Mardi Gras

Picture of comus_1 On the morning of Mardi Gras the parades start at about 8:00 AM. The Zulu parade is first, followed by Rex and then an interminable string of "truck parades". We didn't quite make Zulu as it was a tad early for us so we showed up on Canal Street in between Zulu and Rex and found ourselves amidst the Krewe of Comus. One of the older Krewes, Comus no longer has an official parade.
Picture of beignets Instead they dress up oddly and mill about unofficially. Take for instance these beignets. Beignets are a New Orleans speciality pastry which consists of some fried dough and several pounds of powdered sugar. They are notably served at Cafe du Monde. Here we have three beignets, one cup of coffee, and some sugar (with spoon). There's a lot of other stuff going on here too but we're not even going to try and describe it.
Picture of comus_2 Not everyone who is elaborately dressed is necessarily part of Comus and some strangeness can be found pretty much everywhere in New Orleans on Mardi Gras day. I don't know that we saw any costuming as elaborate though as that in the Krewe of Comus. You may notice the prevalence of beads here. Even beignets and angels wear beads on Mardi Gras day.
Picture of comus_3 In between parades when there are no objects flying through the air people generally just mill about and compliment each other on their choice of outlandish fashion accessories. We talked to people representing a pretty good geographical cross-section of the US from Miami to Seattle and quite a few foreigners as well. Perhaps the most alarming comment we heard the entire time was on TV. The New Orleans stations were broadcasting live from all over the city and at one suburban parade a lady was crowing, "I caught a puppy! My very first Mardi Gras and I caught a dog!" The announcer made an oblique reference at that point to various adult beverages. We remain unsure but certainly we saw no flying mammals.
Picture of melanie Melanie on a curb waiting for Rex to show up. Melanie's official Mardi Gras accessories consisted of a blue-black feather boa and the peacock feather mask shown here. David was limited to a jester hat which didn't last long on Mardi Gras day because it turned out to be quite warm. It was well into the 80s (27 C) by the time the parade showed up.
Picture of rex_boeuf Rex may be the oldest Krewe in New Orleans, depending on who you believe, but it seems certain that they were the first to begin parading. One of the grand traditions of the Rex parade is the Boeuf float seen here. We're not really sure why but it's a tradition so it probably doesn't matter. There's a marching band in front of this float and we really feel sorry for them. A six mile parade route in those temperature and those costumes cannot have been particularly enjoyable.
Picture of rex_float The Rex theme for the year was "Illustrious Illustrators" which naturally tended to deal with children's books. We didn't recognize all the works represented and even less of the names. This may be a representation of Winnie the Pooh or it may not. That's the problem with illustrators - if A.A.Milne didn't do the original drawings, we don't know who did and we can't remember the name on this one anyway.
Picture of rex_potter This however is definately Beatrix Potter as you might notice from the sign in front of the float. The costumes of the people on the float matched a character from the books in question. For instance, on the Tenniel float (Alice in Wonderland) the masked bead-throwers were dressed as playing cards. We aren't sure what they represent here although they had some particularly nice beads.
Picture of rex_seuss Here are a couple more recognizable floats. This of course is the Cat in the Hat on the Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) float with Cat In the Hat costumed bead throwers as well. There's also a grinch back there behind him. Coming up behind this float is the Maurice Sendak float perhaps best known for "Where the Wild Things Are". You might also pick out some more sousaphones and some marching military-type folk with bayonets because it is a parade after all. Its important to have these separating elements in the parade to give everyone time to pick up the doubloons between floats.
Picture of post_rex Here we are after the Rex parade in front of our hotel. The backpack (not shown here) was full once again and we returned to the room to rest, unload, and then later reload for the truck parades. The truck parades seem to go on forever and we spent about two or three more hours before giving up and going in search of food. The rate of return of particularly good beads from the truck parades is rather low compared to Rex, Orpheus, and other Krewes.
Picture of spoils_2 The next day we headed home where upon arriving we weighed the booty in at 28 pounds (12.7 kg). Here is the scene when we emptied the bag on the floor. The doubloons are particularly notable, and some of the crayfish beads can be seen amongst them.
Picture of spoils_scale Melanie poses with the spoils for the sake of scale. There is nothing under those beads except more beads. We're also unsure what to do with that many plastic cups.
Picture of spoils_medallions Some of the finer medallions we received. The top right is the standard harp of Orpheus, thrown to us (well, in the general sense) by Whoopi Goldberg which doesn't really make it more exciting I suppose but it sounds good. Top left is the special Leviathan medallion which is only thrown from the Leviathan float - a steam-snorting animatronic beast and tradition of the Orpheus parade. Centered at the bottom is a Bacchus medallion, to the right is one from Thoth and the gold crowns on the white beads count as the nicest of the Rex speciality beads we caught.
Picture of spoils_shapes Some of the more interestingly shaped beads we received included playing cards, hearts, disco balls, and footballs (for lack of a better name). At some point when you return from Mardi Gras, you start to wonder why you spent so much effort collecting 28 pounds of beads and what you are going to do with them. We sent several pounds off to various people by mail (especially people with cats) and we don't have an answer for the rest quite yet, but we do expect to have a slightly differently themed Christmas tree this year.
Picture of tx_bracelet

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