Chewbacchus Mardi Gras Parade 2014, Episode 3: Return of the Truck Guy


Chewbacchus Masterminds Ryan Ballard and Brett Power Powow at Chewbacchanal (Courtesy of Franzia Ellers)

Chewbacchus Masterminds Ryan Ballard and Brett Power Powow at Chewbacchanal
(Courtesy of Franzia Ellers)

Earlier as I’d marched with Chewbacchus I’d periodically run into—sometimes quite literally—a darting and jumping Spiderman who’d apologize before swinging off again. No offense taken. We were all stumbling by that point! As I arrived at the Trash Palace, though—so named because it was a disposal company warehouse before purchased with plans (plans, not reality yet!) to make it an events space—where I was supposed to take money from public entrants into Chewbacchanal, I found Spiderman already frantically trying to keep up with the steady stream of public partygoers. I was supposed to start at 10:00 but had rushed straight from the parade so figured I’d be fine, yet the public was arriving before we’d even quit rolling. I worked the door for two hours and the procession remained so steady that I never learned Spider Man’s secret identity!


Chewbacchanal Babes (Courtesy of Franzia Ellers)

Chewbacchanal Babes
(Courtesy of Franzia Ellers)

I’m not sure what folks thought, having a giant in drag taking their cash, but it gave me a chance to extend the gag. Admission was $10 in costume and $15 without and sometimes it was difficult to tell the difference. There is so much obscure fandom out there that I gave the discount to every offended entrant who was affronted by my ignorance. There were also a lot of people on the guest list, and if I couldn’t find their name it was a judgment call. If they were a douche it was no dice, but if they were cool and convincing Spiderman just shrugged and we let them pass. I’d had zero seconds training, so it was all spontaneous crisis management!

Despite a few double D-bags, I was enjoying meeting folks and checking out the outrageous costumes, for some parade fans were as decked out as the participants. I would often ask for $15 from people in the gaudiest, most outrageous costumes just to see the reaction of the half that didn’t instantly get the joke.


Red Shirt Volunteers Gather Around Their Complimentary Keg (Courtesy of Franzia Ellers)

Red Shirt Volunteers Gather Around Their Complimentary Keg
(Courtesy of Franzia Ellers)

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Chrissy is tour manager for Galactic—one of the first New Orleans bands I came to love and still a favorite—and this expertise led to her recruitment as Event Planner General for Chewbacchus; thus, she was the one coordinating this party and who’d recruited me to work the door. Therefore it shouldn’t have been a surprise when a guy came up and said, “My name’s Robert Mercurio—I should be on Chrissy’s list.” I did a double take. “Hell, yeah, you are.” It was Galactic’s phenomenal bass player. “Of course you’re on the list,” I gushed with a lack of coolness—but, hey, I was in a dress and wig so I added: “I’m a big fan.” He did a double take at Lt. Uh-the-horruh and thanked me for listening as I waved him and his group through. I’m sure he was hoping I never made it back stage.


Spiderman and I continued to furiously take wads of cash and slap on wrist bands since our reinforcements never arrived. Chrissy finally showed up and apologized profusely, but I didn’t mind. I was still working the crowd. Sometime after 11:00 she returned with replacements and I wandered into the large, unadorned warehouse where a brass band was playing on a portable stage to an enormous crowd. No wonder we’d been so busy!

Chewbacchanal (Courtesy of Franzia Ellers)

(Courtesy of Franzia Ellers)

Without a parade or people handing me wads of cash I’d lost my permission again, so I wandered the floor lost. I chatted with a couple of K.R.A.P. members, was handed a shot of something that glowed, and got knighted with a special Chewbacchus medallion by another Uhura who declared my consumed most beautiful of the night.

By now, though, these expensive cheap costume boots (why are specialty costumes so costly and yet be made so cheaply?!) were wearing unbearable blisters on my feet so I wandered outside for some air where I ran into some friends from the pre-party. When they wandered off, though, I started the long trek back to my truck.


A few years ago I learned about the futility of catching a cab during Mardi Gras the hard way. After Better Than Ezra’s annual show that my Jacksonville friends had skipped, I started at 1a.m. trying to get a cab alone to Metairie. Stranded in the CBD late at night, I was in full panic mode after a few hours, but met a girl also trying to get to Metairie so we joined forces. When a taxi finally stopped at 4:30 we offered to pay any cost to get us the hell out of there!

Starfleet, We Have a Problem!

What? You Won’t Stop for THIS Guy!

As I left Chewbacchanal and walked down Elysian Fields, dressing in drag didn’t help change my past luck. Giving up on a cab the time I turned down St. Claude, I pulled up a map on my phone and almost cried when I saw how far away my truck was. It was after 1 a.m. but fortunately the streets were fairly busy for I wasn’t sure how safe it was here on the edge of Bywater in the 9th Ward.

As I stumbled along gingerly, several panhandlers approached me, apparently nonplussed by my drag. I merely huffed, waved a hand down my dress, and said, “Do you think I’d be walking if I had cab money?” Considering the hour and my location, it was a justifiable lie.

The boots soon began to hurt so bad that I took them off and walked barefoot in my hose, but the asphalt shredded my feet into hamburger. In truth, it was only a couple of miles walk and normally I scoff at people who act like a mile or two stroll is epic. As I hissed with every hesitant, slow, and painful step, though, two miles was a daunting distance that would easily take an hour. I just kept telling myself ‘This too shall pass,’ and almost cried with joy when my truck finally came into view!


Chrissy, Event Overlord, Takes a Break From Breaking Down To Share Stories

Chrissy, Event Overlord, Takes a Break From Breaking Down To Share Stories

I’d quit drinking at the party since I had to drive and my scar trek was definitely sobering, so my system was cleaned out by the time I hit the pillow. The next morning I didn’t feel too bad.

I didn’t feel too good, either!

As I lay in bed sipping coconut water and watching LA Confidential, I dreamed of the amazing pancakes I’d had at the Frost Stop when my brother, Jerry, was visiting, yet could barely stand on my hamburger feet. I settled for cereal instead.

Bryan 'Rocksteady' (Left) Checks His Phone To See Who He'd Drunk Dialed

Bryan ‘Rocksteady’ (Left) Checks His Phone To See Who He’d Drunk Dialed

I’d told Chrissy I’d help clean up, though, and had gotten caught up with the parades Friday and missed setup, so soon sucked it up. It meant missing Sunday’s parades, but I couldn’t walk and the weather was horrendous, anyhow. I hope you weren’t waiting for photos!

Although salvage began a noon it was 1:00 before I rolled in, but there was plenty left to do. I quickly located Chrissy, who had somehow twisted her ankle and was limping so good thing I didn’t wimp out, and she put me to work lifting and loading, soon pressing my NOLA christened truck into service. Everyone was still in a good if subdued mood, and as we shared stories apparently I was one of many that commented on seeing Bryan ‘Rocksteady’ Tibbets wandering around in a smiling daze. Everyone seemed to remember but him!


My Figurative Train Wreck Housing Search Becomes A Literal Truck Wreck

My NOLA Christened Truck

Still, after the amazing night that had passed, it was hard not to feel let down that it was over. In most trilogies, it’s common criticism that the middle installment is the weakest—a mere transitional vehicle—although the franchise that inspired ChewbacchusStar Wars—is the famous exception. I’d guess a narrow majority of fans [although I’m sure my Facebook and blog comments are about to blow up!] and lion’s share of critics rank Empire Strikes Back as the best installment. (I’d have to admit Star Trek II is the best, as well, despite the fact that IV was my favorite film as a teen. But that’s more like a baker’s dozen than a trilogy!)

This Star Wars inspired trilogy of posts is also such an exception, making me almost want to skip part III, though I’m too obsessive to leave loose ends! I’ve spent a year working up to this and wanted to document what it’s like before, during, and after. The after, though, is all bittersweet memory.

Thus it was with a mix of satisfaction and longing for next year that we hauled our heavy equipment to the Den of Muses where I picked up the K.R.A.P. trike and grocery cart. All I wanted to do by then was find food and take a nap, but first had to run by Danielle’s house to pick up my left over black-eyed peas and collards and then drop the trike and cart off at Rachel’s. This endless list of chores soon began to feel as long as my trek to the truck as my headache returned, but it was a small price to pay for the high of the night before. As my head finally hit the pillow sometime after 5:00, my phone beeped with a message from Rachel: “Thanks for being the truck guy.”

The truck guy.

I was a man again.

THANK GOD!!! That would surely make me sleep easy.





Chewbacchus Parade 2014, Episode 2: The Empire Struts Back


2014-02-22 18.14.13As Chewbacchus slowly groaned to life along N. Peters Street a few onlookers gathered along our forming line. K.R.A.P.’s segment of this weaving serpent nearly 1000 people strong (800 paying members, over a hundred red shirts, and several marching bands) was smack dab in the middle, but finally followed the head in motion. After taking an awe-struck moment to soak it in I started experimenting with my crowd flirting technique, throwing a few beads and an occasional furry koozie or some merkin panties. (The bandoliers were the big guns, so I was saving those.)

The Parade Lines Up

The Parade Lines Up

It took me a few minutes to warm up, but I’m as much an actor as a writer at heart and may have missed my calling. Performers tend to be quiet and introverted, but give them a stage and your attention (ie. permission) and they spring to life in bold Technicolor. Thus, by the time we rounded the corner to travel the block up Esplanade by the French Quarter before turning on Frenchmen Street, I was fully in character and struttin’ my stuff. This quiet, reflective writer that had tentatively poked and prodded at the Chewbacchus ranks trying to find a pocket of quiet inclusion suddenly became a [Read more…]