INTERVIEW WITH A PIRATE
After Friday’s open-bar brunch I was guilty of blogging while intoxicated, but nothing will sober you up quicker than writing during the world’s largest party. Ever since my arrival at Lucy’s, running late has become my modus operandi; I was in no rush as I finished blogging about the night before and headed back to the room to dress like a Pirate for my meet up with the Krewe so we could second-line all the way to Michaul’s restaurant to feast, imbibe, and watch Krewe of Hermes roll from raised private viewing bleachers. I arrived late but in time to snap a few photos before setting in motion behind the Treme Brass Band.
Okay, okay. A few things in that paragraph beg explanation.
First, yes, I was dressed like a pirate—actually a combination hobo/pirate. (Another shout out to Sarah for the hobo suitcase though I replaced the cutesy stuff with Rolling Rock!) Dressing up is a big part of Mardi Gras and within Rocckus, masquerading for our little parade down St. Charles is encouraged. Also present were another pirate, a quartet of Marie Antoinettes, a Roman Guard accompanying a toga-clad lady of obvious means, countless non-specific outfits sporting Mardi Gras themes and colors, and one Will Ferrel bringing the ‘More Cowbell.’ More on cowbell in my next post! Although the four Maries seemed to be the unofficial consenus winners for best costume (I hatched a plan with one to swap garb for next year…yikes!), the pirate hobo was well-received throughout the evening with ‘awesomes!’, high-fives, and even a “You’re my new best friend,” from the ticket taker at the Joy later that night. As we paraded towards our viewing spot, Kevin Griffin, BTE singer, writer and guitarist, came up and slapped me on the back, laughing and applauding the get-up. It was a proud moment, although an awkward one to introduce myself as the one who had interviewed him via phone for Offbeat Magazine last month. Very professional.
Secondly, a second-line is a parade in New Orleans where revelers join in and follow the band and primary marchers, i.e. the first line. Second-liners traditionally dance in jubilant, varying rhythms and wave white handkerchiefs or parasols—tiny decorated umbrellas–in the air as they follow along. Our second-line was being led by the enduring Treme Brass Band, a traditional marching band from the historic neighborhood (the oldest free African-American neighborhood in the nation) popularized by HBO. Also in the lead were two Mardi Gras Indians. Mardi Gras Indians are elaborately costumed men from traditional African-American neighborhoods who spend the year hand sewing elaborate costumes to debut on Mardi Gras for roving, unsanctioned parades. (See the WHAT section for more details.) Born as part tribute to the Native American tribes that gave shelter to run away slaves deep in the Louisiana swamps and part from fascination with traveling Wild West shows of the 19th century, the Indians once masked as an act of defiance to assert their claim to New Orleans culture and tradition at a time when oppression and segregation were the accepted rule. Over time as society progresses and enlightens, Indians have gradually attained their rightful place in the Mardi Gras pantheon, even producing hit records and performing on stage at Jazzfest. In fact, New Orleans R&B directly hails from Indian song and language. For example, I have no idea what “Iko Iko, unday, Jockomo feeno ah na nay” means, but the famous song documents the meeting of two competing tribes on Mardi Gras Day as they communicate in coded language that white boys are never meant to understand.
CATCHING HERMES IN THE STREET
Joyously dancing and jiving behind Treme Brass Band and the Indians, we arrived at Michaul’s where we filed in to feast on fried chicken, Cajun pasta, baked turkey, deviled eggs, red beans, and king cake. And as usual there was an open bar. TBB kept the music rolling until we retired to the raised bleachers to watch Hermes roll by. The parade itself was lovely as all the parades are but not as memorable as the mischievous Muses. Two days later I can’t even recall the theme. Three things about the parade that do stand out in my memory, though, are: 1) As we were jostling to catch their best medallions which were embedded with flashing lights, we kept joking that it seemed to be a bad idea to have your krewe name sound like herpes. “I’m going out today to try and catch some herpes down on St. Charles!”; 2) Hermes loves cups. We caught enough plastic souvenirs to hydrate the entire city after the next hurricane and even stacked the extras up twenty-high on a pole trying to send a signal that we were satiated; and 3) When we left for the Joy Theater, ultimately arriving late with Sister Hazel already on stage, the guys from BTE were still chilling at Michaul’s. Ah, the rock-n-roll lifestyle.