Shortly before I dozed off, the message from Comus arrived.
14,000 Mardi Gras steps, 4 hours of court-meeting coverage, and some in-between number of beverages combine for sweet slumber.
And that the last conscious word was from the mischievous god of revelry can only be described as divine.
Just imagine the dream possibilities!
No, I slept not transported into a different, demigod world, but reminded that our worlds are closer together. The social strata were bridged by the message.
Message might be the wrong word. The invitation from Comus to Rex — to walk across the street for another Society Pages event — always comes in poetic form. The sentences rhyme, if not always consistently keep the time. Usually, the only notable element of the made-for-WYES poem is that even speed-reading Peggy Scott Laborde cannot keep pace with Rex’s relaying the message to his half-aged queen. (Comus was always known to travel fast on Mardi Gras night. Also, this probably has something to do with Rex being a “yes” at herald-trumpeting hello.)
This year’s rendition did something remarkable. It rhymed “flawed” with “god.”
There are only two ways the divine cup bearer could pull this off. Either he pronounces “flawed” with a Middle Eastern flare (this year’s Rex did spend significant military service in that part of the world…), or the second word should be written “gawd.”
Methinks the Mistick Krewe would not envision a Middle Eastern god — though, rumor has it, Jesus might. More likely, Comus went all Irish Channel on us.
The leaders of industry have an everyman sensibility. I fell deep asleep, smile pinned to my Gawd-loving face.
Is all this wishful thinking? My way of rationalizing certain aspects of the Mardi Gras mythos? Religious rhymes as the opiate of the masses?
Gawd help us.
When we strip the titles — those of names and lands — we’re not all that different. Gas station chicken goes best with marching bands. A cold drink tastes best on a warm day. Flawed rhymes best with Gawd.
As Mardi Gras processes out and Lent shuffles in, maybe this is a helpful reminder. We’re not all that different. The degree that truth deepens sensitivity and encourages charity is the degree that the Lenten season can be helpful.
We’re not all that different, so I should care. We’re not all that different, so I should act.
I was reminded of our commonality not just from the Meeting of the Courts but also from something not fit for a WYES special: the loneliness of the neutral ground.
First off, while the weather presented a glorious two weeks, life in an outdoor encampment ain’t easy. The earliest I planted flag on a neutral ground was 5:30am — thankful that unlike the Tulane frats, I did find a bed the night before. Even then, it was cold. And though a drop of rain did not hit a rider’s head this year, I did spend a couple mornings huddled under a tent. Yet another Karen might get upset about Parks and Parkway taking her tarp instead of those under the Pontchartrain Expressway. I, though, couldn’t help but think what a life like this would be. Not camping out for parade celebration but for personal survival. The homeless. We’re not all that different.
Holding a neutral ground spot is running a marathon relay in reverse: the anchor leg comes first. You try to take just the space you need, look out for your neighbors, and push away those frats (LSU boys once again were quite responsive to the needs of those around them. Tulane boys were actually pretty decent this year, too.). And after all that early morning maneuvering, you prepare for the conflict. It always come. High demand, low supply. People who want a day at the Mardi Gras and not a life out there. When our conflict came on that rainy Thoth Sunday morning, it eventually passed over, like the day itself, into sunshine. Another group came in, everyone squeezed in, it all worked out — after a little cool down period. A day paradegoer and a two-weeker, looking out for family and a good time. We’re not all that different.
Finally, as much as the encampment is a messy means to a parading end, there’s something about being stuck in place. There’s a comradery, to be sure, looking out for neighbors, checking in on folks after a two-year distance. But even more, there’s something about just sitting quietly in place, the groaning of the streetcar or passing of the carpool line or drumming of those frat boy speakers (a half-block away can make many things charming). To be stuck with your thoughts, in gratitude for what was soon to return. We each felt some of that on the lonely neutral ground. We each needed it, too. We’re not all that different.
With Lent here, our Carnival insights don’t disappear. They should intensify.
We’re not all that different — that’s my takeaway. And thank Gawd for that!
Jen and I embraced the new life of the season by flitting about as butterflies on Mardi Gras Day. Printing a paragraph-long poem does not provide for the best signage, but I think Henri Schindler would approve, at least.
And finally finally: a Lenten recommendation. Holy Name pastor, Fr. Mark Thibodeaux, is a popular writer on spirituality — and even an app creator! Consider praying some with his app Reexamining the Examen, the age-old prayer which roots Jesuit spirituality.