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Published: February 15th 2010
My favorite color is purple, so Grace obliged my whim with a purple wig.
Three Holidays in One
Sunday, February 14th was a big day for us. While Valentine's Day is celebrated in America and much of the free world, in New Orleans we're in the thick of Mardi Gras as well. If that wasn't enough, Grace was celebrating Chinese New Year and we're ready for a very auspicious times for the year of the Tiger.
Valentine's Day comes every year and this is probably the only year we'll celebrate Mardi Gras, so we stayed more with the Mardi Gras scene yesterday. We went to Thoth Krewes parade and got stuck in traffic for over an hour going all the way across the crescent of New Orleans as shown in the map.
We stopped and watched the parade and then went to Audubon park and enjoyed an afternoon watching ducks, geese, cranes and other birds like Charles used to. We wandered around Magazine Street for a while before we got stuck in traffic again as the Bacchus Krewe was getting ready to roll.
We were walking to Liz and Brian's house and walked along the road where the floats were staged. The sun was setting and I took some great pictures
Mobile RV Police Station
New Orleans is serious about policing the city and like to arrest people. Here's one of the many RVs involved in Mardi Gras.
of the floats as they waited for the parade. We met some locals and had some drinks with them while the Krewes were having a drink of their own. Before the parade rolled, one of the locals took Grace up to some of the floats to get some beads. Usually they don't hand out beads then, but Grace and the locals pleaded that Grace had come all the way from China to see the parade. So could you spare me some beads mista?
It worked and Grace got some choice beads. We already have pounds of normal beads, so it was nice to get a good sampling of the high quality beads that they try and reserve for friends and special occasions on the parade route. Grace qualified as a special occasion and got many of the Krewe beads and emblems that are challenging to get and possibly worth some money some day.
As the floats approach, it's fun to watch the amount of contraband that is thrown out at the crowd. Similar to how a sinking ship throws everything overboard as fast as possible, many of the throwers get carried away and throw
This local drove from the suburbs into a parking lot for Mardi Gras.
beads, strings of beads, clumps of beads and bags of beads with abandon. I took a picture of a bag of beads to show you how large they can be. These flying projectiles can knock you right off your feet.
There is a sadistic relationship between the bead throwers and the bead collectors. The gusto of the bead throwers is legendary and if they actually know someone in the crowd, they'll point at them and teams of throwers will pummel the acquaintance. A guy was standing right next to me who knew someone on a float and several throwers began throwing large bags of beads at him faster than he could catch them. They threw them hard and fast and since most of the throwers had been drinking, their aim wasn't very good and they'd hit many people.
I've been getting extra attention with my fishing net, bead catcher and it usually works well at catching the beads as they're thrown out. I'd stick my face in the net and call out for beads. One strand would fly my way and the beads were successfully caught. This was fine and dandy until a Drew Brees's wannabe decided to
This chicken roaster was easy to turn and cooked the chicken beautifully.
throw a bag of beads right through the hole. His aim was good and the bag nailed me right in the mouth and knocked me back like a solid punch. My lips were bleeding from being smashed against my teeth and my teeth hurt for the next two days.
I'm not taking the bead catcher anymore since I have about 40 lbs of beads and trinkets now. We stuff a full, plastic grocery bag full of them about every parade.
I've seen many people get hit with beads. From older ladies to little kids, the beads have slammed them in the head, face and chest with regularity. You have to be on the lookout for flying beads, trinkets and otehr contraband. Of couse you've heard about the boobs for beads trade, but that isn't how it works in the Garden District of Nawlins. It is rather family oriented there with many excited kids gathering beads, spears, footballs and everything else that falls from floats in incredible abundance. I haven't seen a boob in several days now since I left the French Quarter.
While we've been watching most of the parades from the
Mardi Gras Pig
This BBQed pig was steaming hot - and probably delicious.
Garden District, Grace and I ventured out into the edge of the French Quarter to see how it works in that part of the city last Saturday. We went to Lee's Circle which is in a warehouse district of New Orleans. Many parking lots had been converted into impromptu RV parks and I took some pictures of those with their BBQs. For 4 nights of stay, they could camp out on the parade routes for $125/parking spot. With an RV taking about 6-8 spots, they could stay right on the parade route for less than a grand and sleep 4 to 8 people. That's not bad when you consider the location.
When the parades were closer to starting, we decided to go back to Lee Circle because we saw lots of open space. We went into one area and a college-aged kid approached me and said that they'd been there since the morning and that we couldn't be there. They had 45 friends coming and we weren't invited. It seemed a waste of space, but we moved on.
We went to the next open spot and they had even more open space. So when the guy came up
Impromptu RV Park
This parking lot was converted into an RV park for Mardi Gras.
to me and said he had 30 friends coming, Grace asked if we could stay until they came. He said no and so I asked what gives him the right to save this space. Negotiations broke down from there and soon he was saying, "Do you REALLY want to do this?" as if he was going to take me out of the game. He was rather short but had a overly developed chest and shoulders like a wrestler, so he could have taken me out at the knees. I hadn't been wrestling anything but my keyboard or a yoga mat for a while, so it probably wouldn't have been a good fight.
I held my ground though and he got on the phone and started calling his friends. His 5 friends who were already there started talking shit, so Grace and I decided to move along and have a good time instead. We found a decent spot a couple hundred yards away, but the scene had left a bad taste in my mouth. We went home before the parade was finished, but we'd already gathered our grocery bag full of beads.
The materialism of the parade is rather
This tractor stalled on the corner and couldn't pull the float afterwards. The tractor kept spinning its tires until we pushed the float.
astonishing and I was surprised how quickly we got in a turf war. Were the beads and positioning worth that much? We decided no and went back to the garden district and enjoyed the parades the next day without getting into fights.
If you go to the downtown areas during Mardi Gras, you have to watch out where you go and go early to mark your territory. I prefer the Garden District where it's much easier to steal beads away from kids. My height advantage works in my favor as well.
PS. My brother Eric is coming into town with his girlfriend Carina. They're bringing costumes, so we'll be heading into the French Quarter for some revelry. I'll keep you posted.
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