Mardi Gras time in New Orleans
Everyone knows what Mardi Gras is in New Orleans, right? Mardi Gras is drunk college coeds baring their breasts in the French Quarter while their male friends throw up in the gutter. Right? Wrong! Well yes, those things happen, but they constitute only a small part of Mardi Gras, and they have nothing to do with why our city is so determined to celebrate this year in spite of the destruction around us.
This city is full of Mardi Gras traditions and practices. Dad on the neutral ground cooking burgers on the barbecue while the kids beg float riders for beads & trinkets... Society types dressing up and showing off to each other at balls & parties...Mardi Gras Indians spending every free minute for the entire year working on the costume they'll wear for one day... Auto Mechanics and Policemen getting to be King-for-a-Day, riding down the street as the monarch of the Krewe of Mid City or Zulu while the members throw thousands of dollars worth of trinkets & baubles purchased with their own money to the crowds. All of this, and so much more, is Mardi Gras.
Those who think it's frivolous to parade and party in the midst of the Katrina catastrophe don't understand New Orleans. Mardi Gras defines New Orleans, and New Orleans without Mardi Gras isn't New Orleans at all. Mardi Gras isn't just parades and parties. It's a feeling of Community. I think my favorite year ever was the year of the infamous police strike, when all the parades were cancelled. The tourists didn't come; the college students didn't come, and New Orleanians had a great time in the French Quarter walking around in our costumes admiring each other.
So I took time from work & reconstruction today to decorate Zulu Coconuts, and I'll be out there Fat Tuesday in my grass skirt throwing beads and celebrating what it is that makes us New Orleans.
We need a break from the eternal chore of trying to reconstruct our lives. And we need to remind ourselves what New Orleans is and why we're here. We need Mardi Gras. I hope you can understand...but if you can't, it just means you don't live here.