Streetcar: Iris, Endymion and the Rain
Only one person was standing at Gallier Hall when the Iris parade rolled by on the Saturday before Mardi Gras last year. The man would get drenched, first with the rain that was playing havoc with the day and then with beads from the grateful riders who had no one else to whom to throw.
Except for on Mardi Gras, there’s no time when foul weather does more damage than on the Saturday before. By then St. Charles Avenue is bulging with new arrivals who have joined the locals for the final weekend. The greatest damage, though, is to folks in Mid-City, because Endymion is all that is left in their part of town. Churches and schools base their annual budgets from concession sales on Endymion Saturday. Adventurers camp out along the Orleans Avenue neutral ground the night before; residents stock their homes with food and beer. Uptown and downtown, rain creates a carnival of crises.
Scheduled first to parade along the St. Charles route was the Krewe of Tucks, which started early, moved fast and dodged most of the downfall. Next was Iris’ turn. Its leadership decided to try to outrun the weather, too.
Meanwhile a big ugly gray canopy had moved over the city from the west. Worse yet – the wind was having its way with whatever wasn’t nailed down. The Endymion groupies began to scatter, and it was just as well, for soon the word spread that the parade would not roll, at least not on that route, but rather tagged behind Bacchus the next night, along St. Charles Avenue. Canal Street had lost its one parade.
What to do with all those platters of finger sandwiches and orders of fried chicken? At my house we had an impromptu party for those who still made the trek. For entertainment we passed out copies of an amateurish drawing of a float frame. With crayons hastily purchased from the dollar store, guests were invited to design their own floats. Some were creative, others less so, but the same could be said about floats in real parades. By around 4 that afternoon the rain had done its damage, when from down the block we heard a pickup band sloshing along the damp toward Canal Street where Endymion would have been, had it been.
Waterlogged Iris, having hurried along its Uptown route, made the word “float” seem ironic. With its audience scattered, the women riders would remember the lone man at Gallier Hall who watched, waved and defended himself from the barrage of beads. Nowhere in the City Charter was that man, Mayor Mitch Landrieu, required to give comfort to rain-drenched krewes, but the ladies on board might have at least felt some sort of official recognition of their courage.
Though his reign isn’t by divine right, what poured from the heavens had made the mayor king of that day.