Our city-wide celebration of Mardi Gras is back. And with it, so is our missing out.
That’s what those comedy and tragedy twins tell me. Something delightful is happening right before me (the comedy), but something just as delightful is happening a block/parade/party away (the tragedy). The dance of the Mardi Gras twirls madly, round and round, but it’s always set in this place, at this exact moment.
As in life, dear reader, we can’t do it all.
I love to say I would do the Cajun Mardi Gras in Eunice or Mamou, chasing down the chickens and down a different Carnival branch. If they would only move it off Fat Tuesday.
To do Mardi Gras well is to acknowledge missing out.
The Krewes of Iris and Tucks or Chad and Endymion? Skull and Bones or the Half-Fast Walking Club? Fixed to the spot or parading through multiple parties? St. Anne Society or the Rex Run?
Ok, let’s be real: the answer is never the crack-of-dawn Rex Run (unless you want to be the first peasant to outpace the queen!). Mardi Gras presents challenges that can be solved only by bilocation.
It also presents non-physics challenges. How’s your stamina? Feet, don’t fail me now! For instance, if you flambeaux in Proteus, you will likely miss everything Tuesday morning. I may speak from experience.
My recent Fat-Tuesday travel puts me on Jackson Ave. to salute the strictly Zulu crowd — and costume-willing to catch one coconut (no small task when you’re dressed as a Hard Rock Hotel crane) — then slide down to St. Charles for Rex (no short trip when you’re Valerio the jaguar handing out stuffed angels).
This means missing Claiborne-and-Orleans and any Mardi Gras Indians, the Bourbon Street Awards and any best-in-city pageantry, the Marigny and any part-time-creative-full-time-transplant. I’ve seen those things in the past and will wait for the itch in seasons to come. Life’s about choices. And Mardi Gras means missing out.
This year I’ll also get that missing feeling from my new life status. Life’s about choices, right?
I’m regularly asked: What do you miss as a priest? I’m rarely asked: What do you miss as a priest during Mardi Gras?
The annual Thoth Mass highlighted my parading and priestly seasons. As chaplain of the Sunday day parade for eight years, I got to have it all: ride high atop the neutral ground-side masses after celebrating a 25-minute Mass that, by the time Communion came, had nearly as many as that avenue crowd. And we even got to ride Uptown under my watch — my prayers clearly multiplying loaves and fish and twenty-seven pre-Napoleon blocks.
I would print one of my homilies here, but they really were only made for that ballroom-turned-chapel — and I really don’t dislike Bacchus as much as I put on. The one consistent element was the adage from the dean of Carnival chaplains, Msgr. Clint Doskey. Until his death in 2012, Msgr. Doskey prayed over Endymion, journeying with the krewe from its start on Gentilly’s Desaix Blvd. all the way to its current-day Superdome-sized spectacle. He got the chaplain gig for the krewe’s second ride, after Captain Ed Muniz saw the pastor of St. Leo Great running down the street after a float.
If Msgr. Doskey wasn’t going to miss a throw, it stood to reason, Endymion probably shouldn’t miss on hiring the priest.
Every year Msgr. Doseky would tell his Endymion riders the secret of the season: Throw to the people, not at the people.
Mardi Gras back on might mean missing out some. We can’t fight physics and personal health. But with Msgr. Doskey’s sensibility, we can welcome our parading season back, full-throated if still full-masked.
Enjoy the comedy and tragedy of it all: the joy of the best kind of missing out Mardi Gras, when we throw the season to the people, not at the people.
A few years and one Costco membership ago, I began printing poster-sized signs for parade-catching purposes. Give the riders a chance to chuckle — and to remind themselves that they are still sober enough to not need corrective lenses. To Iris I thrust, “Meemaw, It’s Me!” To the old-line krewes, I poke fun at non-parading (and still segregated) Comus. To the rest, I plead, “Throw Me Something Useful!” You’d be amazed how many beers and how few can openers krewes carry. This year, keep a lookout for a few topical additions. After all, “We All Vaxxed for You!”
Enjoy this Mardi Gras tribute to Msgr. Doskey: