Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Carnival Memories and Helpful Hints

Our culture is beautiful. Play that clip and learn something.

It’s Mardi Gras time again. It’s time for thousands of people to descend on the city, get totally wasted and show their bodies for pieces of plastic. That has to be the greatest marketing tool for an event in the world. Since we need all the money we can get, I won’t be too negative about how carnival season has been watered down to a drink fest. Anybody that wants to come down and fight for their lives on Bourbon feel free. You won’t see me down there. The best thing about the commercialization of Mardi Gras is that it didn’t trickle over to the neighborhood festivities. We still have a little tradition if you can get pass the pit bulls and the guys rolling blunts right in front of your babies. The one thing that sucks about living in the East is that you can’t go out your door and see Indians walking around at 6:00 AM like the old neighborhood. When I was growing up Mardi Gras was serious stuff. Families would dress alike or have costumes. Every school had a royal court and parade. My elementary school, Thomas Edison had a big ass parade that used to walk the entire Lower Ninth Ward. I always thought that was cruelty to children to make us walk that far. The parade used to pass right in front my door and I wanted to jump out of the line and go lay in my bed. Remember when you had to make those stupid floats out of a shoe box for class? There was always that one kiss ass kid who’s parents spent way more money on the thing and made your aluminum foil and tissue paper decorations look trifling. The kid with the overly decorated float was usually the first jackass to also bring a king cake to class. When you went to a school full of poor kids like I did, nobody wanted to get the baby (that‘s who buys the next one). When I realized that I had the baby I would always chew it like it was a piece of the cake and spit it out later so I wouldn’t have to buy the next one. At least back then you could get a 3ft. cake from McKenzie’s Bakery for five dollars. Now you need to spend at least ten dollars to buy one big enough to feed more than two people. I remember staying up to watch the ball when King Rex met King Comus just to see if I was going to see somebody black in the royal court or Dorothy Mae Taylor charging in to stop the whole event. Me and my boys used to walk the entire Zulu parade route with an ink pen and a sheet of paper for girls’ phone numbers. I don’t think I ever got one. I used to love that day.

Here are some unwritten rules for Mardi Gras:

Mardi Gras day is the only day that heterosexual men are allowed to dress alike and walk down the street together. It’s also the only day you can get away with dressing like a woman or wearing a leather g-string without no one really bothering you.

All kids must save their beads from previous parades so they can ride around the day of Mardi Gras and play parade. If no one in your family has a truck, you are allowed to play from a porch or apartment balcony. If you were raised here and never played parade, please turn in all of your New Orleans paraphernalia now. Your tribal membership has been revoked.

The best strategy for drinking while hanging out is to make friends early in the day with someone near you that has a portable toilet. People are willing to share the facilities with you if you have been talking to them for awhile. Please do not walk up on a group’s private potty and get a beat down.

The best method for getting a Zulu coconut on Orleans Avenue without knowing anyone on the float is to surround yourself with as many little girls as possible. Then, when the float passes, scream out “WHAT’S UP COUSIN !!” No one in New Orleans keeps track of all their cousins. They will think you are one they can’t remember and hand you one for the babies. If the rider doesn’t have any coconuts, you will at least get some stuffed animals to give to the little girls.

Finally, always remember that all drama on Mardi Gras day usually takes place after 5:00 PM. New Orleans people can have a good time together without any problems until there has been too much alcohol consumed. If you are not from around the area, too tipsy to realize what’s going on, or don’t have good running shoes, this would be a good time to go home and rest up for Ash Wednesday. If you are partying with locals you don’t need to be out all night long.


Anonymous said...

Great post as usual! You always crack me up. This time, it's your king cake purchase foibles.

The first time I came to New Orleans, it was carnival time, the host served king cake and I almost swallowed mine because I didn't know that a little plastic Jesus would end up in my cake. Ha!

mominem said...


This should be required reading for all visitors.

Anonymous said...

HAHAHAHAHAHA! Thank you for taking me back! I miss the Indians early morning, thunderbird and mad dog 20/20 HA! But another sure fire way to get a coconut is shake what cha momma gave ya! It worked for me in 2005 and I found it when I cleaned out my house!

Anonymous said...

This is a Good one. I remember making those Mardi Gras Floats out of those payless or Shoe Town Boxes. Maybe a Security box if the shoes were on sale. LOL!! You are too crazy chewing the baby to keep from bringing the next cake. A few of my classmates did that also, I guess. The teacher would ask who had the baby and no one would admit they had it. You are absolutely correct I paid $13 dollars for the smallest king cake Haydel's had and damn near ate the hold thing myself (there goes my diet) LOL!!! I miss mckenzie's and Tastee's (only if Mckenzie ran out) King Cake's. Do you think someone has their recipe? The cake will probably be more expensive since katrina like everything else.
Later, Angie

saintseester said...

I learned to stand next to my very well-endowed friend who liked to lean waaaay over. I usually got a good haul because she was too drunk to catch anything.

E said...

I think the latest I've ever lasted on Mardi Gras day has been 3:30, and that was really pushing it.

Book said...

I Remember that parade at Edison .. LOL!! the HOOD parade!

u know this is my time of the year Cliff!

Anonymous said...

oh Cliff
Thank you for reminding why I love my HOME, why I'm glad we decided to come HOME, and to stay GRATEFUL for being able to come HOME.
Living here is a privelege too few have.
Just gotta figure out a way to give back and help others come HOME, too.

Breez said...

This should really be placed up in every gas station, bar and restaurant.

GREAT post!

All-Mi-T [Thought Crime] Rawdawgbuffalo said...

yes it is, even beyond beautiful... nice blog folk, chk em out one day, maybe u ca start with this THANK WE FREE

The long, long road home,New Orleans said...

Oh yeah, I remember playing parade off the porch. Having all the other kids playing spectator down below.

Another rule, a local does Bourbon street in high school but never beyond that. In college you find the tulane group on st charles with the sofa and HUGE sound system and party there.

LisaPal said...

Wow, you really nailed it! Thanks for the great memories.

I loved making those shoe-box floats. (But I was never the kid with the fancy one.) Why don't schools make kids do that anymore? Now I want to make one just for the hell of it --oh, and maybe so my daughter can have the experience, too. (Too late for my son, I'm afraid.)

It was fun remembering how we'd play "parade," too. If the weather was bad and we couldn't do it outside, we'd all stand on the living room sofa and throw beads to the imaginary people along the wall, six feet away. Those were the days.

Oh, and I liked getting the king cake baby too much to ever try to hide it. I can't say that my mother felt the same way when I came home with it, though.