ANYONE GET THE TAGS OF THAT FLOAT THAT HIT ME?
Since arriving in New Orleans I have had trouble sleeping. Excitement? Nerves? Over-stimulation? Probably all the above. But after dancing deep into the wee hours of Sunday morning at Blue Nile for an encore performance of Big Sam’s Funky Nation, I was toast. It was well after 11am before I rolled out of bed Sunday and I immediately regretted the late night. My throat was sore, my head throbbing, and I ached all over like I’d been run over by the record 8-float trailer Endymion had debuted during the parade last night that we couldn’t quite see.
I was supposed to meet a friend down from Baton Rouge, Chris Tusa and his wife Pam, to watch the excellent parades that were rolling that afternoon, but I couldn’t think clearly enough to formulate a plan. Despite the semi-conscious wreck that I was, I didn’t want to fall too far behind posting so I trudged to the Ruby Slipper where I banged out an article while resuscitating on my best breakfast thus far: a take on eggs benedict with slow-cooked pork instead of Canadian Bacon and large southern biscuits instead of English Muffins. It was decadently rich and just sloppy enough to ease a hangover.
Feeling marginally better after strong chicory coffee and pork, I wandered back to the Hilton still waffling. I suddenly felt quite lonely, my Rocckus buddies having faded as quickly as the last float of the evening, so hanging with friends sounded appealing. The first twenty minutes at Lucy’s it had been awkward realizing I was now alone in a strange city but then Pete and Vince-not-Vinnie, the two crazy firemen from south Florida, wandered up and I never looked back. Now I was back to wandering the streets alone like I had in previewing Muses’ floats and felt too poorly to muster the enthusiasm and courage of a lone explorer. Nevertheless, I’d missed half the afternoon parades already and it was $30 to view from the perch Tusa had chosen. When I realized Okeanos, second of three afternoon parades named after the Greek god of oceans and fertile valleys, was rolling two blocks from the hotel and was throwing generously in streets that weren’t crowded I texted my regrets and said we’d meet up later in the Quarter where they were going to see their friend Lynn Drury play an acoustic set on (gulp!) Bourbon.
THE THOTH FAIRY VISITS NURSING HOMES TOO!
Okeanos didn’t last long, as I just caught the tail end, but one of my favorite Krewes, Thoth (Toe-th), was rolling right behind them. Although their Sunday afternoon time isn’t a prime slot, they have grown in membership, floats, and generosity of throws to compete with and perhaps eclipse the three ‘Super Krewes.’ Thoth is named after the Egyptian Patron of Wisdom and Inventor of Science, Arts, & Letter in contrast to the more traditionally Greek-named Krewes, and perhaps this is part of why they always stood out to me. They also clearly have a sense of humor and seem to truly be having fun. I’ve managed to catch them at every Mardi Gras I’ve attended (though this is the first time I actually set out to see them) and I’ve always connected to their energy. Then, at Mardi Gras 2011 I learned that they were formed to parade in a unique route that originally passed fourteen hospitals, nursing homes, and homes for the disabled— populations that couldn’t otherwise attend parades. They still hold to their original mission and, from what I’m told, retain their focus on charity as well as remaining socially active year-round. Having worked so long in healthcare and with populations that often get overlooked and also being such a social person, I determined in 2011, long before I had the idea for this blog, that if I could join one krewe I would aim for Thoth.
The day before I’d been riding down the elevator when a man in a Thoth polo boarded. I struck up a conversation and when he said he was not only a member but float captain, I explained my blog, handing him a card and telling him I’d love to ride next year and write about it. He was friendly and seemed interested, though we’ll see if he actually calls.
Now Thoth’s route was curving from that of Okeanos to turn down Poydras, stopping right in front of the Hilton. This explained my chance encounter. The Hilton was their parade headquarters. Always a hedger of bets, I now made my way down the disembarking floats, introducing myself to riders who looked approachable and handing out cards until I was directed to another float captain who said he’d call. The majority of guys I spoke to were friendly and acted interested in the idea, but we’ll see which side of the floats I’m on come next March.
I’M NOT STUPID, JUST FAKE-DRUNK!
Wandering back up Poydras where floats were still rolling, I caught one of my best throws of this season, what appeared to be two large plastic Thoth crowns on a single twisted bead. A young African-American lady from the crowd immediately ran up to me and asked if her friend from Scotland could have one. I was reluctant, saying this was a unique medallion and I didn’t have another to give away. She looked at me as though I were an idiot and pointed out I was in fact holding two tangled beads. As her foreign friend approach, I now sheepishly offered her the other bead, fumbling with it for several minutes before I apologized for being drunk even though I hadn’t had a drink; it sounded better than: “Sorry, I’m an idiot who can’t untangle beads.” Finally the young lady assisted and we soon had one separated for her friend. I gave both of them my card and the young lady, now at ease, smiled and pulled out her phone to follow me on Twitter while her Scottish friend perked up at the mention of my blogging.
She said she traveled extensively and everyone kept telling her she needed to blog. I told her to email once I had a little time to figure this whole process out myself in hopes she’d follow along and perhaps take my message back to the land of plaid and kilts!
After a picture and friendly farewells, I walked a little further but soon found I lacked the stamina to witness the entire enormity of Thoth. Instead, I wandered back to the hotel to post the article I’d been writing and then nap before heading to Bourbon Street.
LONESOME LIKE A TRASH-STREWN STREET
After a brief respite, I gathered up my resolve and wandered back out to the crazy streets of Mardi Gras. Poydras was now a deserted mess with the remnants of the morning’s festivities strewn everywhere. The frugal environmentalist in me should be outraged at the waste of Mardi Gras, and the litter hater in me who believes throwing trash out your car window warrants a mandatory caning and six months in jail should be livid. After all, just one parade leaves enough broken plastic beads, cups, and silly trinkets in the streets to neutralize a year of my carrying nylon sacks to the grocery story and reusing bread bags and yogurt containers; yet the mess gave me a strange, melancholy thrill and sense of connection in my moment of solitude—it always does. Much like me, the street was beat-up and demolished by earlier festivities and now abandoned, but neither of us seemed to mind. I wandered on to Bourbon basking in the company of the chaos surrounding me.