Friday, February 22, 2008

How much snow do YOU have?

I’ve become a porch-sitting, mother-taunting, NOLA-flaunting pain in the ass. It’s true. Just ask my mother.

I’m sitting on my porch wondering where I am. In all seriousness, I know exactly where I am, but my senses are still slightly skewed. February in New Orleans feels like June in Pennsylvania.

Our weather over the past few days (I’m obsessed with weather) has included forecasts for rain, hail, tornados, etc. The one thing it hasn’t been? Cold.

I called my mother again today, knowing that she was snowed in, having never made it to work and never even leaving the house.

She hates me. But in a good, jealous, motherly type of way. She loves New Orleans almost as much as I do. (I say almost because I get to throw in the additional argument that I was already forced to evacuate once and came back.)

She wants to move here too. She wants to get away from the cold, hard north to come down here and embrace the culture of creativity. With my writing, I inherited a tiny part of my mother’s creativity. She can do so much more.

So I’m sitting on my porch, working on my second glass of wine and watching a gecko cavort on the bare bush next to my apartment, leaping from bush to tree and back again, and listening to the jolly strains coming from the ice cream truck. Can you imagine? Ice cream in February? People passing by see me perched with laptop and glass of wine, shoeless and comfortable, and they say hello. They ask how I am.

I have many days when I suffer the pangs of regret over the things and the people I gave up to come here, to come back and feel this way. Today is one of those precious days, those rare days, when I have no pangs. When I am guilt-free. When I am teary-eyed but in the best way to be teary-eyed…not from sorrow, but from joy.

And I wish today would never end.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Bruised, but satisfied

Mardi Gras evening...February 5

And now it’s quiet, at least Uptown. I’m exhausted after going to 29 or so parades in a week and a half and have decided to forego the madness of the Quarter. I’ve done my celebrating. My tally of injuries: one set of beads between the eyes during Krewe du Vieux; one dozen to the face during Morpheus; one bag of a dozen large white beads to the face during Endymion; and one large set to the face today, leaving me slightly swollen and exacerbating the sinus infection I’m currently suffering.

And every one was worth it.

Now NOLA and I can hunker down and snuggle together in our own post-Mardi Gras bliss, exhausted, bruised, but completely satisfied.

She is not without her scars, though. While my own Mardi Gras season was a study in perfection, the same wasn’t so true for others. Several parades were marred by violence, shootings, and death, accidental and otherwise. New Orleans has once again taken a beating, but in the end she’s still standing, and I think she always will because she has people, like me, who love her dearly.

Tomorrow she make look a little different, a little dirtier around the edges, a little run down, a little tired, but in the end just as beautiful.

Best catch of the season…

Mardi Gras...February 5

Trucks, trucks, and more trucks. The truck parades roll immediately after Rex finishes its slow journey down St. Charles.

The truck parades are just that…trucks. Not floats pulled by tractors, not marching bands, not marching groups. Just trucks, dedicated only to throwing stuff to people like me. Two truck parades follow Rex—Elks Orleanians and Crescent City. There were about 93 trucks in the first parade and 50-some in the second. I lost count.

The trucks are decorated too, but not with the same detail as krewes who have the help of professionals like Blaine Kern. But in the end, just as much thought and love go into the truck floats.

The truck parade loot collection started out a little slow for me but soon picked up as I found a good spot.

There is a danger with all the objects flying around during Mardi Gras, and it takes a special kind of ability to pay attention to more than one thing at a time in order to avoid injury.

I don’t have that ability.

One strategy for getting goodies from float-riders is eye contact. You make eye contact with someone, put your arms out, and beg, then move on to the next rider. Unfortunately for me, you also have to pay attention to what the other riders are doing.

My short attention span and tunnel vision got me a big set of beads right in the face. Did I mention I have a sinus infection? My face was already in incredible pain before getting hit. It was almost unbearable afterward.

I considered going home and skipping the second truck parade. I really did. But I powered through it and, shortly after the second parade started, got what I consider my best catch of the season.

Now, others may pine for those Zulu coconuts or for Muses’ Rubik’s cube beads or for Rex’s Beouf Gras stuffed cows, but for a girl who’s Web site is voodoorue, whose blog is voodoorue, who’s MySpace is voodoorue, and who’s e-mail is voodoorue, getting a cheesy voodoo doll gave me a spectacular thrill. It was too perfect, like it was planned just for me, a gift from the loa, and I still consider that my best catch of the season.

I don’t even care that it still has the “Made in China” sticker on it.

The Loot (combined): 175 beads, 1 plastic drinking cup with a shoulder strap, 1 stuffed MG mini-soccer ball, 1 MG flying disc, 1 stuffed spider, 1 alligator squeaky toy, 1 little plastic football, 1 fake rose, 1 snake-shaped whistle, 1 plastic lei, 1 mini compact mirror, 1 voodoo doll

Rex rocks...

Mardi Gras...February 5

After the madness of Zulu this morning, this afternoon turned into a perfect day. Perhaps one of my best days ever. Rex rolled at 10 a.m., making it down my way sometime after 11. My friend Nichole, the chef, brought out a couple chairs and we parked ourselves right next to the parade route, drinks in hand.

There were, as usual, delays along the parade route. A flirty soldier stopped by to chat, pulling a couple strands of beads from his pocket for us, then stopped back later to tell us the delays were caused by a problem with one of Zulu’s double-decker floats.

It was another long wait, but we were comfortable and had delicious libations to cheer us. It was the only parade I took a drink to. The temperature was about 75 (in February!…the Yankee in me is still astounded), and I was appropriately slathered in SPF 50.

When each float rolled by, we leaped up with everyone else, screaming “Happy Mardi Gras!” and “Throw me something!” When I got tired, I sat down, letting the kids rush the floats, put my hands up into the air and let the loot come to me. Those riders on the second level love to throw shit, and I made a perfect target. I had a drink and a bag of beads, the krewe was fabulous, the floats amazing, and the bands awesome.

I was in such a good mood that when I saw a tiny little boy who had been thus far unsuccessful in scoring a stuffed cow, I gave him one of mine. Imagine that…the kid-hater forking over her stuffed cow to a kid.

But don’t get the wrong idea about me. I soon got three more, and I’m keeping those for my greedy self.

In all, I don’t think anything about this afternoon could have gotten any better.

It was a perfect day.

The Loot: 46 beads, 3 stuffed cows, 7 plastic cups, 1 flying disc that says “Rex supports rebuilding New Orleans”

Me too.

I’m taking my coconut and going home…

The one thing I hate worse than kids getting between me and my beads is drunk douchebags who are more than willing to toss you under a float if it means they’re going to get one of Zulu’s coveted coconuts.

I arrived early and planted myself at the front of the crowd. Unlike my more residential area of St. Charles from which I’ve watched most of the parades, Zulu turned onto St. Charles at Jackson, closer to bars like Igor’s. Everyone near me was shit-faced by 8 a.m. The crown was 7 or 8 people deep at times, and each time a float or rider with a coconut went by, the crown surged forward, pushing everyone into the float. Several times I feared that my face would get mashed into the side of the floats, and I wouldn’t want to ruin those great floats by getting my blood all over them.

Being short leaves me at a disadvantage. I put my hands up every time, and everyone around me would just put theirs over mine. I managed to catch two sets of beads. Then, the people next to me were turned around conversing when a rider on a passing float tossed a coconut, which landed squarely in my hands.

I left early. It’s the only parade at which I didn’t enjoy myself, and that’s by no means Zulu’s fault. Like all the parades, Zulu is unique and beautiful, and perhaps I should have just walked until I found a better location. But I was tired and have walked more than I care to think about in the last week and a half.

So, to the crowds at Jackson and St. Charles…fuck you. I got my coconut, but I’ll be damned if I’ll let you sacrifice me to the coconut gods so that you can get yours.

I’m taking my coconut and going home.

The Loot: 2 beads and 1 coconut

Where were you, Harry?

Orpheus is another of those grand, indescribable spectacles. Like Endymion, this parade is huge—with 30 floats—and at one point features a train of connected floats. It really does look just like a train, and I’m still wondering how they turn corners with that.

My only disappointment was not seeing Harry Connick Jr., one of the founders of the Orpheus krewe. You see, Harry’s hot.

Perhaps I missed him, or perhaps he had other obligations and couldn’t find the time to ride in the parade that day, but he was sorely missed.

I stayed up late on Lundi Gras, exhausted but too wired to sleep and ready to rock Zulu at 8 a.m. on Fat Tuesday. It felt like Christmas Eve…the anticipation, the excitement. And I’d already gotten more gifts than I could have possibly imagined.

The Loot: 37 beads, 1 stuffed Siberian huskie, 1 stuffed ducky, 4 plastic cups, and 1 beer coozie

Arthur Hardy…you’re my god

Lundi Gras…February 4

Arthur Hardy, I have no idea who you are, but I couldn’t have accomplished nearly as much this season with my Arthur Hardy’s Mardi Gras Guide. In fact, I bought two when I misplaced the first one. I later found it under a pile of laundry on my couch.

Yeah, the laundry piled up for the entire MG season.

The MG guide contains maps, histories, and schedules for all the Mardi Gras parades. The trick to using the guide, however, is to actually open it up and look at it, which I failed to do the night of Proteus and Orpheus. So accustomed was I to the parades starting at 5:45 and getting down to my area an hour later that I never looked to see when Proteus started. It was 5:15. I’d missed half of it. It was the only parade for which I showed up late.

I’m so ashamed.

Still, I thoroughly enjoyed the second half of Proteus, which was another fabulous parade. It was a great night overall, though by my estimation my loot collection was half what it should have been.

I hate being late. I’m sorry, Proteus. It won’t happen again. I promise.

The Loot: 12 beads, 1 jelly light-up seahorse, 1 stuffed something that looks like a cross between a voodoo doll, Frankenstein’s monster, and Dracula. I’m not really sure what it is.

From the Hulkster’s sweaty palms to mine…

Bacchus rolled on Sunday evening. After spending most of the day outside at four other parades, I was exhausted, dehydrated, famished, and ready for more.

A girl asked if she could sit by me on the curb, and we struck up a conversation. I mentioned that I hadn’t had anything to drink all day and was looking for a vendor selling water.

It turns out she lived across the street and offered me her last beer. She came back from her apartment with my beer in a plastic Mardi Gras cup from some previous parade. It was even a Purple Haze…my favorite…and I think it was the most delicious beer I had ever tasted.

It turns out this was her first Mardi Gras too, and like me she had been to every parade and was a self-proclaimed bead whore. She moved to New Orleans to work as a chef, and had done just that, finding work at the world-famous Commander’s Palace.

It’s good to have someone to pass the time with while waiting for the parades to start. Once the parade rolled down toward us, we started our bead quest.

Bacchus’s special guest rider this year was Hulk Hogan, who was flexing and looking somewhat inebriated as his float passed. He flexed his “24-inch pythons” (are they still that big, Hulk?) and chucked a handful of doubloons off the float. Madness ensued, but in the end I wound up with one of the doubloons bearing the Hulkster’s cheesy visage.

Bacchus was yet another example of a spectacular parade, though I think I still enjoyed Endymion more. I caught a stuffed crawfish wearing a chef’s hat, which I gave to my new friend, the chef. She did, after all, sacrifice her last Purple Haze to a poor, dehydrated bead whore on St. Charles Avenue.

I think Mardi Gras brings out the spirit of giving in people. I gave up the bracelet given to me to a woman from New York. She was thrilled, and I was happy to make someone else happy.

That’s the spirit of Mardi Gras.

The Loot: 83 beads, 2 plastic cups, 1 stuffed baseball, 6 doubloons (including the Hulk’s), 1 jester hat (a gift from the chef in exchange for the crawfish)

Super Sunday...

Sunday was another beautiful day. While waiting for the parades to start, I struck up a conversation with the woman next to me who was wearing a NY Giants shirt. She was visiting from NY, and it was her first Mardi Gras too. She was thrilled because they had just gone to see the Manning home, childhood home of New Orleans’ own football dynasty. It was Super Bowl Sunday, after all.

She liked my Mardi Gras bracelet. I gave it to her. That’s what Mardi Gras is about sometimes. I’m not particularly a Giants fan, but I hate the Patriots (not as much as I hate the Cowboys, but still…), so for her sake and my dad’s, I’m glad the Giants won the Super Bowl.

Overall, I think Mid-City was the most memorable parade of the afternoon for me, their floats being spectacular creations wrapped in colored foils. Well, maybe not wrapped in, but I really don’t know how else to describe it. Definitely eye-catching.

Babylon, rescheduled from Thursday night, rolled on Sunday as well. That’s five parades in one day, for those of you who are counting (Bacchus will be covered in my next blog). I spent about 12 hours that day on St. Charles Avenue, going home only briefly before Bacchus to eat and use my own facilities.

I'm considering changing my address to "The corner of 4th and St. Charles," since I've spent more time there in the past few weeks than I have in my own apartment.

The Loot:

Okeanos: 12 beads
Babylon: 7 beads, 5 plastic cups, 4 doubloons
Mid-City: 18 beads, 1 plastic cup, I super-bouncy ball, 1 doubloon
Toth: 7 beads (including 1 LSU Tigers medallion and 1 big ceramic bodice medallion that says “Divine Protector of Endangers Pleasures); 6 doubloons; 1 kazoo; 1 stuffed bear; 1 stuffed crab; 1 purple, green, and gold garter

Have you noticed that the more beads I get, the more details I recall about the parades? Hmmm…I guess I really am a bead whore. My memories can be bought and sold for little more than cheap plastic items.

Eat your heart out, Macy’s.

Endymion…Saturday night, February 2

Growing up in the north and being a lifelong parade fanatic, I spent every Thanksgiving morning for most of my life watching Macy’s annual Thanksgiving Day parade on television. The first year I moved to New York City, I stayed for the parade. I met my friends in Penn Station and secured a decent spot along the parade route. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and was appropriately impressed.

Endymion makes Macy’s parade look like a ghetto welfare parade. Sorry, Macy’s, but Endymion is everything a parade should be, and more. I had a better time at this parade than at any other, despite being abandoned by my friends, who were tired of walking and tired of waiting. I can’t say that I blame them, but I’m such a bead whore that I refused to give up.

I crammed myself up against the barricade at Canal and South Rampart and waited amid the throngs of other impatient onlookers. Seeing a parade on Canal is a completely different feel from the family-oriented Uptown location from which I watched most others. It’s madness, but still fun.

Endymion is considered a super-krewe, the largest krewe in the history of Mardi Gras. The floats were huge, lighted affairs--with several connected together to create super-floats--loaded with revelers who seemed to enjoy tossing the loot almost as much as the parade-goers enjoyed catching it.

I didn’t expect a great collection of loot. The route was packed and there was lots of competition. I like to be prepared, however, so I stuffed a plastic bag in my pocket and waited.

I should have brought more bags. The beads were flying like mad, and by the time I was done, my bag was bursting at the seams, and my body was covered in the beads I couldn’t fit in the bag.

I started walking behind the parade toward St. Charles, laden with my tearing bag of gleaming plastic goodies. Fortunately, somewhere along the route I came across a bag tossed from one of the floats…a Mardi Gras-themed bag that holds the riders’ beads until they empty it and chuck it overboard.

I got lucky with that find. I wound up walking all the way home with my bag, which was so heavy I had to keep switching hands because I kept losing the feeling in my arms.

My feet hurt, my arms hurt, and I was too exhausted to walk down the street to the bar that’s only four doors away for a drink. But I wasn’t too tired to count up my loot and sit staring in quiet wonder at the fabulous pile for the next hour or so.

Endymion also has, in my opinion, the best medallion beads: purple, green, and gold ovals bearing a fleur-de-lis.

I think Mardi Gras has spoiled me for parades forever. I can’t imagine watching a parade where no one throws anything. I can’t imagine a parade without beads. I can’t imagine watching Macy’s parade again. I can only imagine that every other parade for the rest of my life will pale in comparison and leave me wanting more.

And you know that this bead whore is always going to want more.

The Loot: 124 (woohoo!) beads, 2 cups, 2 doubloons, 1 stuffed flower

Give my regards to Iris…

Saturday afternoon, February 2

Iris and Tucks

Saturday morning the weather was improving and the streets were even more crowded. Rolling first on Saturday was Iris, and all-female krewe whose theme was “Give My Regards to Broadway.”

The show tune addict in me went nuts. I loved this parade, which featured floats of The Lion King, Oklahoma, Cats, and many more. I’m a huge theater fan, and after six years living in New York City have seen my share of musicals. I love them all. (Well, most of them.) And it’s something that I miss down here, so it warmed my heart to see tributes to them on display.

Hats off to Iris.

Following Iris was Tucks, celebrating their 40th anniversary. Tucks has some…let’s just say interesting throws. The special Celebrity Grand Marshall was supposed to be Christopher Meloni of Law and Order SVU, and I was disappointed when I didn’t see him. Perhaps he was hiding.

I did see special guest star Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca in the original Star Wars films. His car was surrounded by a contingent of storm troopers on foot, and the occasional bounty hunter. (I’m pretty sure I saw Boba Fett.)

Tucks gets my award for most functional float…the one with the outhouse on it. Brilliant. Funny and functional, and considering all the beer I saw being imbibed by marchers (dressed as birthday cakes), they needed that outhouse.

The Loot:

Iris: 67 beads, 4 plastic cups
Tucks: 49 beads (let me tell you, those little cone-shaped ones are a bitch to untangle); 1 plastic cup; 1 doubloon; 1 purple, green, and gold mini-toilet plunger (I told you they had interesting throws); and 1 stuffed toilet plunger

I want to be a Muse!

Muses, the only all-female krewe that parades at night, rolled on Friday night, after being postponed by bad weather. Fabulous, brightly lit floats were separated by marching groups with names like the “Camel Toes Steppers.” It was clever, fun, and I want to be one when I grow up.

Who am I kidding? I’m never going to grow up.

Muses is also know for their shoe-themed floats and unique throws. My catches included a Muses glitter powder puff (which I used to glitter myself up for Endymion the following night, and beads with a miniature Rubik’s cube and shoe-shaped lip gloss. (I must admit, I haven’t yet figured out how to open the shoe to get to the lip gloss. Maybe it’s just a case of being smarter than the shoe, in which case I’m shit outta luck.)

I’ve spoken with many people who claim that Muses is their favorite parade of Mardi Gras season, and though I have another personal favorite, I’m completely enamored of Muses’ creativity and wit, not to mention the fun they were clearly having. Despite being rescheduled and very late, the crowd was impressive. Muses rolled last on Friday night, and by the time the parade was over, it was after midnight, though the hour did nothing to diminish the enthusiasm of adults and children.

It seemed at one point as if the parade had ended, but no one left. After about a half hour, the parade continued. I can only guess that Muses, like so many others, had suffered a breakdown of one of the floats, a common occurrence as the floats get larger and more detailed.

But that’s okay. No one minded the wait. Everyone has been waiting for a year, and I’m sure some, like me, have been waiting their entire lives for this. I don’t suppose a half hour is going to kill me.

The Loot: 16 beads (including the coveted Rubik’s cube beads and 2 shoe-shaped lip gloss beads, 1 shoe bracelet, 1 glitter powder puff, 1 light-up heart necklace, 2 cups

It's all a blur...

Friday, February 1

Hermes, D’Etat, Morpheus

Friday evening was a little chilly, but that didn’t keep anyone away from the parade route. Hermes, whose theme was “The Garden of Earthly Delights” was followed by the ever-popular Krewe D’Etat. (That segue is another way of saying I don’t remember much about Hermes. That’s terrible, isn’t it?)

D’Etat is another funny, satirical offering on the Mardi Gras buffet, a skeleton-themed assortment of characters and some of the most sought-after throws of the Mardi Gras season, like a stuffed high-priest doll.

No, I didn’t get one. I pouted for a while, but I got over it.

Third on the line-up for Friday night was Morpheus. With Morpheus came my second injury of the season, after catching a dozen beads with my face. What can I say? It’s a talent. Morpheus’s theme this year was “Crescent City Dreams.”

I have a lot of those these days.

The final parade of Friday evening was the rescheduled Muses, but they get their own blog entry.

So there.

The Loot:

Hermes: 39 beads, 1 plastic cup, 3 doubloons
D’Etat: 13 beads, 1 blinky skull necklace, 1 jelly blinky skeleton necklace, 2 plastic cups, and 1 wooden doubloon
Morpheus: 53 beads, 2 plastic cups, 2 doubloons, and 1 bruised face

Mother Nature: 1, Mardi Gras 0

Thursday, January 31

Thursday brought rain and cold, and while the weather was not quite as bad as it was the first night of Uptown parades, it was soggy enough to make Babylon, Chaos, and Muses choose NOT to go the same route as the waterlogged Oshun. I would have stood out anyway. Then again, I probably needed the rest.

Bless me, father, for I have sinned. Perhaps I need a spanking?

Wednesday, January 30

Ancient Druids and Pygmalion

Hmmmm…well, they’re not really priests, but the all-male krewe of Druids parades wearing priest-like robes, and of course masks. They looked like Friar Tuck meets Michael Myers from the Halloween movies.

Creepy, but cool, and kind of sexy.

Druids was followed by the rescheduled Pygmalion, a 16-float procession that had postponed its scheduled post-Oshun parade and rolled instead on the much drier Wednesday night.

Included in the interesting catches from Pygmalion was a large plastic cigar that would have made Monica Lewinsky proud.

The Loot:

Druids: 53 beads, 2 plastic cups, 1 navy football, and 1 super-bouncy ball.

Pygmalion: 16 beads, 5 doubloons, 1 large plastic cigar, 1 glow stick

Hazy shades of purple, green, and gold…

Because I’m a procrastinator and wait so long to do things, like blogging, my memories grow hazy and distant. In hindsight, I should have carried a notebook and wrote about each individual parade immediately after.

Because I’m a procrastinator AND a slacker, I didn’t, relying instead on my memory.

Clearly, the old noggin’ ain’t what it used to be.

Now it seems that Mardi Gras was all one long parade that lasted for days and days, each individual one blending into the next, creating a different shade within the same picture.

It’s a shame that my own laziness (coupled with exhaustion) has rendered me unable to recall every detail of each parade and do it justice, but I just can’t. Mardi Gras seems like ages ago, though it was just a few weeks. I’m already planning for next year and trying to decide how I’m going to use my beads to decorate my new apartment.

I’ll do my best to pay homage to each and every parade, but I make no promises.