I was in The Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus parade last Saturday (for my second year) walking with the "Party Elves of Mirkwood," of Hobbit fame. Last year, I learned a lot. This year, I learned even more – so I think next year, I'll be good. I'll be an expert.
For the 2015 parade, we had "co-pope" Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca himself) and "co-pope" Andy Richter, from Conan, who was filming for the show. The whole "pope" deal (instead of Kings and Queens) is because everything about this parade is different, and for two, it is now an official cult. Seriously, you can become a minister and everything.
Over the weekend, I had one of my best friends in town from back home in Ohio, so I had her walk in the parade with us – even though she had never seen The Hobbit, or any of the Tolkien movies for that matter. She was a trooper, and she loved it. Actually, as she was hopping in a cab this afternoon for her journey back to Ohio and the freezing weather, she kept saying over and over again "I don't want to go!"
Now that the weekend is over, the fuzziness has pretty much left my brain and the cloudiness has faded, I can actually make sense of the evening. I honestly don't have much of a concept of what time things happened. All I know is that we left when it was still light outside and we came home before the sun came back up—but I can piece things together by what street we were on. So we'll start at the beginning.
Lesseps, behind Church's Chicken and a gigantic whale named Gilliam.
The line-up was scheduled between 3 and 5 pm, so getting into our costumes early was a must. We walked down with the other members of our group, as well as other random people from the neighborhood who were participating in the sci-fi-themed parade. I couldn't help but think that if someone from out of town happened to be visiting – having no clue that Chewbacchus was happening – they'd think it would be pretty strange to see a bunch of Darth Vaders and unicorns meandering down the street, as if they were being called by some unknown force or beacon.
Everything was well-organized. We knew our number and had a member of the Red Shirt Rebellion, or parade escort. She was like our body-guard and made sure that the sub-krewe ahead of us and behind us didn't blend together with us too much. in the 5.5 years that I've lived here, the thing I've learned about Carnival season in New Orleans is that while the city can be frustrating and slow and unorganized in some ways, usually things like parades, crowd control and clean-up around Mardi Gras are a well-oiled machine. The newer krewes are still learning—I'm still learning—but somehow everything always works out.
While waiting for the parade to roll, we partook in a few pints of frozen daiquiri and then switched to the beer from our roller-cooler. The cleanest port-o-potties (which I normally despise) EVER were nearby, so using the facilities before everything started was much easier than I thought it would be.
From the year before, I learned that I didn't want to carry heavy throws down the parade route. This year, I packed a bag full of party glasses and some light-up rings. I made a few light-saber Mardi Gras beads, but lately, I haven't had time to do much of anything, not even sleep properly, so sitting down to make throws kept getting put on the back-burner. Ah well. Amazon Prime is pretty damn awesome if you need throws in a pinch.
It was fun to get a look at all the costumes and to hang out with the people walking with you. The one thing that sucks about being in the parade is that you don't actually get to watch the parade – so getting to see all the sub-krewes during line-up was nice. I told my friends that if they saw a Han Solo, Star-Lord or a good Loki, they had to let me know; I needed pics. I saw a few decent Peter Quills and I always made sure to tell them that they rocked my world. I also talked to a very convincing Drax the Destroyer Red Shirt bodyguard. He showed me my favorite throw of the whole evening: a cassette tape from Guardians of the Galaxy, a Chewbacchus "Awesome Mix-Tape". I was determined to find a way to get one by the end of the night.
At this point, the alcohol had started taking effect and everything was all very exciting and very sparkly. I noticed that there were a lot more kids in the crowd this year, which was nice to see, and a lot of them were dressed up in some form of nerd-gear. I about lost my mind over the cutest little guy, and one of my favorite costumes of the evening, dressed as Rocket from Guardians of the Galaxy. I treated this kid like a rock star. I made sure to get a selfie and a nice pic. He definitely took home some party glasses.
Going down St. Claude might have been my favorite part of the whole parade, which might be because all the liquid I had consumed hadn't caught up with me yet, and my boots weren't making my ankles bleed. That all started happening around Frenchmen. St. Claude was awesome though. I ran into so many people I knew hanging out, some I hadn't seen in a very long time … but, then it happened. The train.
The damn train on St. Claude Avenue, the bane of my existence, cut the parade in half and we were stuck behind the mile-long inconvenience for quite some time. Living in the Bywater, most of us have figured out a few tricks to maneuver around it, but I hate that train. HATE. Growing up, my dad was a train conductor (he's retired). I used to hear some stories, some very gruesome, about people who try to beat trains. It never fails that whenever that thing comes across the road, idiots are always trying to beat it, and then when it stops, pedestrians are climbing under it and through it and everything inside of me is just like OH MY GOD STOP IT JUST STOP IT.
Walking down Franklin was all fine and good, but it was then that I noticed some extremely aggressive parade-goers. Just know that if you get in my face and scream at me "I WANT KANYE GLASSES I NEEDS THEM PLEEEEEEASE", it makes me not want to give them to you.
At this point, I was starting to feel pain. I could tell that blisters were forming on my ankles and tried to ignore it, push through it. I also tried to ignore the fact that my bladder was like "WHYYYYY." I did give away my favorite throw around this time though – it was a ball of fur, a throw that my step kids had gotten last year at the Chewbacchus parade. Maybe a baby wookiee? I don't know. It basically amounted to a merkin – and if you don't know what a merkin is, I'm not about to explain it on this blog, you're just going to have to google it. Anyway, there was a guy dressed up like what I can only describe as a psychedelic stripper viking. I gave it to him. He looked confused. Me and my friend laughed about it for the rest of Decatur St.
Frenchmen was fun because it was the main drag and offered the most distraction from the increasing pain that I was trying to squash down. It was also kind of frustrating. I give mad props to the Red Shirts, because they kept the crowd controlled. There were so many people trying to crowd us, getting in our faces, and trying to demand throws. I'm not sure if this is a good strategy for some? Like, you badger someone until they give you something? But the only thing I ever gave to people who annoyed the hell out of me were broken party glasses.
The cool parts about Frenchmen were seeing an old friend of mine from childhood that just happens to live in Louisiana.I also saw a girl who was a serious Tolkien freak who acted like we were rock stars. She got some light-up Kanye glasses and a nice ring. You go, guuurl.
By Dauphine, I was over it, but only because I was pretty sure that my ankles were at this point, bleeding. I'm not sure what I was thinking. I had certainly walked around all night in this particular pair of boots, so it didn't cross my mind that they would be such a bad decision. Maybe I should have worn more comfortable shoes, but a Mirkwood elf has to wear boots. The whole last leg of that parade was me trying to walk in such a way that didn't cause searing pain with each step. I tried. I failed. Also, dragging the beer cooler, even if it was on wheels, was a gigantic pain –especially with all the potholes. Stupid potholes, I even saw a baby carriage go down.
I got rid of the last of my party glasses. I gave them to a group of kids who looked like they didn't have anything, as it was around the end, and most people had given everything away at this point. My house was nearby, so I brought my pals to take a little break and then watched the last bit of the parade. I couldn't believe how long it was and I was glad that I at least got to view some of it. Though at some points, I was confused as to what was actually going on. Maybe I'm not the best sci-fi nerd, because I think a lot of the concepts went over my head. Everything was totally amazing though. My absolute favorites were the Krewe of Groot and the Space Vikings, who really had such a beautiful set-up. Also, special shout-out to the Wyld Stallyns (Bill & Ted-themed), you guys were awesome. I mean, SOCRATES! San Dimas high school football rules!
The only regret I had at the end of the parade was that I never did get an "Awesome Mix-Tape" throw.
Back at the block around the Castillo Blanco (Chewbacchus Headquarters) on St. Claude, was the after-party. I'm not sure how I made it down there, but I had changed shoes and had switched to drinking wine, so that might have had something to do with it. My friends and I stayed for awhile, but we ended up wanting to chill at a bar where we could sit down and talk. Also, unfortunately, I don't really know all that many members of the krewe, so we jetted after awhile. For next year, I'd really like to get to know everyone better. Seriously, ever single person I've met during Chewbacchus events has been wonderful and a blast to talk to.
• Protect ankles. If wearing boots, modify so they are comfortable.
• Less liquid. Perhaps switch to straight liquor next year, though I'm not sure that's a good idea either. Girls, how do you do this? Walk in parades and drink and have fun and not want to die from bladder explosion?
• More handmade throws. Make time for it. Forget the beads and just make cool stuff.
• No dragging/pushing a beer cooler. Carry a flask.
• Take more pictures. I always mean to take more, I just always get caught up in the moment … which I suppose isn't necessarily a bad thing.
And on a final note, at work on Monday morning, randomly, a friend I work with handed me an "Awesome Mix-Tape" Mardi Gras throw. I about cried.
And thanks to everyone who made The Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus a possibility … hanging out with you guys has been some of the most fun I've ever had. All hail the sacred drunken wookiee! Until next season, ChewbacchanALIENS!