Mardi Gras: My Personal Tour

SYNDEY BYRD PHOTOGRAPHS

Every Mardi Gras I walk from Canal Street to Frenchmen Street and then back again. That seems sane enough, except that I make the round trip, with deviations to Bourbon Street and Jackson Square, maybe four times that day. I am obsessed. I have to see it all. 


Were it not for Rex, I probably wouldn’t reach Canal Street, but I always have to pay respect to Carnival’s classiest parade. Then I head back into the French Quarter and the mystery of Marigny for more discovery. 

Memories from last year include a shout-out between cross-toting Christian fundamentalists saying that we’re all going to hell and activist Leo Watermeier yelling back “blah, blah, blah,” counter-pointing their every word. The scene, which has gone on for years now, is both amusing and maddening. All have their right to speak, but damn, it’s Mardi Gras. Couldn’t we save the guilt for Ash Wednesday? 


Skin, and the showing of it, are very much a part of the scene, and always have been since the pagan rites of springs when worshippers would frolic naked in the fields and where orgies were part of the Saturnalia’s agenda. Is someone topless if the top is painted? Not sure. That may be for the courts, or the fundamentalists, to decide. 


Even by Mardi Gras standards, every so often there’s something that hits me as being especially funny. Last year it was the tin man at an ATM. Here we have the alpha and omega of industrial technology – the tin man having to defrock to reach his debit card.




I was just about to surrender for the evening last year when something told me to take one more stroll along Chartres Street. I am glad I did. In the distance I saw the Preservation Hall Jazz Band approaching. In the foreground was the impromptu parade’s Grand Marshal, bluegrass star Del McCoury. His group and Preservation Hall’s jazz band have performed together several times, creating a real fusion of true Southern root music. I am a big fan of McCoury, who seemed to be dazed by all that he was seeing. One thing was clear: this wasn’t the Grand Ole Opry. 


I walked so much on Mardi Gras that I was awakened that night by a cramp in one leg, which quickly spread to the other so that I had two “Charlie horses” working simultaneously. For several torturous minutes I was in so much pain that all I could do was stare at the ceiling. I wondered if I was missing anything on Frenchmen Street.
 
 

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