian music and floating home through the endless revelry in the streets.