A Parade That Begins and Doesn’t End

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And on the 606th day God recreated Mardi Gras.

Or at least was bored enough to throw us a few skeleton bones and sleeves of moon pies.

For the first time since Feb. 25, 2020, John Deere tractors and blown-out speakers hugged the center line of New Orleans streets, traveling at a school-zone speed appropriate for the throngs of kids and kids-at-heart waving them along.

And last Saturday Mardi Gras waved back. As Krewe du Boo ( as I like to call it – why isn’t that the official name?) inched from its starting gate and down Decatur, a dress-blue officer in the NOPD commando tank-rv (same question as above) even greeted the assembled crowds with repeated royal waves. He could’ve passed as a debutante had he lost the considerable chin beard.

Krewe du Boo wasn’t Mardi Gras, at least not as we know it. PJ’s threw some beans from its branded float, and Monster Energy beads fell from most of the others— a duo sure to raise pulses as much as Chinchuba and the House of Shock ever did. If Sherriff Foti could only see us now!

For all the corporate participation — cups brought to you by the blood pressure stabilizing team at CrescentCare — Krewe du Boo might go down as the most significant parade of the year.

Looking to avoid the spreading of pandemic infection and wedge issues during the final months of her re-election campaign, Mayor LaToya Cantrell permitted the parade as something of a test case. After the unfair superspreading headlines from Mardi Gras 2020, I didn’t want to give her or future parading any trouble.

When I picked up an Aunt Sally’s praline off the street, I confirmed it was still in the original wrapping before consuming. When I saw the four NOLAReady staffers walking near the head of the parade, I full-throatedly and half-sincerely thanked them for having us. Most significantly, when I was on the route, I wore a mask.

Or a head covering. Of Oscar the Grouch. To match my trashcan and green body. But a covering is a covering, right? Strike while the trash is hot and rancid, I say. And if you don’t believe that: Scram!

Jen classed up our partner costumes as a New Orleans unicorn: a mobile recycling container. Trash and recycling. The present possession and the future hope. Tragedy and comedy and whatnot. Welcome back, Mardi Gras.

Art imitating life animated Krewe du Boo across its route. A scary parade arriving after a scary 20 months will do that. But with George Porter, Jr., DJ Mannie Fresh (that’s my DJ!), and eight Clydesdales (and one very good boy) among the Roman-letter floats, we were left spirited away to another, happier place. Brightly colored art after a dark patch of time.

As Disco Amigos put it, passing in front of us and the darkened remains of the former home of Tujague’s (and the continued home of Tujague’s neon signs), “Ain’t no stopping us now!” Don’t turn around for the darkness; look ahead toward the light. We’re on the move; we’ve got the groove.

But hopefully the responsible groove. Remember the subtheme of the night: Carnival comes to good boys and girls. The Pussyfooters’s dancing to “Somebody’s Watching Me” offered that counter-balance — and an occasion to scan the crowd for those NOLAReady folks again.

When the Cherry Bombs decided to turn up “Monster” by Kim Kardashian’s most recent ex (what’s his name now?), Act III had begun. “I shoot the lights out / Hide ’til it’s bright out / Oh, just another lonely night / Are you willing to sacrifice your life?” Ahh! I just want to breathe deep diesel exhaust, avoid the Shriner tootsie rolls, and cheer on middle school drumlines.

I just want to go parading again.

I don’t think our dans de Mardi Gras is pushing us to sacrifice our lives, but one parade in, it definitely will be a strange season. Cathartic. Poignant. Most of all, essential.

We have essential work ahead. Play can be that sometimes.

For the last few years, I’ve dragged out to the neutral ground various signs to attract rider attention. My favorite: “Throw Me Something Useful!”

I didn’t bring that sign with me Saturday. I couldn’t see Oscar lowering himself to that level — or me managing anything more with such green girth.

Mainly, though, I knew every exchange would qualify as useful.

As the last float teetered past, a couple flashing lights followed. But no firetruck.

The parade has not ended, I heard Krewe du Boo commanding.

The most useful gift possible at the first parade of the season.

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No matter how you feel about the prospect of Mardi Gras, Oscar and Stephen Colbert have you covered.