“”I think there should be a national carnival, much the same as Mardi Gras in Rio. There should be a week of national hilarity . . . a cessation of all work, all business, all discrimination, all authority. A week of total freedom. That’d be a start. Of course, the power structure wouldn’t really alter. It would just last for a week and then go back to the way it was. I think we need it.” – Jim Morrison.
Mardi Gras, or Carnival, is one of my favorite events of the year, a celebrartion that is uniquely both wickedness and debauchery and a joyous celebration of Catholic faith. Obviously it is not commemorated much in New England. Instead it is celebrated in places where the Catholic church is strong such as places throughout Europe, Latin America, and most famously in New Orleans. That hurricane-ravaged city is celebrating its second Mardi Gras since Katrina an occasion today that is both an escape from reality and hope for the future.
I was lucky enough to attend Mardi Gras in New Orleans 11 years ago, with mixed feelings. I enjoyed the city and the (usually) friendly comradery that arose among strangers. I especially liked walking along the parade route and seeing how the same parade took on a different feel in each neighborhood. Downtown is dominated by tourists and college kids, the African-American areas featured poorer children lining the streets to watch and participate, and in the wealthier part of the city small children were propped up on top of ladders to catch the best loot.
On the downside, the whole experience was a bit overwhelming for someone like me with crowd anxiety and I got a bit cranky from overstimulation. The scene on Bourbon Street was unpleasant as the requests for mammary display were done in a manner akin to the crass capitalism of the stock exchange accompanied by nasty, insulting language. Overall I think Jim Morrison is on to something though, and the whole Mardi Gras thing is beneficial for the community. Even the strict Christians who came to demonstrate against Mardi Gras and make people repent seemed to be enjoying their role in the whole event.
I should probably scan and add some photos from that trip, but in the meantime one can never cease to be amused by this photo of Mr. Met and Bordeaux D. Nutria tossing beads in the French Quarter.
First, a funny reflection on Fat Tuesday from Dirty Catholic.
Second, as promised, photographs from my 1996 trip to Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
That’s me swinging from a lamp post on my very first day in New Orleans. I love this photo especially because I actually know everyone in the picture even though half the people look like passersby.
I acquired a bit of loot including beads and a spear at the Mandeville parade.
A couple of blues men played in the middle of the street to an appreciative crowd.
A baby on a ladder scored lots of loot due to advantages in vertically and cuteness.
Christian protesters/evangelizers came in great numbers to help the revelers repent.
Hmm…Lent is but an hour away!