Wednesday, February 13, 2013

No Other Word for Mardi Gras than – Wow!

There is simply no way to explain Mardi Gras. You've heard and said it before, "You can't explain it, you had to be there." This time that statement is absolutely true. Absolutely.

Mad Sally and Ol' Chumbucket had an awesome day!
Let me start by thanking the Krewe ofPirates 2013 for inviting Tori, me and Max to join them for the most amazing afternoon. I've met and I've marched with more than a few pirate crews and they all tend to be fun, open-minded, big-hearted and occasionally empty headed (in a really good way,) and the Krewe was no exception. Special thanks to Charles Duffy, master of the fleet (and Max's newest Drunken Bastard Uncle II. Captain Slappy is the original, one and only Drunken Bastard Uncle to our kids. And when he and Charles eventually meet they'll get along famously.) – anyway, special thanks for making the contact and making us feel not just welcomed, but wanted.

There's way too much to write in one sitting, and certainly way too much for anyone to read. So today is just a start.

It's not just a party – it's a state of mind
Mardi Gras is not a parade. It's not even really a party. It's a state of mind. There are official parades, of course, very famous ones, but most of the revelers scoffed at them. Those are run by chamber of commerce and visitor association types who put them on for the tourists, they said. The real Mardi Gras is the seething, celebrating mass of costumed humanity that takes over the streets and dances and struts and unabashedly enjoys itself.

Imagine a costume – any costume. Someone was wearing it on the streets of the French Quarter Tuesday. Teams in themed costumes. A guy dressed as both a samurai warrior AND the dragon he was battling. Lots of French aristos. A couple of guys dressed as good luck kitties. A guy wearing a large sheet of cardboard that said "Free mammograms" – and over the two holes cut out for his hands, "Place breasts here." I wonder how well that worked. Cowboys and flowers and "scientists" and plenty of scantily clad partyers of both sexes, playing both sexes.

There is no official route, though we did on several occasions find our way mingling with or cutting across more organized parades. And there isn't a line between paraders/partiers and the watchers. Everyone was just out there, and it was beautiful. Peaceful was NOT a word you'd use. Loud, raucous, wild, those all apply. Still, with tens of thousands of people, most of drunk or working on it, jamming the streets and flowing in different directions, there was no aggressiveness or ass-hole-ry, at least none I saw. When people bumped into you (and that was a given, happened hundreds of times) they'd quickly apologize (and I always answered, "Oh, my pleasure!")

One of the highlights, if not THE highlight, was breaking the window of a multi-million dollar home. Not that it was necessarily US who broke the window, I'm certainly not admitting that. But a window was definitely broken. Talking about it afterwards, several of the pirates said it was even better than a couple of years ago when they almost killed the little old lady.

Taking aim at a party. This is NOT where the window broke

The Krewe of Pirates is renowned for its bead cannons, two long pieces of PVC pipe mounted on wagons, with surgical tubing for a firing mechanism. They loft a load of beads high above the crowd and hundreds of feet down the street. When people gather on the balconies looking down on the streets, we would stop and fire, lobbing swag into their parties, sometimes with amazing accuracy. A guy on one balcony held out his hat, and our gunner shot a load of beads straight into it. While this was going on, people would happily clear a circle for it, watching and cheering. Everyone loved it.

So there were a half dozen people on a second story, wrought iron balcony of a very lovely, classic French Quarter house. They were egging the pirates on – I mean some group of pirates, I'm certainly not admitting it was us. A load of beads would be fired, and just miss, overshooting or undershooting or just off to the side. So finally the powder monkey put a bunch of beads into a small pouch and loaded that into the canon. The cannoneer took careful aim and let fire. If the guy on the balcony – he was waving and catcalling about how the gun couldn't hit anything – if he had just put his hand up and TRIED to catch the thing instead of ducking, he would have deflected it. Instead he just watched as the bag flew past him and smacked into the window, punching a hole into the glass and shattering the pane, followed by the full-throated cheering of the thousands of costumed revelers. Not that any of them could or would identify the shooters, as the pirate captain quickly shouted, "Haul anchor, haul anchor! Run away, run away!"

If I happen to see that gunner, I'll tell him, "Good shot!" Not that I have any idea who it was.

Tori, center, and Max join the cheers for a good shot!
The bead cannons figure into a key piece of Krewe of Pirates lore, the 2009 Mardi Gras when they routed the Christians. Every year an aggressive group of Bible thumpers goes down to the quarter to scold everyone for having fun, carrying huge signs explaining exactly why we are all going to hell, and offering friendly advice about what God thinks of our behavior. Spoiler alert – she's apparently displeased. Somebody once defined puritanism as "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere is having a good time."

In 2009 the Christians were gathered in front of St. Louis Cathedral on Jackson Square. The pirates were just coming out of Pirates Alley (that's an actual street, right next to the cathedral. Gotta love a town where Pirates Alley is an official street, not a tourist shop.) and decided to do something about it. There's video on the Krewe's website of what they call The Battle of Jackson Square.A broadside of beads, one of which hurtled through the air and landed perfectly around the cross, like a game of holy ringtoss. Then all the sinners flocked towards the thumpers, surrounding them with amiable but abandoned Mardi Gras mayhem until the Christians beat a hasty retreat. This year they were back, but they vamoosed before we could get there to give them more of the same. Pussy Christians.

Tori, Max and I can't say it enough. THANK YOU Krewe of Pirates! Thanks for inviting us, thanks for making us feel so welcome. The best day we've had in a long, long time.

More tomorrow.


Whiskey BayRovers said...

It was good to meet you, sir, and a pleasure to "march" with you.

John "Ol' Chumbucket" Baur said...

And the same to you, good sir. If you see today's post, you'll see I have a few words to see about the Rovers.