Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Come and Gone

Another Mardi Gras has come and gone. Lent, a time for reflection, has begun, so I will reflect on what I like about Mardi Gras.

I like that it brings together so many different kinds of people, both in the crowds—poor, rich, black, white, young, old, local, tourist—and in the parades—business men, high school marching bands, weirdo hipster dance troupes, sissy bounce baton teams, rag-tag jazz bands, yat-ty swamp pop bands, black city cowboys on horses, white country cowboys on horses, sun burnt guys on tractors, and on and on...

I like that even when it goes wrong, it often goes right. We watched Muses at the house of friends, right where it lined up. (The lining up of a parade is nearly as entertaining as the parade itself—all the glittery components that normally stretch out for blocks are all bunched up in one entangled amped-up festive mélange.) Shortly after it started rolling, the whole thing abruptly came to a stop again. (I heard rumored explanations ranging from a broken float-axle to a stubborn horse that laid down in the street.) But the delay simply turned into an opportunity to extend the party. As the minutes turned into hours, the different parading entities blended together (I saw a group of white-gloved high-school dancing girls trading moves with a scooter-Elvis, all having a great time), and the parade blended with the crowd. Eventually, we had members of three or four different dance troupes and marching squads lounging in the living room in their sparkly sequined outfits, chitting, chatting, and drinking beer with the lay folks. They all rushed out the door en masse as the floats began rolling down the street again.

I like that it doesn’t go wrong all that much. Though there are countless minor indecencies and the occasional truly bad thing, Mardi Gras, on the whole, goes remarkably smoothly. We are a city famed for our inefficiencies, but we at least do this one thing really well. (And our pinnacle of efficiency is the post-parade clean-up crews who rake, sweep, and scrub the streets clean, leaving hardly a trace of the festivities mere minutes after the last float has passed. I'm pretty sure they're some sort of Six Sigma "ninjas".)

I like that, when properly done, Mardi Gras makes one glad it's over. Catholic or not, one should be good and ready for a bit of Lenten austerity.

I like the Mardi Gras Indians. Stay tuned for this years crop of photos.

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