Now it’s time for my ugly confession.
I spent my first several-to-many years in New Orleans just hating the hell out of some Mardi Gras.
I know, I know! I am a big fat stinking joykill. I am an uptight loser. I don’t know what’s good. In sum, I suck.
I have just never been one for crowds, or noise, or drinking in uncontrolled environments. And if you had to roll up the event in a little nutshell, well… yeah. I am also a sore loser and a pout, which combines poorly with the fact that I am a bead repeller. On the rare occasion that I *would* venture to a parade and get into the “throw me somethin’ mister” spirit, everyone in my proximity would be pelted with beads and medallions and moon pies, and I’d leave with one little pitiful broken strand of something ugly.
(Incidentally, it’s great to go to a parade with me if you’re really into catching throws. And who isn’t?! When you’re standing next to me fate guarantees that you will catch about twice as much as anyone else in the crowd. Zulu coconut? Yours, all yours.)
OK, but none of that is an excuse for being a griping lameass, right? And of course as time went on I realized that much of the problem sprung from my neuroses. Sure, Nola is crazy during the season. But flipping out about it doesn’t actually help in the slightest. It in fact makes things significantly worse, and also makes people inch slowly away from you in coffee shops. Like most other inevitable things, it is far better to simply accept it on its own terms, and then try to have some fun with it if you can.
Now, given what I’ve told you you’ll enjoy this: one year for Mardi Gras I was living in the Lower Garden District, half a block off of Prytania. And indeed, I went and saw some of the Uptown parades that year. It was either that or not leave my apartment at all that day, and even I am not that much of a curmudgeon. I definitely went to Zulu... the person standing next to me got a coconut.
For the last few years that I lived in the city I lived in Lakeview, and thus Endymion became my favorite parade. I discovered that I could actually have fun going to the starting point up by the park, where I could wander around and get a good look at the floats. The Orleans Avenue events just have something special to them. You know what I’m talking about.
OK. Fastforward. I’ve been up in NYC for a bit over four years. In 2008, when Endymion returned to the Midtown route, I cried – literally, at work, I sat there with tears of joy and nostalgia and hope and I don’t even know what all else streaming down my face. Last year it didn’t faze me so much; I think I was caught up in work and didn’t even know what else was going on.
And then we get up to this week. What am I doing? Junking out on Nola.com’s ParadeCam, planning on trying to bake a vegan king cake as soon as I can get rid of this godforsaken headache, and wishing like hell that I had flown down this Friday instead of going next Friday like I’m going to. I want to be there! I want to have cheap beer spilled on me by the pudgy thirty-something dad with the four-year-old on his shoulders who’s kicked me a few times! I want to only catch three strands of crappy beads! I want to see the guy next to me get a coconut!!
And oh sweet jesus, I just remembered about the cups. I WANT ME SOME DAMN PLASTIC CUPS.
Instead, I have a handpainted purple, green and gold cat mask from Italy. Hey, at least it’s something. Ten years ago I would have decried it as tacky and awful. Today I say: it’s tacky and awful, and I love it so.
Happy Lundi Gras everyone. If you’re in New Orleans, I hope you’re having a ball.