Yup, it's that time of year again--we're coming up on Mardi Gras. The parades here in our little town run Saturday and Sunday, but New Orleans won't really start seriously exploding until past the weekend. The Balls have been going steady for the past month, and it's suddenly not uncommon to see big one-ton dualie trucks headed down the main drag, hauling behind them huge contraptions of wood and paint, designed with space for dozens of masqued people to stand. Heck, last night my wife was sitting in front of the horror movie we were watching, twisting up purple, gold and green hair ribbons for the dogs she'll be grooming in the next few days. And there's a noticable migration southwards, as deep into French country as people can get. The populations of Lafayette and Eunice have no doubt swollen ten-fold.
I was sitting here thinking about what I ought to write, realising that my current readership, with the possible exception of one or two strays who happen to wander thru here by accident, are all locals who grew up knowing that there was a Mardi Gras holiday from school in early February when the rest of the world was still attending on those days. We all know the green-purple-gold colour scheme, and I daresay a few of us know the French names for some of the goings-on. We've all, I'm sure, been to a few parades in our times, and have screamed "Throw me something mister!" although being a guy I'm more prone to shout a sort of drawn out "Heyyyy pretty laaaaaady!" or "Throw it like you mean it!" That seems to get their attention.
I'm certain we all have a bag full of beads somewhere in our closets, and maybe a few colourful dubloons in a drawer somewhere, and are likely using a cup or two in the cabinet for the kids or for scooping cat food. I daresay more than a few of us have been to at least one or two parades in N. O. proper, where the Krewes don't have just one float in a parade but entire parades to themselves. Heck, my brother (who btw does not read this blog) once found his little skinny white arse deep in a Krewe of Zulu parade years ago in New Orleans, and not only managed to get away with his life but also has a small handful of Zulu dubloons to show for his risk. And I know of at least one of you who attends the Krewe of Twelth Night Ball through a parental link, and one day will don her own masque and pink wig, drink mimosas (champagne and orange juice for you Yanks,) and stand on a wooden platform on wheels and fling handfulls of beads at screaming strangers.
I would bet dollars to ducats that every one of my regular readers is pronouncing it "Nawlins."
Aaah, the South. I bitch and gripe and moan a lot about the low class education levels, the sheer volume of hicks and s**tkickers, the humidity and the preponderance of swamps, bayous, mud and mosquitoes, but there are times when I am genuinely proud to say that I'm a Southern Boy. If you didn't know me I doubt seriously you could tell I'm Southern by my accent (everyone tells me I don't have one, then looks at me kind of funny, like maybe I'm a Yankee or something equally horrid) and I don't wear meshback caps or anything with an agricultural company logo on it (no "Nothing runs like a Deere" or "Dekalb" for me, thanx) but it's in me. I spent my entire school life having the Mardi Gras holiday off, knowing the what and why of "Fat Tuesday," and then being in church bright and early Wednesday morning, prompt and polished, to be marked on the forehead with palm ash.
Some things have changed since then--you won't catch me dead in a church anymore, but I still like to get into the festivities a little bit. It's not unusual to find three strands of beads (purple gold and green, of course) on my rearview mirror, and I have gone from the parade to the grocery store with enough beads hanging around my neck to be a Carnivale Mr. T, and done so proudly, and met the smiles of fellow parade-goers with my own toothy grin and laugh, and come Wednesday I'll feel just the tiniest, vaguest stirring of that good-old inborn Catholic guilt for not being in church.
I'll fo' sho' be at the parades this weekend, tho, doin' my own brand of worship--
"Throw me something, mister!"