It turns out, you can take the Carnival out of New Orleans, but you can’t take the New Orleans out of Carnival.
It seemed inevitable that when Mardi Gras was officially “canceled” this year (good luck with that), folks around here set about to launch their own purple, green and gold insurrection.
Houses, businesses, parks – everywhere and anywhere – folks have decided that if Mardi Gras can’t come to you, you can come to the Mardi Gras. It’s a new paradigm to be sure. A pandemic paradigm. Kind of like the reverse of Domino’s Pizza, with sidewalk delivery only.
People are building “home floats” all around the city. Porches, facades, fences, eaves, trees and rooftops all decked out with faces, images, icons, messages and, naturally, our own national colors. The idea is that, in place of rolling floats, you can drive by stationary ones and witness the beauty and creativity that we are all used to seeing this time of year.
These places are so bright, colorful, comic, sarcastic and cynical – the civic attributes that set us apart from so many other American cities. They are rays of light and color and hope in a time when we need all three. Another spectacle of our revelry, weirdness, improvisation and our general joy of living. (Which beats dying, in these trying times.)
And in times like these – our long national nightmare being far from over – leave it to the front porch revelers to create joy and laughter for the rest of us.
With all the “real” floats sidelined for the season, a ground roots movement sprung up and word spread fast and for the first time in New Orleans history, we’ve got a drive-by Carnival.
Which beats the hell out of our other drive-by stuff.
For anyone like me who used to drive their kids around at Christmastime to look at the pretty lights around town, that’s basically what we’ve got this winter. A social distance parade.
Call it DIY Carnival. It’s so pandemic. And so New Orleans. And so uplifting, in a city that doesn’t – and won’t – ever quit. Laughing at itself. Laughing at others. Or just…laughing.
Lots of folks are already manning their porches day and night, throwing beads and other trinkets to passers by. It’s all over town. Unless you never leave your house – and many of us don’t – you’ve probably seen it.
It thrills me in a time of few thrills. Just another example of the New Orleans credo: When life gives you lemons, make daiquiris. The triumph of the human spirit, once again.
But it all does make me wistful on one point. And it is this: Can you imagine if Al Copeland was still alive? And what the hell his house would look like right now?
The implications are staggering.
So gas up folks. Take a drive around town. Check out the sights. Because it’s Carnival Time. And we’re gonna have to save the rowdy for next year. Fingers crossed.