fieldsofgarlic (fieldsofgarlic) wrote,

Dash to the Ash

(It would seem I have given up blogging for Lent. Really, I haven't, despite appearances. Sorry for the delay in posting this. I know I've been promising it for a while.)

Mardi Gras 2006 met and exceeded my every expectation. It was cathartic, jubilant, decadent, playful and beautiful. The last few years, I haven't really done Mardi Gras. But this year, I knew I wanted to be out there, giving it my all. This meant coming up with the right costume. I thought and thought and thanks to the manifestational skills of Pam and especially Liny, I emerged Mardi Gras morning, ready to serve coffee, tea or FEMA.

In case you don't know any of the history of Mardi Gras, I recommend a little light reading on the subject. It's good stuff. The basic idea is that in many cultures there is a period of austerity (in this case, Lent), usually to atone, contemplate, do without. And frequently, this austere period is preceded by over-the-top partying and celebrating. In many cultures, even social orders are mocked and inverted. Often, peasants or slaves were allowed to reign as kings for a day. World-turned-upside-down kind of thing. Mardi Gras is one such tradition. Anything goes on Mardi Gras, because abstinence is imminent. In addition to decorative costuming, there's a long tradition of lampooning everything, from religion to politics to you name it. It's a lot of fun and if you get into it, you can spend the whole day laughing and wearing the biggest grin you ever wore.

Anyway, I think you get the idea.

So Tuesday morning we headed downtown. We got up very early (Ana and I rose at 5:30) to get dressed and get parked by a little after nine. It was the earliest we'd ever made it into the fray.

One reason we've shot for early arrival in the past, is so we could march with the Society of St. Anne. They gather in the Bywater and the Faubourg Marigny early Tuesday morning and march into the Quarter, ultimately ending up at the river to release ashes of loved ones lost. We caught up with them at the corner of Chartres and Marigny.

They are a lush palette, this bunch. Splashes of every color you can imagine, and then some. We paraded with them until they crossed Esplanade, and then we ducked out for a bite to eat.

Of course they had a marching band with them and of course it was full of the usual suspects: a sousaphone player, a few trumpets and trombones, and a drummer or two. But also marching was this guy, with an acoustically amplified violin!

After eating, we wandered through the Quarter for a few hours, taking in all the dazzling costumes and revelry. Then we headed for our final destination, the very local scene on Frenchmen Street. It's where we always end our day. We see lots of friends there; it's a great big party in the street.

This concludes the chronological portion of this entry. From here on out, it's just marveling at the plumage.

A word of warning for the easily offended: as I noted, reverence is not part of the Mardi Gras vocabulary. Some of the costumes showcased below may be offensive to some. Click at your own risk (or delight).


The fabric of choice this year was definitely the ubiquitous blue tarp. People did pretty amazing things with this simple material.

These two were cute, but I liked their acronym for reasons they probably didn't intend. Getting your feelings about FEMA out was definitely a huge meme this year, and their MEMA moniker summed that up nicely for me.

Of course, the city's Mexican population has also exploded, and many of our friends to the South are working hard to help put this city back together. So their costumes work on that level as well.

This guy had probably the simplest blue tarp costume I saw, but it was oddly effective. It simply conjoined two icons to celebrate the intersection of Fat Tuesday and the blue winter of our discontent. Nicely done.

Stovepipe hat and tailored suit (with coattails, even!). Amazingly, this wasn't the only tailored blue tarp we saw. (photo by Liny)

A few people kept the blue tarp in (or near) its normal context: the roof. (Note the tiny National Guard markings on the front of the house.)

Our friend Pat Jolly worked the same idea. By the way, Pat's doing a lot of good work these days to help musicians who lost homes to get housing and gigs. Great job, Pat!

Mike got his idea way back when he first returned to the city (in October).

Of course, there are always fairies out on Mardi Gras, and this year a few of them were blue.

I love her utility belt! This woman called herself the FEMA Fairy. She was handing out little strips of paper with a dream of a fairy that could bring trailers to people who need trailers, and other things we're all waiting for.

This wasn't a costume, per se, but rather a giant blue tarp FEMA voodoo doll. And it was full of bright, orange pins. Very little love for FEMA in this town, let me tell you.

Catharsis was a big part of this year's Mardi Gras. And letting all our feelings out about what we've all been through was a big part of that catharsis.


Blue tarps weren't the only way we reflected our current state of affairs. This guy's costume was simple, but one of the best I saw at capturing the frustration so many of us felt in the months after the levees failed. We were getting very mixed messages, especially from our city leaders.

He was twirling this sign all day, amplifying the dizzying effect of these sentiments.

This guy's costume was amazing. For those of you who don't know, the fleur de lis is the handiest shorthand for "New Orleans" you'll every find.

When I saw this guy, I said, "Fiddle on, Nero." But one of his friends said, "That ain't Nero, that's Zero!"

Those of us with flooded houses have been up to our elbows in cleaning supplies. Why I didn't think of this as a costume idea is beyond me.

I love this guy's costume (and these giant rig costumes, in general). The legs hanging over the front are not his; his are hidden below, so he can walk with the rig. Poor guy spent the whole of the day getting airlifted. And the little copter blades could even spin!

Here's another amazing one. This guy either is or knows someone who is a desktop publisher extraordinaire. I wish I had a shot of the back and the spine as well, they were equally amazing (the publisher was Doomsday, but with the Doubleday logo). Lots of detail. Very, very clever and very well executed.

For those of us who came back soon after the levees failed, military meals-ready-to-eat (MREs) were flowing freely. Some friends still have a stash of these in preparation for future crises.

This city is littered with caution tape and orange cones. It was only a matter of time before some of them came to life.

I really liked what this woman was doing. She was a locus for prayers for New Orleans. In addition to being covered with Tibetan prayer flags, she had a kind of receptacle on her head to store prayers she would collect from Mardi Gras revelers. When I asked her about her costume, she produced a flattened, little paper box from her pocket and asked me to think a prayer for the city. When I had it in mind, she had me blow (with my sacred breath) into the box, which inflated it to box shape. She then handed it to me and asked me to put it into her hat. Most excellent. I love interactive costumes!

Double points for topical convergence here. Another interactive float, the guy who made this said to me as I was snapping this, "Take a picture; it's sinking fast!"

Lots of us have boxes of these gloves in our houses, since the Red Cross was handing them out by the gross.

Another simple, but effective effort. Frequently, people work up a theme and costume as a group. These people were The Blind Leading the Blind.

Not all of us could tape our fridges and push them to the curb (ours needed the doors to come off to get out of the kitchen). All of us who cleaned out our fridges when we got home got to know these little critters all too well.

This guy was in full character, shaking hands, waving, generally politicking. This wasn't, strictly speaking, a critique of recent Bush folly, but there's a general sentiment of frustration with him here these days, so it fit right in. In case you can't read the sign, it says, "Submission Accomplished." (photo by Liny)


Although the number of topical costumes was very high this year, there were still many, many costumes that were simply clever and beautiful. This pack of kittens was among the first costumes we saw that day. There were probably at least ten of them. Here are three.

Lots of costumers come complete with poses for photographers.

I saw more than one tongue sticking out this year. These guys were great. (photo by Liny)

This woman was part of a larger group of eighteenth century French aristocratic revelers. They all looked good, but her dress was particularly amazing, with a little, hand-painted image in every panel.

Given the work required to produce a beaded corset, I was surprised to see (and hear about) several of these. I love the fluer de lis design.

Cute green fairy boy.

This is an idea I've had in the past, but I've ruled it out based on cost. Little plastic flowers can really add up (I know, because I made a headdress one year from them). Still, it's a great effect.

I always love robot costumes. Takes me back to the days of Casey Simpson and Shiny Robot in Outer Space Robot Visits Roman Times. Mardi Gras robots never have to worry about where to put their drinks.

This poor thing really seemed tired of having her picture taken. But what did she expect, going out all fabulous like that?

Portrait of Madonna and Daiquiri.

Some people I talked to thought these boys were actual evangelists. But I had a sneaking suspicion they weren't.

It always surprised me this year, when I saw a blue costume devoid of tarp.

Besides the fact that this is just a great costume, I also admired the practicality of having a little place to carry things.

The skeleton and the princess. A timeless tale.

Not everyone wears his or her creation on Mardi Gras. This guy was sittin' pretty and his motor was running.

It can be tiring to strut your stuff on Mardi Gras. I'm sure more than one of us secretly wished to be this guy, if only for just a moment.


Of course, not all the people behind the masks are strangers. Many of the clever creators are our friends, and seeing them is one of my favorite parts of the day.

Although I'd met her before, it wasn't until this visit (her first Mardi Gras in New Orleans) that I got to know Pam's friend Liny. She's a peach! She was the brains behind realizing my costume vision. You get to know someone pretty well when they keep readjusting your boobs! I know I've already showed Liny in costume, but I thought this was a particularly nice picture of her.

Here are some new friends of mine, Max and Kasia. Max organized the satsuma pick I went on at the beginning of the February. And now I'm working with him and other new friends on a project to produce maps of where food can be found in Now Orleans. For those of you not from here, Max is paying tribute to one of the most popular items served by McKenzie's, a local bakery: chicken in a box.

In the Marigny, we hooked up with xiitone and kittymonkey, who have recently relocated to Little Rock. They miss New Orleans big time. It was great to see them.

Shortly after crossing Elysian Fields Avenue, I spotted this swarthy lass on a truck taking pictures. Nothing like a pair of pirates to brighten your day!

This was Rebeckah's first time costuming for Mardi Gras. Thanks, Fran for nudging her to join you! Cuter swashbucklers ye will never find.

Candice called on her way into town and we met up with her for lunch at Mona's. It was fun parading around with her all day.

Musa and Veda are the proprietors of Laid Back Tours, or at least they were before the linkin' logs snapped. Not only did they have water in their shop, but they were also looted. So sad. But when they came back, Musa spraypainted the words you see on his shirt on the side of his building. It was good to see him immortalize them on a shirt for this year's festivities. They are doing lots of good stuff now, in the way of providing space in their parking lot for eight trailers to house people from the neighborhood and various musicians they know.

David loves to costume and looks great every year. This is the first time in a long time I can remember seeing him without a mask. They raven on his shoulder seemed to have a birdbrain of its own.

Juli, however, I have never seen in costume (or a dress, for that matter). She looked lovely!

Ana's parents.

We met up with Kalleen in Jackson Square and she joined us for most of the day. It was great fun hanging out with her! She moved to Austin about two weeks before the legos unlocked, so we don't get to see much of her anymore. And yes, she's crawling with cockroaches. (photo by Liny)

I think it was Jacquie who spotted Josh and Marion when we were out in Frenchmen Street. It's amazing how much a good wig can change a person's appearance, no? They both looked great!

jerrygarciuh and retc passed by in the afternoon (after watching parades uptown with ezekielmartin and others in the morning). David's costume got lots of attention, but few understood his intent, he said. With beard, staff and blue gingham, he was the mighty Oz-Moses!

Oh, Stephanie. What will you think of next? Last year she was Everbody Loves a Good Egg. This year she was everyone's favorite bathtime toy. In her hand, she held a vibrating version of said toy, which she gleefully pressed into the crotch of everyone who greeted her. What do you expect from a massage therapist?

We ended the night watching Saaraba playing at Café Brazil. I snapped a few of our gang, using the technique I love most to use at Café Brazil.

We got back home around nine. We'd been out for 12 hours. It was loads of fun, easily my favorite Mardi Gras ever. I can't wait for next year! I've already got some costume ideas...

Until next time, I hope your skies are blue and friendly and all the good things skies can be. (photo by Liny)


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