When you’re born and raised in New Orleans, you love Mardi Gras. You appreciate Mardi Gras. You anxiously anticipate its arrival each year. But sometimes you just don’t make it to every parade anymore.
My family and I had a great last few days. Until this weekend, things like dance classes, talent shows, homework assignments, unseasonably cold weather snaps and torrential downpours (usually only situated within the city’s six month hurricane season) kept us away from the festivities. But, since we’ll be flying to Disney tomorrow for my kids to participate in a behind-the-scenes program there, we decided we needed to make the most of our Mardi Gras weekend before we left.
There were three days of great parades available to us, only two of which didn’t involve excessive rain. Friday night, we joined friends who along with many others in their circle had rented an apartment for the entirety of the season on St. Charles Avenue, the main drag of nearly every major parade in the city. It’s crazy really. It’s an apartment occupied the other eleven months of the year by, no doubt, a Tulane or Loyola student. It’s modest – one “great” room (a term used very loosely), one bedroom, a kitchenette and a bathroom. And the individuals that rent them for the year know full well that they’ll pay twice the annual rent unless they’re willing to vacate (and, by that, I mean 100% of their belongings) the premises for the month of Mardi Gras. The apartment owners are then able to rent the space out that one month for as much as they’re getting for the other eleven. Usually to a group of families willing to split the high cost for the beauty of having the storage area each night for the many ladders, ice chests, chairs, throws and other assorted crap we all find a must for our parade set-ups. Oh, and let’s not forget the invaluable asset of a bathroom located only steps away from your viewing area on the avenue. These days, I think people would pay that high one-month-rental price for that perk alone.
Every year, I find myself paying a buck-a-pee at various restaurants all over the city or, better yet, befriending people along the route who so kindly offer up their bathrooms only after they’ve determined I’m not a serial killer. (One of these days I’m going to live up to that urban legend and pay the high price of one of my kidneys for peeing in a stranger’s bathroom.)
Anyway, we had a great time Friday, horning in on the well-executed plans of our friends. We’re not part of their Carnival Commune but have certainly considered joining it from year to year. A case of beer and lots of snacks were our ticket in this year. And we all had a blast as we watched one (Krewe of Hermes) … two (Krewe of D’Etat) … three (Krewe of Morpheus) parades pass us by, loading my kids up with beads, stuffed animals (because we SO need more in my house) and all kinds of light-up “jewelry” which has become a coveted staple at these nighttime parades.
By the time we got home, it was just after midnight. And both of my kids (even my son who feels admitting to fatigue is a sign of weakness) begged to go to bed. Dave & I were more than happy to oblige. We all slept like the dead that night.
Saturday was easy. Not easy to decide. But easy as far as parade endurance. The weather was horrid. And, after going back and forth about it for literally hours, we decided to let our kids simply enjoy their rainy day playdates and forego the parade that day. It – was – a – mess. My most sincere apologies to our good friends who throw an incredible party for this parade (Krewe of Endymion) every year. We’ll be there next year. And Dave will make his homemade king cake. Man, was it good.
Yesterday was a beautiful day. With the excessive rain behind us, the sun was out and the weather was actually a little cold. Of course, the grounds were still a soggy mess so a very wise choice was made by me to wear my knee length rubber boots as there were times my entire foot was fully submerged in the swampy muck. I felt sorry for my other family members who were all in sneakers. But there’s always next year, right?
It took us forever to find a parking spot but we finally did … in a little church lot for $20 about 10 or 12 blocks from where we were headed. Par for the course for Mardi Gras I explained to my somewhat whiny kids. “The walk is half the fun!” I lied. It’s only a half-lie really. I honestly don’t mind the walk. You get in a lot of great people-watching when you walk the parade route. I saw a 300-pound woman dancing in a purple wig, tube top, tutu and roller skates to Sir Mix-A-Lot on my way there. And she’s one in a million this time of year. “Drink it in, kids. This is YOUR city.”
We found our spot and joined our friends who’d been out there since 5am to reserve their space on the neutral ground. (That’s what the median is called around here. The term goes back more than a century literally meaning the ‘neutral ground’ in the middle of the street where two different ethnic groups could meet in peace.)
We caught the Krewe of Thoth and, after a short break to eat and regroup a bit, Krewe of Bacchus, one of the biggest Carnival organizations in the city. This year, the parade’s king (referred to simply as Bacchus 2012) was funny man, Will Ferrell. He’s in town filming a movie (with Zack Galifianakis … and I spelled that name without looking it up … Go, me!) and has been busy doing everything from visiting the local Children’s Hospital to emceeing at the New Orleans Hornets Basketball game. From what I’ve seen, he’s having a ball and it looks like New Orleans has welcomed him with bit, fat, easy open arms. That doesn’t always happens with some of the Grand Marshals of years gone by.
Click here see a clip of New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu introducing Ferrell and toasting him as Bacchus XLIV.
My family had a wonderful time. My daughter and I each only got smacked once with beads. We caught lots of stuffed animals and footballs, so both kids were happy. We had more than enough food and drink. And I introduced my boy to the art of public urination.
Don’t judge me. He’s a boy. My girl used a ‘proper potty’ every time. And, if it makes you feel any better, I explained to him that his days of this convenient method are numbered … as it’s a punishable offense when he’s grown. I honestly don’t think he had another drink for the rest of the night. Poor kid.
And now, completely exhausted and totally behind in our planning, we need to get organized for Disney. As we are leaving … ugh … tomorrow morning. I’ll try to check in again soon from “The Happiest Place on Earth.’