There are, of course, universal conflicts that can rend apart a relationship. How to raise your children. What to feed them. Who changes the diapers at 4 a.m. Who should do the dishes. (Depends on who cooked the meal, right?)
There’s more, so much more to all of our complicated lives. Who walks the dog when it’s raining? Ranch or Italian? Pepperoni or no? Hulu or Netflix? Cancun or San Juan? Paper or plastic?
But the one singular divisive issue that is germane only to New Orleans is this: When to take down the holiday decorations. Here in the city that never turns off its Christmas lights. Or hell, hardly ever even takes down its Christmas trees.
It was requested of me this past weekend to remove our Mardi Gras “decorations.” I put that word in quotes because, it’s not like we had one of those new fancy stationary “house floats” or whatever they’re called that made all the news. What we actually had was hundreds of Mardi Gras beads that we had procured long ago intended to use in a parade we ride in annually but didn’t get the chance this year. So, a few weeks ago, gazing upon those sparkling but lonely Chinese baubles, I unpacked them all one afternoon and threw them into the trees out on our country estate.
OK, it’s actually not an estate. But it’s a small, charming cabin/house in the woods. But still. If you can’t go to Mardi Gras, let Mardi Gras come to you.
It gave a fresh, festive and bright flavor to an otherwise not very fresh, festive nor bright Mardi Gras season. We had a forest of Mardi Gras trees!
You know what Mardi Gras trees are, right? Randomly selected flora – most generally seen along the St. Charles Avenue parade routes – where revelers toss their beads up into the branches and there they dangle and then, soon enough, it’s its own tiny purple, green and gold stationary arbor parade. (And that Mardi Gras falls when all the leaves are off the trees, all the better to be seen and celebrated.)
Dirty Coast, the New Orleans culture and T-shirt purveyor, even has a Mardi Gras tree T-shirt. (It’s awesome; I got one for my son Jack’s birthday about ten years ago.)
So, it’s a thing. Another thing is that New Orleanians can be quite A) Hesitant, B) Obstinate or C) Just plain lazy, when it comes to taking down holiday decorations. Here, it’s like admitting defeat. That the end has passed. The party is over. Merry Christmas. Now clean up your freaking yard.
You know, some cities have ordinances about exactly this. Uptight municipalities, to be sure, that require your lights come down and your inflatable Christmas Snoopys uninflate. Who would want to live there? But, neighborhood zoning issues being, well – neighborhood zoning issues – the law says you gotta dismantle your public revelry at such-and-such a date, box it up, put it the attic but feel free to put on your garish display again next year. After Halloween, please.
America can be so damn boring sometimes.
And so, at my partner’s polite request, I dismantled three Mardi Gras trees over this past weekend. Fair ’nuff. It’s her place. She owns it and tends to it and pays for it. My job is to make chaos out of it. So I conceded to her will and here’s what I learned:
It’s a lot easier – and less time consuming – to gleefully throw hundreds of beads into trees over the course of an hour than to sullenly remove them one by one over a full weekend.
Next year, I’m thinking: Maybe a purple, green and gold (actually yellow) flag will do.