Hail! The Twelve Days of Christmas have come and gone, and upon that Partridge’s last resounding squawk from the boughs of its Pear Tree, Twelfth Night emerged upon us and, at long LAST, that most glorious of seasons began, the season that inspires one to truly and fully realize what a delightfully weird and incredible city it is, this New Orleans in which we dwell.
It’s MARDI GRAS SEASON, Y’ALL!!
From Twelfth Night on January 6, all the way through Mardi Gras Day (February 17 this year), the city teems with its own unique vibe. It’s not just that suddenly, one walks into Wal-Mart or Walgreens to be barraged with purple, green, and gold décor (which at LAST crowded out the reds and greens of the after-Christmas sales), or that every corner store now has at least one King Cake for sale on the tiny counter crowded in with random candy, lighters, and condoms.
Instead, the attuned individual simply just KNOWS Mardi Gras is coming. Twelfth night rolls in with a bang, and then (on the surface) it goes kind of quiet until the two weeks leading up to the Big Day. But underground, in the hotel ballrooms and country clubs and convention centers, the events and Balls and parties held by the myriad individual Krewes in town are on a nonstop run of revelry. My exposure to these events from backstage (where paperwork is filled out, guest lists arranged, and checks sent) has enlightened me upon the fact that there are at LEAST two or three Balls held every week, during the season. Not to mention cast meetings, float dinners, throw pick-up deadlines and float preview parties.
The walk to work the morning after one of these soirees is entertaining to the observant. There is a different light on the face of the business dude passing by on the sidewalk – he doesn’t look preoccupied and grumpy for once, but rather content and possibly hung-over from his Krewe’s float dinner the night before. The Carnival vibe has many faces, and can sometimes be downright subtle. My own IT’S HERE moment was while standing in line at the store a few weeks ago. I was purchasing canvas shoes and Rit Dye and a bottle of green glitter glue and while the line droned on and on (and on), I glanced to the right to see a gal in line next to me with a cart full of glitter glue MULTIPACKS, a passel of other craft-making items, and a bottle of King Cake Vodka. A small observation, but I knew exactly what was going on there.
We’re getting ready, y’all. Costuming, throw-making, day-counting. Everyone had a week of recovery last year, starting on Ash Wednesday. Then, we started looking forward to the following year and now it’s ON!
Last year, on Twelfth Night, my husband had pneumonia. We didn’t quite know that yet, but I had hippity-hopped my way home all ready to go get a drink and hang out on the street to see the Phunny Phorty Phellows roll by on their Party Streetcar and bounced into the house only to discover him fully clothed and buried underneath a blanket on the couch shivering like he’d been dumped in a vat of ice. Granted, it was ridiculously cold on Feb. 6 last year, and thus we both stayed in and tried to be warm and take care of ourselves and it was a few days later that he got the doc’s pneumonia news. Poor guy! (My husband, not the doc.)
THIS year, I was on a mission to See Something, to ring in the season. So, I decided that after work I would amble into the Quarter to see the Joan of Arc Parade (12th night IS her birthday, after all), and then hop the streetcar up to the Blind Pelican (near our place) to hang around and finally see the Phunny Phorty in the Party Streetcar. J had a business trip to Houston to fly out to the next day, and was originally going to get his packing done (thereby missing the parade bit) so he could meet me at the Pelican.
All of that planned out, 5:00 hit and I strolled my way up Decatur St., grabbed a glass of $1 wine from Cafe Maspero (ONE DOLLAR WINE, GUYS), and on my way back to the spot on the parade route that I had eyeballed for my own, my phone rang. And HURRAH! It was J, who had hauled tookas with his packing and then surprised me by making the parade. I love it when stuff like that happens!
The Krewe of Jeanne d’Arc is really pretty cool. We’d not seen that parade yet, and it’s always exciting to see something new. Their costumes are lovely, and the medieval vibe is pretty fantastic. So were the brass bands AND the bagpipers! It really is a beautiful walking parade.
Naturally, their big specialty throw consisted of wooden swords all painted and glittered. Naturally, J got one! I don’t know how he does it. He has this crazy magical mojo for acquiring prized items from parades. Good to know he’s still Got It, going into this season!
I was rather delighted, myself, when a woman dressed as a nun handed me a treasure of my own:
After Joan and her entourage passed by and continued their vigil up the street, ZOOOM! We were off to the Blind Pelican, where we had dinner and a beverage and waited for the Party Car to zip by. J was using his streetcar tracker app to try and guess which one it was, which was hilarious. And when they finally DID come, ZOOOM! There they went! The traffic on St. Charles that rolled by at the same time didn’t allow us to get onto the neutral ground in time, and they were hauling!
Never to fear, though! Their turnaround point was just down at Lee Circle, so they would be back! This time, we were ready for ’em. We paid our tab and got across the street just in time, and ZOOM!! There they were again! It’s a heck of a feeling, standing that close to a moving streetcar and having folks throw things at you from less than a foot away. It reminded me of that time in college when my friend D and I stood right next to a train that was careening past his house. Exhilarating with a bunch of wind! Except the train didn’t have awesome costumed party people hanging out the windows, and the conductor didn’t throw cool stuff at you.
Thus, Josh’s Throw Mojo continued.
Then it was time for bed so we could go to work the next morning. Since then, those secret (and not so secret) parties have been lurking Out There and the business guys are hung-over and everything is awash with the royal colors of Mardi Gras. Including our house.
This Mardi Gras is a particularly special one for me. This year, I get to be in my FIRST PARADE EVER! After a course of cool things that transpired over this past year, I find myself a member of a brand new marching group, Krewe des Fleurs. I’m excited to be in that number of folks who have to buy glitter glue as part of their Mardi Gras season. I’m thrilled to gain some parading experience (as I still long for the day that I would ever be honored to Step Out in pink). Our inaugural march will be in Krewe Delusion immediately following Krewe du Vieux on January 31.
A week after that, J and I will be setting up our outdoor living room on St. Charles Ave. Home sweet home, y’all.
In the meantime, I gotta go decorate throws.
SEE YOU ON DA STREET!
Featured Image: A chandelier above the bar at Generations Hall, taken during the Pussyfooters Blush Ball. Because Sparkly = Awesome.