Well I meant to blog throughout Mardi Gras, but anyone who’s been here during that time knows how chaotic a time period that is, especially when it’s your first time me like it was for me. In short, it was so much fun; unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. But, I am still paying for all the drinking and lack of sleep incurred throughout that time.
I started parading a couple weeks ago, but it really go started the Wednesday before with Krewe of Nyx. They’re a new all women’s krewe, but they did their thing throwing more (pink) beads than anyone could have caught. And I managed to catch their special throw–a decorated purse! Muses was the next day and that’s really supposed to be the kick off, but they were moving SO slowly and the people next to us were catching everything while we got nothing. Between not having slept the night before (since Grad school doesn’t cancel exams for parades and I had two) and another exam that I had to prepare for the next day, we left Muses early.
Friday (or should we start with Vendredi Gras) was really the kick-off for me going to my first ball–Zulu ball. I got to dance in my first second-line and watched both Cameo and Charlie Wilson perform. I played bartender with some cotton candy martinis. It was such an experience being in a convention center with so many well-dressed people, partying and dancing and celebrating. We didn’t get home until the sun was coming up.
Samedi Gras was an unfortunately rainy day that we spent mostly inside. Despite barely sleeping, we still woke up to watch Whitney’s funeral on television and napped/watched TV all day. Despite the delay for Endymion, we still caught the last half-hour of it once the downpour quit. I had my first experience with the nutty ladder people who camp out all day long to get their perfect spot to stand on ladders and take EVERYTHING from anyone standing near their ladders. It was hilarious, but a bit pathetic watching these grown men and women get so aggressive and angry about encroaching on their spot to catch plastic beads and plush stuffed animals. At one point, one of them even pushed me off the curb to dive for some stuffed animals that had fallen in a massive puddle. *side eye*
Dimanche Gras was a bit disappointing, as the friend I was staying with lost the keys to her apartment the night before while we were partying, and her apartment complex refused to key her in. We spent literally the entire night before and most of the day trying to get someone to let her in, AND get around the massive parade traffic. To make matters worse, it was like the super sunday of parades, and the one parade route for Thoth, cut off every single side street that we could use to get home. I think it had THE longest parade route of every parade, and stupidly even took over a couple blocks of Tchoupitoulas so that we couldn’t even go around it. The worst! After spending about 4 hours in traffic we finally got back into an unlocked apartment around 4 pm, took a break, and then went to Bacchus in time to see Will Ferrell looking like the Burger King king. The best part of the night was having a bursting bladder from all the beer that was drinken and literally having to run home (about 15 blocks) with a neck full of beads carrying to more bags full of beads, just to make it home. As someone who doesn’t run and isn’t in much of running shape, I surprised myself at my ability to run the entire time with all that extra weight around my neck and still have enough breath talk to the friend that was with me. Maybe I’m not in as bad of shape as I thought; I should pick up running.
Lundi Gras was much better. We missed Krewe of Tucks to go to a friend’s party, but it was well worth it since we got to see her get proposed to by her long-time boyfriend. We then went down to the parade route for Proteus and Orpheus battling for throws while standing behind some of the tallest people I had seen yet. It’s unfortunate to be short on the parade route, ha! Monday night we spent dancing in celebration of a friend’s birthday moving from Masquerade to Bourbon street and walking in heels until we could no longer walk. Once again, we got home when the sun was coming up.
Mardi Gras was the best. We only got a two hour nap before we had to be up for Zulu, but we were so excited to be able to finally put on the costumes we had bought a couple weeks ago. I had on my sequined bras, yellow tights and purple tutu, while a friend of mine was letting me borrow her carnival headdress. We met up with another friend in the Marigny, which is such a cute neighborhood. Everyone in the neighborhood is super hype about mardi gras and they’re such a cohesive community, where one of her neighbors cooked breakfast for everyone down the street (which by the was SO good). We then walked forever to try and get to Lee Circle. Before we could get there, the friend we were with ran into a good friend in front of Gallier hall who actually got us passes to watch the parade from the Gallier Hall stands. Such an awesome opportunity to have such a great view of the parade (one, someone my height could otherwise not get).
We watched a few floats pass by until we decided to get down and try and catch up to the parade at a later part of the route so that we could actually catch the throws, which we couldn’t get so far up in the stands. We hightailed it across the city–speed walking–and walked through the projects. We actually managed to catch up to the parade in the “hood” at the exact float where we had left off at Gallier hall. We walked up a little further to meet the Walking Warriors where the friend I was with knew people. We got our first coconuts. We spent the rest of the day in that area watching the parade, which was so much longer than I expected it to.
I caught TEN coconuts. At a certain point I got sick of getting them and actually stopped chasing them and starting giving them away. It got really hot that day so I ended up taking off little sweater that I had covering my sequined top. This may contributed to my receiving so many coconuts, almost all from men, but hey, I was dressed for carnival. I started asking for other throws (the big oversized beads, umbrellas, etc) but they kept handing me coconuts. When the firetruck finally passed, we walked back to the Marigny, stopped for some red beans and rice and fried chicken, and finally got to sit down around 4 pm after the all-day affair. I spent the rest of the afternoon sitting on a friend’s porch meeting her great neighbors, watching the costumed people go home, and eating more food. The best part: I FINALLY got my big beads, courtesy of a kind neighbor who gifted them to me.
This whole season was an unreal experience. I consumed more alcohol than I meant to, but with a few good additions of cotton candy vodka and king cake vodka (superb!). I got to hang out with people I don’t ordinarily see or spend time with. I also met new and very interesting people on the parade route, including a restaurant owner and an urban planner who works for food justice, and got a few business cards (which, I need to remember to follow up with, lol). And despite the few snarky people who snatched beads and throws out of my hand or blocked me out range, there were many more who were generous and sharing–who when they caught a pile of good beads would pass them out to people around them, or who when you admired the really pretty ones around their neck, would take them off and give them to you.
There was such a great energy about the whole period. And a few friends made the experience even more special, giving me the opportunity to enter into spaces that young people/newcomers/people not from New Orleans, wouldn’t typically have for lack of connections. I got to go to Zulu ball, was offered a ticket to Orpheus’s ball that I ended up not taking, watched the parade from a stand near Gallier Hall, and then THE stand in front of Gallier Hall.
When people say Mardi Gras is better than Christmas, they weren’t kidding. This year I got a taste –got to see what it was about. I can’t wait until next year when I’m much more prepared to go in!