New Orleans - Mardi Gras
Have been in NO since last Saturday. Have an assignment for some client headshots in the city and came a couple of days early to see and experience Mardi Gras. V who is with me and who will be assisting me and acting as makeup person on the shoot has never been to NO before but I have visited on a number of work-related occasions in the past, the last time about 6 years ago, shortly before my retirement.
I remember NO from my various visits going back to the early '80s, as living up to its reputation as a pretty wild place, a port city with all that implies, bars and clubs that never closed and sidewalk stands where you could buy any drink you wanted as long as it was alcoholic, to keep you company as you walked. Some very good restaurants, old southern money and culture, very interesting and well-preserved neighbourhoods of old plantation houses and side by side with all this, fabulous music and gin mills right out of a sailor's worst nightmares.
Today is Mardi Gras, fat Tuesday, and the destination toward which all the previous festivities have been leading. When we arrived on Saturday at noon the streets around our hotel on Canal Street had already been blocked off for the day's parades and our taxi had to drop us off about 5 blocks from our hotel. We hauled our bags and photo equip through the crowds lining the sidewalk to our hotel and then set out to explore. The first parade of the day had just arrived at Canal Street and we quickly got caught up in the mood of the crowd.
For those of you who have never been here for MG there are, as we came to understand, a number of Krews representing various sections of the city or sectors of industry or society. Each Krew has a name and a patron persona usually taken from Greek or Egyptian mythology and the krews sole purpose for having been founded and for continuing to exist seems to be to party and parade with MG being the party highlight of their year . These parades begin, in some cases, in early January because the calendar is so full with Krews wanting to schedule their parades. As the days draw closer to today, MG the ultimate day, the Krews whose parades are scheduled now are increasingly the more well-known, wealthy and influential. Today there are two parades put on by the two most well-known krews, the first parade beginning at 8 am and the second parade will finish about midnight and then it will be all over for another year.
It's a non-stop party, the sidewalk counters and take-out windows selling drinks are ready to go as early as anyone wants to order a drink and massive hangovers are launched whose foundations are being built before the rest of us have had breakfast. Surprisingly, the crowds are, for the most part, very well-behaved and generous. One of the features of the festival is the continual rain of bead necklaces, in their thousands, that are thrown to the crowds from the floats and these beads are coloured with the MG colours, purple gold and green, or with the colours and insignia of the patron persona of the particular krew. There is intense competition to catch as many of these necklaces as possible and people can be seen in the crowds and walking the streets with massive quantities of these necklaces strung around their neck, a field day for chiropractors in the days and weeks following MG. V has had numerous people offer to share some of their necklaces with her if she missed a throw that was caught by someone else and everyone is very relaxed about making room at the front for others to see better.
While there are large numbers of college-aged kids in the crowds, in fact the universities and schools are all closed during this period, the crowds are a very mixed lot from families with kids in strollers to seniors in wheelchairs and every age, race and condition all co-mingled, virtually everyone chatty and pleasant even though all the requirements for alcohol-fuelled incidents are everywhere around.
Each krew holds a ball and parties on the evening of their parade and last night one of the day's parade's krew held their ball in our hotel. It was scheduled to begin at 10:30 and the lobby was filled with men in white tie and tails and their partners in elegant gowns. Since the parade didn't finish until close to midnight, the party really only started then and went on until, who knows...