Mardi Gras 2014: Mor-pheus Frenzy Before the Parade

LOGO MEDALLIONS: THE CURE FOR BEAD AMNESIA

Picking Up My Morpheus Booty!

Picking Up My Morpheus Booty!

While my brother Jerry was visiting a couple of weeks ago, I dragged him along to play photo journalist during Morpheus ‘pick-up’ day at Plush Appeal. I’d decided to forego the $360 package, but still spent well over $200 piecing together logo novelties and extra plush throws. I could have gotten generic plush toys and beads for cheaper, but for me a lot of the fun is catching a specialty souvenir from each parade. It’s a ton of fun catching big and elaborate beads, and I still cherish the Saints beads I caught one year, but couldn’t tell you at which parade. Over time you forget even where the gargantuan beads came from, but a logo and date will bring a smile to your face and flush of memories every time. Still I’d saved money by ordering only 3 bags of the specialty Morpheus beads with blue and silver moons and stars, and no medallions were available for ala carte, which was a bummer.

LIKE A LITTLE PIRATE ON CHARRRRISTMAS EVE!

W/Kim Morgan: World's Greatest Float Lieutenant

W/Kim Morgan:
World’s Greatest Float Lieutenant

As I pulled up in front of Plush Appeal, I was as excited as a kid on Christmas Eve. There was already a large line snaking through the warehouse next door where distribution was occurring, though I hopped out of place to greet Kim, my awesome float lieutenant. As I waited for the krewe to piece together my order she instructed me to grab my hat from her silver SUV. I walked into the parking lot and looked around.  Every third car was a silver SUV! Doh! I’ve come to realize that that is sooo Kim.

2014-02-15 11.37.42After a little detective work I found the correct car and returned to find five heavy Morpheus bags and a giant Plush Appeal shopping bag waiting. And this was a modest package which I still needed to supplement! Yikes!

2014-02-15 11.41.06After I lugged my haul to the truck, Jerry and I wandered next door to the actual store, which he observed was like Wal-Mart for Mardi Gras. Despite telling myself to be good, I grabbed a cart and was off to the races.

BEADS & BOOBS & BANNERS & BOUNCING BALLS, OH MY!

Upstairs on My Float On Load Up Day. And I Though I had a Lot!

Upstairs on My Float On Load Up Day.
And I Though I had a Lot!

First came the naughty novelty aisle. While (I don’t think) I can throw these from an Uptown float, I grabbed a few for the guests I was expecting (a coronation upon arrival!) and then spent twenty minutes agonizing over masks, which were so cheap I bought a bunch and figured my friend Aimee could bring back the ones we didn’t use to her daughter who collects them. Although the specialty beads were expensive I wanted a few treats to tease the crowd with so settled for plastic black and gold fleur-de-lis medallions and a bag of beads with whistles and Who Dat? plaques.

2014-02-27 17.28.34

Left: My Meager Haul
Right: Don and Kim’s Massive Booty Pile

As I continued to meander I picked up some smaller toys such as a huge bag of high bounce balls per Jerry’s suggestion, for he wants to know what kind of havoc they will wreak, and purple, gold, and green feathers to decorate my pirate hat. I also picked up a Mardi Gras flag for the porch and a banner to drape on the rails. All in all it was more than I wanted to spend but it could have been worse.

BOOTY, BLING, & BOOH-YAH!

Shrine to Morpheus

Shrine to Morpheus

Upon arriving home I couldn’t wait to dig into my booty. One thing I can say for sure: Morpheus has great throws. Riffing on the God of Dreams theme, they throw plush sheep and quarter moons in night caps; actual night caps that light up and flash; flashing star wands; glitter balls with the logo that flash when they bounce; Morpheus sleeping masks; star Morpheus key chains; logo Frisbees, koozies, and coasters; and of course the usual bead, cups, and doubloons. Laying all my treasure out on the table, I lusted over it like any good pirate would. However, in un-pirate-like fashion I would be throwing my loot out to the masses, for Mardi Gras stands alone as the only major entertainment event in the world where the entertainers pay out of pocket to assure the crowd has a blast.

20140219_160901Attending Mardi Gras is free, but hosting can really add up! It was so worth it, though, and I took a moment to admire what I’d soon give away so freely. Again it struck me how any other time of year such a pile of imported kitsch would tweak all my environmental sensibilities, but at that moment it was pure beauty.

Intent to enjoy it while I could I decorated my bookcase, making it a shrine to Morpheus.

FALLING DOWN & RISING UP (NEAR TRAGEDY TO TRIUMPH)

Fire Chief Delivers a Harness Lecture and Demo

Fire Chief Delivers a Harness Lecture and Demo

A week and a half later we met for our final Tuesday meeting three days before we rode. The crowd was three times the previous meetings. A lot of out-of-towners were in to attend and get last minute tips from the BOD and do some last minute shopping.

John Gets His Groove Back After Being Presented With A Goblet By the BOD

John Gets His Groove Back After Being Presented With A Goblet By the BOD

The excitement in the air was palpable, though the always unflappable John—Oh Captain, our Captain—started things on a somber note. He is also captain of Allah, and on Sunday they’d had two—not one, TWO—riders fall of floats, one injured fairly seriously, while not wearing their harnesses. Shaking his head and looking truly rattled, he said getting that call on his radio was the worse feeling in the world, and yesterday had been the worst day of his life, being locked in a room with all the other float captains getting chewed out by Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Yikes!

John Presents The King & Queen

John Presents The King & Queen

The mood lightened, though, as they repeated Kingergarten-style (one syllable words, short sentences, lots of pointing) instructions to wear our wrist bands and costumes to the party so we didn’t hold up the line at the door; keep our harnesses on during the float; and keep our hats and masks on at all times during the parade. It’s actually illegal to unmask during the route and the krewe will get fined if police spot someone. Mystery is at the heart of carnival (which is why so many krewes spurned advances from a blogger!)

John Presents Eddie

John Presents Eddie

Our king this year, Phil, is so psyched about Mardi Gras he’s been hardly able to contain himself since I met him at Rock-n-Bowl in October. When he took the mic, he had the room fired up. We were going to go out there and roll the right way and have a blast!

Who Thanks the Board for Keeping Things Rolling In His Absence

Who Thanks the Board for Keeping Things Rolling In His Absence

If the excitement was fever pitch already, John called up Eddie Hibben. Eddie’s wife, Connie, is the one who so graciously responded to my inquires back on my birthday and has followed through on her promise to look after me. However, Eddie has had some major health issues and neither he nor Connie rode last year and they would miss this year as well. I hadn’t even met Eddie since joining because of all he’s been through. Yet these two were instrumental in the formation and success of Morpheus, and John was visibly moved to be able to introduce Eddie to the crowd. He’d made it out and would join us at the pre-party for as long as he could on Friday. The krewe erupted in applause. As I’ve said many times, it’s a great group of people. And it was going to be a great ride.

SANTA SORTS HIS SACK & MORPHEUS MAKES-A-WISH

Santa Prepares to Ride

Santa Prepares to Ride

After my Wednesday night with Nyx and Ancient Druids (per last post) I spent Thursday preparing for the parade the next day and three guests arriving that night. Once again I dumped all my booty out on the table, though not to covet this time. I’d been advised to evenly distribute the goodies between bags, mixing novelties and plush toys with beads so you’re not digging for things and you can gauge what you’re throwing. After a couple of hours I was finished, nothing that I looked like Santa preparing his sacks. Since this is my Christmas, it seemed appropriate.

I’m not a morning person, but had hit the ground running at 7:30. Still, I was supposed to be downtown to load up and interview one of our Make-A-Wish riders, but it was 3:30 before I got out the door and still had to swing by Rachel’s to pick up some leftover beads from her Nyx ride, but rafter I’d picked them up and headed down Magazine I realized

Loading Day: Getting Ready To Roll With Morpheus!

Loading Day:
Getting Ready To Roll With Morpheus!

that I’d left my phone in my rush. Double Doh!.

I would never find Jackie from Make-A-Wish without it, so darted back home before diving back into the madness of Mardi Gras traffic and road closures. (New Orleans is difficult to navigate even on a slow day!) Parades started at 5:30 that day and roads would start closing around an hour beforehand, plus, Muses, although the third parade, lines up near our load up area so I didn’t want to get hemmed in.

As I was learning, parading is an all day affair. Muses didn’t roll until 7:30 Uptown but would be loading up in early afternoon downtown and start their slow crawl up Tchoupitoulas to ‘pass Go.’

Our Waiting Float: Jefferson Avenue for 'Morpheus Cruises the Streets of New Orleans'

Our Waiting Float:
Jefferson Avenue for ‘Morpheus Cruises the Streets of New Orleans’

Such traffic madness is why many locals leave town during Mardi Gras. Heck, if you live Uptown or in the CBD you are literally completely pinned in by parades which line up on Tchoupitoulas which run along the river. Then they run north for several blocks before turning east on St. Charles where they run through most of Uptown and all of the CBD. Once they reach Canal Street, the turn back toward the river where they meet up again with Tchoupitoulas, forming a huge boxs that traps much of the city. So if you’re there, you’re stuck anywhere from six to twelve hours or even more. I had peeps on their way so was racing to not get trapped in this three-lock box of parading madness!

2014-02-27 17.38.04I will spare you all the bobbing and weaving and redirecting that it took to reach Canal and backtrack to the isolated industrial stretch along the river where our floats would wait overnight, but Jackie talked me in on the cell phone I’d luckily retrieved. I made it just in time to talk to the Make-A-Wish rider before she had to leave (so stay tuned!).

Make-A-Wish Night of Ride

Make-A-Wish Night of Ride

Afterward, I found my float after a long search (for of course they weren’t in order!), chatting with Chris from North Carolina whom had emailed after reading the blog and Doug from D.C. who I’d met (and wrote about) at my first Morpheus meeting. They gave me some tips on loading up, but as I saw the piles of beads that other riders had piled up, my giant stash that filled the cab of my truck looked paltry! Others didn’t even have room to stand.

Doug Unloads

Doug Unloads

“Just pace yourself,” Doug said, shaking his head. “Nothing sucks worse than running out of beads before the end.” I stopped for a minute to chat with his wife and him, but there’s no rest for the weary. Aimee was driving in from Jacksonville with her nephew who’s in law school there, and I was supposed to pick up Kyle’s girlfriend at the airport at 7:00.

2014-02-27 17.31.53Muses was already rolling by the time I got back home, grabbed a snack, and rushed to the airport, yet these parades creep so slow that I got to the airport and back, waited for Aimee and Kyle, warmed up gumbo for dinner, and managed to feed them and get them downtown in time to catch all but the first five floats. Afterwards we took Kyle & Kelly for their first stroll down Bourbon Street even though I knew it was a bad idea, for it was late by the time we got home from Bourbon and, if I though today had been busy, tomorrow was riding day: The most epic day ever!

First Night On Bourbon for Kyle & Kelly (right)

First Night On Bourbon for Kyle & Kelly (right)

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