This year marks my fifth Mardi Gras since my successful post-Katrina return to New Orleans, following my initial unsuccessful two-month pre-K migration south. This year, however, instead of standing idly on the sidelines (or neutral ground, as the case may be) letting my inner bead whore take over, I have popped my participation cherry and joined a krewe.
Skinz n Bonez — born in 2011 as the lovechild of Mardi Claw, the Queen herself — is New Orleans’ only female bone gang and rolls in support of the Mardi Gras Indians and with an eye toward furthering the culture of New Orleans’ secondline traditions. The Bonez are accompanied by Soul Sweepers, a skeletal band of escorts whose purpose is to sweep the souls out of our way and to provide security for the krewe. Rolling with the Bonez as well are Darryl “Dancing Man 504” Young and Wildman John of the Wild Tchoupitoulas Mardi Gras Indians.
My debut with the Bonez occurred this past Saturday, in the oft-overlooked krewedelusion parade, which rolls through the Marigny and French Quarter immediately after Krewe du Vieux. While delusion is only in its third year, KdV has been rolling through the Quarter for 20 years. While smaller, delusion is no less clever or enthusiastic, and I fully expect that with as much time it will be one of the hottest parades in New Orleans.
We began with a pre-party at “the den,” a warehouse space reserved for float-building and throw-making. We stuffed our faces, touched up skellie makeup, noshed on Jello shots (LOTS of them), and prepared to roll.
We lined up along Franklin Street in the Marigny and waited impatiently for KdV to roll by. I’m not sure about the rest of krewes in the the parade, but us Bonez were at maximum enthusiasm during the wait. Even before the parade had begun to roll I was already sporting a bruise on one hand and several blisters on the other from my vigorous tambourine-playing. Thank goodness one of our Soul Sweepers was armed with some skeleton-themed duct tape, which managed to cover the blisters.
The parade itself rolled quickly, with a few delays along the way. I recall passing all my friends at Miss Pat’s annual KdV party near the beginning of the route, and after that the faces became a blur as we frolicked and drummed and chanted our way through the Quarter...led by our Queen and our Dancing Man and our Indian. Our parade, unlike KdV, even took a lap down Bourbon Street, by far the busiest street in the Quarter.
The parade ended on St. Claude Avenue and morphed into the delusion “ball”: a party occurring at all four bars on the corner of Marigny and St. Claude. I think most of the Bonez milled about in the Hi Ho Lounge, which is, after all, our home base.
I consider my first Mardi Gras parade to be a smashing success. I am thrilled to have found such a fantastic and fun group of people to be around for my first Mardi Gras experience. But now that the first parade is over, it’s time to get serious about the next, much longer route we have in store for us on February 19, when Skinz n Bonez rolls with Okeanos, one of the large krewes. It’s a six-mile route, and I have some doubt as to my own ability, and the willingness of my knees and feet, to make that march. But I will do it, and though I may not be able to walk for a week afterward, I will lay in bed in agony and with complete satisfaction knowing that I am now a part of Mardi Gras instead of just a spectator.