Mardi Gras 2014: Mor-pheus Frenzy Before the Parade


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.


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 [Read more…]

My Day of Mardi Gras, Part 2: From Families to Freaks on St. Charles


The Pirate Hobo Sets Off On His Mardi Gras Mission

The Pirate Hobo Sets Off On His Mardi Gras Mission

It had rained during our lunch respite, but the crowds remained strong and steady if not overwhelming as I left Superior Seafood and began to wander down St. Charles Avenue.  The truck parade was chugging along–a good two hours strong–and would still be in its final stages a couple of hours later as I reached Canal Street, blocking my entrance into the French Quarter.  It was a little melancholy leaving my friends again and setting off alone into one of the greatest communal celebrations in our nation.  I’d always attended Mardi Gras with friends, the last time with some of my dearest on this planet, but this time I was on a mission as opposed to just hanging out.  Despite slinging a hobo pack over my pirate-clad shoulder, I was serious about documenting as much as I could before midnight struck. [Read more…]

My Day of Mardi Gras, Part 1: From Missing Zulu To Bead Dogs & Bead Babies on St. Charles


The Mardi Gras Pirate Hobo Strikes Again

The Mardi Gras Pirate Hobo Strikes Again

Although Mardi Gras season tends to run late into the night, Mardi Gras day itself is much like Christmas–the excitement begins at the crack of dawn (or earlier), with the festivities already ebbing by late afternoon.  Yes, some people rage on until midnight, just as some cling to Christmas till the waning hours, but the last parade wraps up in the early afternoon, prompting the feasts and reunions in the neutral ground to gradually clear.  Soon the roads are largely deserted except for Bourbon, Frenchman, and (allegedly) those surrounding the Backstreet Cultural Museum in Treme.  I’m sure a few other spots continue to thrive, but generally celebration tends to move to house parties and bars. [Read more…]

Lundi Gras is the Day, but Danny Cattan is THE Man!


Let it go! Let it Go! Let it Go!

Let it go! Let it Go! Let it Go!

When the world is coming down on me, I let it go!   –Cowboy Mouth, “Jenny Says”

As Cowboy Mouth rocked my Lundi Gras troubles away, two friends from Rocckus, Megan and Amanda from New York (where their brother Chris had already  returned), appeared out of nowhere dressed in gowns for that night’s Orpheus ball.  When it began to drizzle Amanda pulled out a poncho but Megan had forgotten hers, so I offered my jacket as I opened an umbrella in quiet admiration:  It takes dedication to rock out in the rain in evening-wear.   In return, the sisters offered a red spoon to throw during “Everybody Loves Jill” but I proudly/embarrassedly pulled out one of my own, carried from Jacksonville in hopes that Cowboy Mouth would be playing somewhere.  How about right outside my hotel?!  Thank you guardian Mardi Gras angel!

Rocckus Reunites in the Rain with Red Spoons Ready

Rocckus Reunites in the Rain with Red Spoons Ready

Soon the show came to its typical explosive conclusion with “Jenny Says,” Cowboy Mouth’s one radio hit from the mid-nineties and my introduction to the band several years before I otherwise discovered New Orleans music.  It remains their signature song, played penultimately in concert (pre-Katrina it was the final song, but the storm changed everything) by a band that understands why people continue to attend live shows in the digital age.  During this cleverly crafted bit of pop-catharsis Fred LeBlanc has fans [Read more…]

Up-Lifted At Lundi Gras (Are You WITH ME?!?!)

Monday morning I awoke for the last time in my big, comfy bed in the Hilton with a cold still clawing at my throat thanks to Saturday night’s debauchery; but I at last felt rested and filled with possibility.  Today, after all, was Lundi Gras.


Kings of Rex & Zulu Meet On a Drizzly Mardi Gras (Thus apologies for fuzzy photography!)

Kings of Rex & Zulu Meet On a Drizzly Lundi Gras

For most of its history, the day before Mardi Gras was an off-day filled with scarce activity.  In 1987, however, the King of Rex, Mardi Gras’ oldest Krewe that parades Mardi Gras morning, resumed an old tradition of arriving via boat the day before Mardi Gras.  At the same time, a journalist had stumbled on an obscure term used in a remote neighborhoods and attached it to the festivities.  Thus Lundi Gras (Fat Monday) was born and carnival season took its next quantum leap forward.  The revived arrival now took place at the gigantic Riverwalk Marketplace (what would have seemed science fiction absurdity in the early twentieth century when Rex last arrived via water) and grew into a day of concerts and festivities.  Soon King of Zulu began to meet with the King of Rex upon his arrival, though I’ve yet to stumble upon just how far back this tradition dates.  Zulu, an African-American organization born out of defiance much like the Indians, is the second-oldest marching Krewe, thus making this meeting a mildly reassuring gesture (though only mildly ’cause it feels like just that–a gesture) of racial unity during an event largely dominated by white riders wearing hoods and robed costumes (no one said Mardi Gras can’t be oddly creepy too.)  Of all these robed and hooded parade costumes, Rex’s are the most regal, but their lack of clownishness actually gives them more implied menace, and it doesn’t help that Rex’s lieutenants ride on horseback. [Read more…]

Down & Out On Bourbon Street….


Pam Tusa w/her husband--A direct descendant of Serpico & Jesus Christ!

Pam Tusa w/her husband–A direct descendant of Serpico & Jesus Christ!

At the end of our last exciting episode it was early Sunday evening and I was wandering down Poydras in solitude on my way to meet up with Chris and Pam Tusa,  friends from Baton Rouge.  Chris, a writer with an actual published book, Dirty Little Angels (like that means anything!), grew up in New Orleans.  Although locals generally avoid Bourbon Street like day-old crawfish (especially during Mardi Gras) Chris was drawing us into the fray with good reason.

I keep preaching like a vexed televangelist that Bourbon Street, while worth a glimpse into the total breakdown of social decorum and personal restraint, is not New Orleans or Mardi Gras.  A carnival of the bizarre and unrestrained, it’s definitely entertaining for a short while, but unless you’re the type who feels empowered by yelling at strange women to show their boobs for cheap plastic trinkets, you just don’t want to stay there.  Remnants still stand of what Bourbon once was–stoically defying modern comercial opportunism–such as the elegant and locally revered Creole institution Galatoire’s (GAL-a-twah-z) or Preservation Hall, the sparse yet historic jazz club just a few steps off Bourbon; but, for the most part, t-shirt and daiquiri shops and seedy strip clubs long-ago claimed Bourbon for tourists looking for an excuse.  Not to say New Orleans was ever angelic.  The famous Storyville district where jazz was born was known for red light establishments and rough-housing patrons; but it also gave birth to Jazz!, [Read more…]

Sunday, Bloody Mary Sunday….


'Thoth Tut' KINGS was the theme of this year's parade.

‘Thoth Tut’
KINGS was the theme of this year’s parade.

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. [Read more…]

At Lucy’s In The Sky With Diamonds Hot Glued On The Soles Of Her Shoes


Michael and Me

Hanging With Michael Jerome of Better Than Ezra

For someone who has a reputation of frequently being late, I sure am aware of time.  Some people create a distraction by rolling in to family dinners and public functions infuriatingly late and blissfully unaware.  I’m that guy that’s always just ten minutes behind and hates it.  I think I have plenty of time to get where I’m going and lose myself in preparation.  At some point, though, I inevitably hit a time warp where ten or twenty minutes just disappears into a black hole and suddenly I’m rushing and fussing and stressing and cussing until I roll in at my pre-determined ten-minutes-late time, all apologies and frazzled to the core.  So, as usual, last night the Krewe was scheduled to have its first event at 7pm to watch Muses parade during a meet and greet at the upstairs of Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar (I had no idea [Read more…]

Starting A Rocckus….


Room With A View

Room With A View

I’m now perched high in a Hilton typing away and looking upon the mighty Mississippi as it rushes past this hotel at the foot of Poydras (poy-drus) towards its famous crescent-shaped bend.  The room and view are both gorgeous and check-in went smooth.  Along with our schedule and concert tickets, I received a goodie bag with all kinds of interesting stuff including canned red beans—you never know when the urge will hit!!!—as well as a cool Saints koozie to which I attached the BTE pin; a BTE decal; a Krewe of Rocckus custom bead (Rocckus on!); two bags of jalapeno cheese puffs; a mini Tabasco bottle, and a praline.

Welcome To Camp!

Welcome To Camp!

The praline and one bag of jalapeno ‘Cheetos’ disappeared as I unpacked, but once settled in I headed out for a walk down Tchoupitoulas.  Pronounced ‘chop-i-too-lus,’ this street has followed the riverbank since the very founding of the city yet no one seems to quite know what it means.  There are many words from local Native American languages that resemble Tchoupitoulas but none that are exact matches, [Read more…]