Mardi Gras Your Whole Life
Carnival Through the Eyes of a Child
JANE SANDERS ILLUSTRATION
I am not the kind of person who likes to argue with strangers. I am non-confrontational to a fault and will go along to get along with just about anything. So when I say I got into a shouting match at a college party with one of my fellow students circa 2001, you have to understand that it was because every so often, even for me, there’s something worth fighting for.
In this case, it started innocently enough: an icebreaker question while waiting in line at the keg.
“So … what are you studying? Oh, journalism? You from out-of-state? New Orleans? Oh, man, that’s awesome. You go to Mardi Gras a lot?”
When I said that I’d made it back once for Mardi Gras but typically preferred Jazz Fest, just because I was sort of bored with Mardi Gras after having done it my whole life, things took a dark turn.
“What do you mean, ‘your whole life’? You went even as a little kid? To Mardi Gras? You must have had really shitty parents if they let you go to Mardi Gras as a little kid.”
I guess it was the one-two punch of insulting my parents while completely misunderstanding and misrepresenting one of the signature cultural events of my beloved hometown that got me, but I definitely lost it. The sanitized version of what I said was: “It’s only dumb tourists who don’t really get Mardi Gras who do the crazy stuff you think is synonymous with Mardi Gras. It’s actually a very family-friendly event along most of the parade routes, and it’s a ton of fun for little kids.”
Fifteen years later, I’m still sort of bored with Mardi Gras, to be honest, but because my kids love it so much, I keep doing the parades. Post-Carnival this year, I decided to sit down with my favorite 9-year-old to get her thoughts on the whole deal.
Me: What’s your favorite parade?
Ruby: Bacchus because there are lots of cups and umbrellas and other cool throws. And Zulu because my friend’s mom rides in it and always makes me a coconut with my name on it.
Me: What’s your favorite throw?
Ruby: Shoes from Muses. Last year, I caught two shoes in one night. This year, I caught one with my face – from the last rider on the last float – and it was worth it even though it really hurt.
Me: What’s your favorite King Cake?
Ruby: Just normal cinnamon King Cake from Rouses. I don’t like the filled kinds. And I think it’s dumb that you have to put the baby in yourself now because then you know where it is.
Me: What’s your favorite Mardi Gras food?
Ruby: Crawfish if it’s in season yet. If not, Popeyes: chicken tenders, mild, with mashed potatoes, a biscuit and an extra side of red beans. The red beans are the best!
Me: What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen on Mardi Gras?
Ruby: A man in nothing but his underwear. It was gross.
Me: What do you think Mardi Gras will be like when you grow up?
Ruby: I can’t predict the future. But I know I’ll take my kids.
Me: What are you looking forward to now that Mardi Gras is over?
Ruby: Crawfish season. It’s my favorite time of year – even more than Christmas.
Excerpted from Eve Crawford Peyton’s blog, Joie d’Eve, which appears each Friday on MyNewOrleans.com.