13 December 2005

We are Mardi Gras!

Chris Rose nailed it. His piece in the TP today is great and it sums up everything we love about Mardi Gras. I've read it over a couple of times now and I get more fired up for MG2k6 everytime.

We're having Mardi Gras and that's final

Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Chris Rose (LINK)

The Mardi Gras thing. It's not on the table. It's not a point of negotiation or a bargaining chip.

We're going to have it and that's that. End of discussion.

Folks in faraway places are going to feel the misery of missing it, and that is a terrible thing. In the past, I have missed the season a couple of times because of story assignments elsewhere, and it sucked to be away from the center of the universe and not be a part of this city's fundamental, quintessential and indelible cultural landmark.

But we can't turn off the lights and keep the costumes in storage and ladders in the shed for another year just because we are beaten and broken and because so many of us are not here.

In fact, we have to do this because we are beaten and broken and so many of us are not here. Katrina has proved, more than ever, that we are resilient. We are tougher than dirt. Certainly tougher than the dirt beneath our levees.

The social and celebratory nature of this event defines this city, and this is no time to lose definition. The edges are too blurry already. Some folks say it sends the wrong message, but here's the thing about that: New Orleans is in a very complicated situation as far as "sending a message" goes these days. It's a tricky two-way street.

On one hand, it is vital to our very survival that the world outside of here understand just how profoundly and completely destroyed this city is right now, with desolate power grids and hundreds of thousands of residents living elsewhere and in limbo.

Jobs, businesses and the public spirit are all about as safely shored as the 17th Street Canal floodwall. We're leaking. And we could very well breach in the coming year or two.

We very well could.

On the other hand, we need to send a message that we are still New Orleans. We are the soul of America. We embody the triumph of the human spirit. Hell, we ARE Mardi Gras.

And Zulu can say they're only playing if they get it their way and Rex can say nothing at all and the mayor -- our fallen and befuddled rock star -- can say that he wants it one day and he doesn't want it the next day, but the truth is: It's not up to any of them.

It's up to me now. And we're having it.

And here's a simple, not-so-eloquent reason why: If we don't have Mardi Gras, then the terrorists win. The last thing we need right now is to divide ourselves over our most cherished event.

If the national news wants to show people puking on Bourbon Street as a metaphor for some sort of displaced priorities in this town, so be it. The only puking I've seen at Mardi Gras in the past 10 years is little babies throwing up on their mothers' shoulders after a bottle.

To encapsulate the notion of Mardi Gras as nothing more than a big drunk is to take the simple and stupid way out, and I, for one, am getting tired of staying stuck on simple and stupid. Mardi Gras is not a parade. Mardi Gras is not girls flashing on French Quarter balconies. Mardi Gras is not an alcoholic binge.

Mardi Gras is bars and restaurants changing out all the CDs in their jukeboxes to Professor Longhair and the Neville Brothers, and it is annual front-porch crawfish boils hours before the parades so your stomach and attitude reach a state of grace, and it is returning to the same street corner, year after year, and standing next to the same people, year after year -- people whose names you may or may not even know but you've watched their kids grow up in this public tableau and when they're not there, you wonder: Where are those guys this year?

It is dressing your dog in a stupid costume and cheering when the marching bands go crazy and clapping and saluting the military bands when they crisply snap to.

Now, that part, more than ever. It's mad piano professors converging on our city from all over the world and banging the 88s until dawn and laughing at the hairy-shouldered men in dresses too tight and stalking the Indians under the Claiborne overpass and thrilling on the years you find them and lamenting the years you don't and promising yourself you will next year.

It's wearing frightful color combinations in public and rolling your eyes at the guy in your office who -- like clockwork, year after year -- denies that he got the baby in the king cake and now someone else has to pony up the 10 bucks for the next one.

Mardi Gras is the love of life. It is the harmonic convergence of our food, our music, our creativity, our eccentricity, our neighborhoods and our joy of living. All at once.

And it doesn't really matter if there are superparades or even any parades at all this year. Because some group of horn players will grab their instruments and they will march Down the Avenue because that's what they do, and I, for one, will follow.

If there are no parades, I'm hitching a boombox to a wagon, putting James Booker on the CD player and pulling my kids Down the Avenue and you're welcome to come along with me and where more than two tribes gather, there is a parade.

We are the parade. We are Mardi Gras. We're Whoville, man -- you can take away the beads and the floats and all that crazy stuff, but we're still coming out into the street. Cops or no cops. Post-parade garbage pick-up or no garbage pick-up -- like anyone could tell the friggin' difference!

If you are stuck somewhere else, in some other town, then bring it to them. If you got a job somewhere else now, take off that Tuesday and get all the New Orleanians you know and gather in a park somewhere and cook up a mass of food and put some music on a box and raise a little hell.

And raise a glass to us, brothers and sisters, because we're in here fighting this fight and we'll raise a glass to you because you cannot be here with us and we know you want to. Let the whole damn country hear Al Johnson yelling "It's Carnival Time" and let them know we're not dead and if we are dying, we're going to pretend like we're not.

Fly the flag. Be in that number. This is our battle to win or lose. Hopefully, of one mind and one message. That we are still here.

And that we are still New Orleans.


At December 15, 2005 1:44 PM, Blogger P. T. Beauregard said...

The article hits it right on the head... Katrina Who? Bring on the 150th!!


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