20% OF THE PEOPLE DO 80% OF THE K.R.A.P.
In the preamble to this poppycock affair I wrote under the WHAT heading:
Mardi Gras isn’t a few weeks of planning followed by a big blowout. It’s a year of preparation and perspiration that unfolds over several weeks like a military campaign hell-bent on spreading heaven throughout the darkest months of the year.
Over the past ten months I’ve witnessed the truth in this assertion, though it’s a small segment of the population that is so engaged. As I revealed in my post about Mardi Gras World, most Krewe Captains hand in next year’s theme on Ash Wednesday—and sometimes before the last bead has dropped Fat Tuesday. Artists and administrators at places like Mardi Gras World (for there are for our five other studios that build floats) work year round and the Board of Directors of all the majors Krewes are constantly planning, fundraising, corralling their members to make sure dues are paid, and assuring things are on course for when the full machine starts to come to life around this time of year. Because they DIY (Do It Yourself, for the acronym challenged!) Krewes such as Chewbacchus and Krewe du Vieux build their own contraptions, the most technically and artistically gifted members are also busy much of the year.
I’m sure the 80/20 rule applies here as it does in most things in life meaning 20% of the people do 80% of the preparation. Despite all my efforts to get involved early, it’s hard to stroll right into town and slide into that 20% that does so much to make Carnival such a rousing success, but Mardi Gras season is now fast approaching and thus this is the time of year the other 80% get into gear to carry their 20% of the load. With this in mind, I attended a recent meeting of Chewbacchus sub-krewe K.R.A.P. (Krewe of Really Awesome Parodies) hoping to finally find my place to plug in.
HOW SOME PEOPLE MAKE THEIR OWN K.R.A.P.
At the end of October I attended a Krewe of Morpheus meeting where the rank-and-file membership were filled in on details such as costumes, throw-packages, and the pre and post parade parties. Since Morpheus is a traditional Krewe, most of the heavy lifting is performed by the Board of Directors who spends the year choosing a theme, sorting through proposed designs from a professional studio, arranging bands, organizing the floats, etc. Most of the members show up the night before to load the floats and then the next day to roll, having performed a few minor tasks in the months prior such as choosing and buying throws. In this case, 80% of the Krewe does about 4% of the work. Being a DIY lot, though, The Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus does everything themselves including building floats, arranging costumes, and hand-making throws (as opposed to buying pre-stamped medallions from China).
Because nothing is outsourced, dues for Chewbacchus are only $42. Even the modestly priced Morpheus ran $460 plus several more hundred for throws. Obviously, though, the time commitment is greater and there are expenses for your costume and throws, though you can control how elaborate you want to go.
Back in September I wrote about the Chewbacchus season kickoff party and bike parade where I had limited success networking, and have been seeking a place to fit in ever since. Then on Halloween night I accidentally fell in with the NOLA Social Ride, learning the leader was active in Chewbacchus, and we wound up in the Den of Muses, the warehouse where both Chewbacchus and Krewe du Vieux build and store their floats. I did more accidental networking that night, including meeting Kirah—the second of the three ‘Overlords’ (I spoke to Overlord Brett in my initial inquiries to joining)—than during any intentional endeavors. I then began reaching out to sub-krewes on the Facebook page having accepted a card during the kickoff party at Maison from K.R.A.P. I love a good parody, and their pictures and costume ideas online were hilarious, so I figured such nerdy tomfoolery might just be a good fit for me. Thus, though I was still in Florida visiting after the holiday, I rushed back Wednesday, driving nine hours with only a brief stop, arriving just in time for their 6:30 membership meeting at the Marigny headquarters.
PEOPLE (IN RED) DOING K.R.A.P. FOR THE GREATER GOOD
As I arrived, the Den of Muses was abuzz with activity as it had been on Halloween night. A small brass band was struggling to learn the Star Wars theme and perhaps a dozen craftsmen were working on contraptions. I get the feeling there’s always someone tinkering in this jam-packed space where it’s hard to tell which are the floats under construction and which are stored from last year.
As I wandered around searching for K.R.A.P. I was greeted by a man in a beret and red Star Fleet uniform with Chewbacchus superimposed on the insignia. He introduced himself as William and when he learned I was a newbie gave me quick tour of some of the projects, including pointing out hand-poured medallions shaped as popular Star Wars, Star Trek, and Dr. Who images. Apparently you can buy sci-fi themed ice trays and members use them to create medallions they attach to beads caught in other parades by pouring in silicon or some sort of hard plastic. Very clever.
After a quick tour, William revealed his reason for approaching me (I had assumed he was a K.R.A.P. member), offering a recruiting pitch for the Red Shirt Rebellion. The R.S.R. is a security detail William was asked to form for the parade’s second year because during the first year many revelers didn’t realize this upstart group was an organized parade and wandered into the road mixing with members, making progress difficult. Thus the Red Shirts were formed to lead the parade, acting as escort and security while chipping in wherever needed such as moving broken floats aside or pedaling bicycle powered floats when sub-krewe members grow exhausted.
With such physical labor required of the Red Shirts, William confessed that my size made me an instant recruiting target. The upside, he said, was that Red Shirts didn’t pay dues, (though mine have already been paid). He also explained the joke behind the uniform, for anyone who ever watched Star Trek knows that whoever shows up in the transporter room in a red shirt to accompany Kirk, Spock, and Doc McCoy on a mission isn’t making it back. It seems a fitting tribute to their selfless service to parade, and we exchanged info as I promised to consider it, though deep down I knew that despite my imposing manly stature (you can quit laughing now) I would have more fun geeking out in a hideous costume. After all, making a fool of oneself makes for much better storytelling than contributing to the civic good. And I’d soon learn that if I wanted to make a fool of myself and catch some crap, then K.R.A.P. was the place to be.
(STAR) WRECK-ING K.R.A.P.
Taking leave from the Red Shirt captain, I slid into the K.R.A.P. meeting which consisted of about eight people standing in a circle in the middle of warehouse chatting and drinking Miller High Life. (Apparent there was a Hash House Harrier event that night luring away members.) The group leader, Chrissy, offered me a beer as everyone introduced themselves, seeming eager to recruit a new member. After working so hard to find an ‘in’ it felt nice to feel wanted! Two recruiting pitches in one night. To quote one of my favorite Arrested Development lines: “I feel like the prettiest girl at the prom.”
As we got down to business, the main announcement was the K.R.A.P. theme. The overall Chewbacchus theme for 2014 is Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan-ival, and so K.R.A.P. decided to play off this with a theme with one of their own: Star Wrecks. The plan is to recreate the bar from a popular science fiction series on top of a shopping cart (which serves as a great place to hide beer as you push) since bars are where most people get wrecked. Suggested costumes included a sexy version of a Star Wars bounty hunter or Lt. Uhura taking the early morning walk of shame with ruffled Star Fleet dress, smashed beehive, and smeared makeup.
As we talked, another of the leaders handed out flyers she had prepared church bulletin style that listed, among other things, open workshop dates for preparing throws and contraptions. I was thrilled to have this info, for such workshops are a great chance to get involved even though I have limited craftsmen skills to bring to the table. Earlier, William had queried me for useful skills such as artist, graphic designer, welder, or electrician and I’d had to shrug and admit I was only a writer. Perhaps that’s why he steered me to the Red Shirts—if I had no skills (like Napolean Dynamite) at least I could use my brawn!
The handout also mentioned several fundraising efforts underway, including hand-made Christmas wreaths selling for $10: The Wreath of Khan. If you have a Sci-Fi nerd in your life this holiday, contact me for ordering details!
CATCHING K.R.A.P. FOR NOT BEING A NERD
As the meeting wound down, I confessed the hideous costume idea I had, unsure if I have the nerve to wear it or skill to pull it together (stay tuned!), though Chrissy said it was perfect for the theme. The meeting dispersed gradually and I wandered the shop some more, chatting with Overlord Kirah again, who remembered me from the Halloween ride, and meeting Overlord Ryan, who had apparently heard of me and asked if I were ‘the blogger.’ Brett, the initial Overlord I’d met, was also there. When I first wrote to inquire about joining, he’d seemd a bit weary of my writing about Chewbacchus and this suspicious seemed to crop up again as we talked.
As I told Brett I was considering rolling with K.R.A.P. he nodded in approval and asked what my Sci Fi obsessions were. I admitted to growing up a huge Star Wars fan, like everyone in my generation, as well as a Dr. Who fanatic. As a teen I’d become absolutely obsessed with Star Trek and comic books, though such obsessions faded the day I got my first girlfriend (something else cropped up to hold my attention). I didn’t admit to this diminished (though not dead) love of sci-fi, though, because I felt my nerd credentials were being checked in case I were some snarky infiltrating hipster looking to take the piss. Often in my life I’ve caught K.R.A.P. for being too nerdy, but this is the first time I’ve ever felt suspected of not being nerdy enough.
Admittedly, I’ve evolved from the sci-fi and fantasy geek I was as a teen, but still enjoy quality work such as Game of Thrones (currently reading the 5th book) and Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings series. I even rushed to see all 3 Star Wars Prequels no matter how disappointing they were. In fact, that fan fiction novel I admitted writing a few posts ago was inspired by my disappointment in The Phantom Menace. I had recently finished my graduate program in occupational therapy during which I’d been too overwhelmed to read for leisure, let alone write, but after years of denying my literary side I was so disappointed by the first Star Wars prequel that I felt I could do better and wrote a novel based on my ideas of the origin of the Jedi order thousands of years before the movies are set which had been evolving in my imagination since childhood. If that doesn’t earn my nerd passport, I don’t know what does. There’s still enough fandom within my inner child to give ’em K.R.A.P. this Mardi Gras!
Stay tuned for ensuing hijinks…