Jan 23, 201309:43 AM
Dispatches from a New Orleans Newcomer
Stories from a First Parade
My view for Krewe du Vieux.
After writing so much about the Carnival season, I was ready to see an actual parade. Krewe du Vieux was this past weekend, and I had heard a lot about it from co-workers. I even received an invitation from a nice reader to take his ticket he was not using to ride on a float, but I turned it down to observe the parade instead. This was the first Mardi Gras (I'm still not used to calling it Carnival yet) parade I was going to get to see, so I wanted to take it all in.
Now that my first parade experience has come and gone, I've had some time to think about it. My conclusion? It didn’t go as well as I wanted it to go. But before you get mad, I’m not blaming my mixed feelings on the parade. Krewe du Vieux was full of great floats. Of course the parade was raunchy, but the themes and ideas were awesome. Even Deadspin and The New York Times were impressed with the parade’s depictions of Roger Goodell. From what I've heard and read, the parade was a success. I’m blaming my so-so parade evening on my lack of experience and my failure to follow directions.
The parade started at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, so Chris and I decided to leave our apartment around 5:30 p.m. I had been told that walking to parades is the best form of transportation, but Chris and I live near the University of New Orleans, close to Lakeview, so walking to the Marigny was not really an option. Chris and I jumped in my car and stopped to get some beverages for the parade (we ended up with Franzia which we later put in a backpack to carry to the parade), then we started driving towards the Marigny.
We wanted to watch the parade near where it started in the Marigny, so we looked for parking around there. Problem No. 1: there was no parking anywhere. We drove up and down Elysian Fields, up and down Rampart Street... There was nothing. It was dampening our spirits. "Maybe I'll just drop you off and I'll pick you up after the parade," Chris joked, even though I don't think he was actually joking. I was determined to see this parade, so I brought out my best Pollyanna attitude and urged him to keep going. "We'll find something soon! Don't worry!"
We did eventually find a parking spot on Julia Street which wasn’t a bad walk to the Quarter, so we wandered around the Quarter to find a spot to watch the parade there. Problem No. 2: this is when I should have thought to myself “Haley, don’t you think there will be a lot of tourists there? Shouldn’t you go where the locals told told you to go?” I had been told to watch this parade from the Marigny because the crowds were smaller there and I would have a better view of the floats. But after the parking frustration and the huge crowd I would have to push through to get to a new location, I was not thinking about finding the perfect spot. I was ready to pick a location and stay there.
Chris and I decided to stand against a wall on the corner of Royal and Toulouse Streets. It was on the parade route and there were a lot of people. I figured if there were a lot of people, they had to know what they were doing. Problem No. 3: this was a poor assumption. More on that later.
Once we found our spot, we took out our plastic go-cups, poured some Franzia and did some people-watching. That part of the whole experience was fantastic. There was the Frustrated German Man, we called him, who was yelling as he maneuvered his way through the crowds. There was the group of young guys pushing their way through, saying their friend was the Pope so people should make way for him. Then there were the cars trying to get through the crowds but failing, so the drivers just gave up and got out of their cars to wait for the parade.
We waited for a bit, but then I felt the crowd perk up and direct their camera phones toward the parade route. The parade was coming!
When I could hear the floats, I knew they were getting closer, but I couldn't see anything. “I can’t see,” I told Chris as the parade came closer. “Yeah, I can’t either,” he said.
I was frustrated. I couldn’t see the parade. And apparently a lot of people around me couldn’t see either. They got mad and started pushing. A girl tried to push me out of the way, pointing to her friend. “We need to get to the front. It’s her birthday.” Another girl tried to push Chris and I to the side, simply saying "I need to get to the front."
I was so irritated. This was my first Mardi Gras parade. I didn't care if it was this girl's birthday. I wanted to be in the front, too. Why could I not see? Why was it so crowded? Why was I this close to strangers? All I could see was the very top of the floats and there was no way I was going to catch any throws.
We (kind of) watched the parade go by, and I chuckled at the floats I could see. When it was all over, Chris and I were hungry, so we stopped at McDonald’s on Canal Street for some Chicken McNuggets and french fries.
When I got back to work on Monday, I told my co-workers about my parade experience, and how I couldn't see and how I wasn't as impressed by the whole evening as I thought I would be. What they said made me feel better. I should have been standing somewhere else. I should have looked for parking earlier or taken public transportation. I shouldn't base my whole impression of Mardi Gras on this one night.
For all my fellow Nola Newbies out there, take this story as a cautionary tale. Always follow the advice of people who have gone through Mardi Gras and know where to stand and how to get there. Remember that if a lot of people are in one spot to watch a parade, that does not mean it is a necessarily good spot. Keep in mind that parking sucks so try to find another form of transportation.
I am still looking forward to the parades coming up. I can't wait to see Muses, Orpheus and Rex. New Orleans is such a special place and I've heard so much about Mardi Gras, I know I will enjoy it. I'll just make sure I plan ahead for the next parade. I'll make sure I pack my patience, a positive attitude and comfortable walking shoes. As people have been telling me, "If you love New Orleans, it will love you back."