Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mardi Gras Part 1: Krewe of Endymion

Unfortunately, I haven't yet managed to develop the pictures we took on my birthday trip to Chicago or at the Krewe of Barkus Mardi Gras parade. Since my camera is sadly out of commission, RJ and I bought a disposable for the trip so we didn't have to rely on my phone alone. I will get around to printing those but in the meantime my next few posts are going to be a little out of order. I still haven't managed to morph into a person who remembers to take pictures everywhere she goes, but I do the best I can.

This was the first Mardi Gras since we moved to Mid-City and I have to say it was nice being away from the St. Charles parade route. Almost every parade in the city takes St. Charles which was convenient for fun but annoying when it came to going anywhere or getting anything done. Plus we had tourists EVERYWHERE: parked in the yard, peeing in the bushes etc. Yuck.

Mid-City is off the beaten Mardi Gras trail, with the giant exception of the Krewe of Endymion Parade. Endymion is the largest parade during Carnival and for the reason it takes a route down Canal St. with it's larger neutral ground (median). It runs on the Saturday before Mardi Gras Day and people often start camping out for spots along the route the night before. Since we live only a couple of blocks away, I started getting hints from friends and family a few weeks beforehand about how convenient it would be if they drop by and use our house/bathroom/beer cooler. So we dug the coolers and BBQ out of the shed and opened the house to all. People started arriving at 1:00 which gave us 5 hours before the start of the parade to secure some spots, get something to eat and get a good Abita beer buzz going :)

So a little history of Endymion for all you Canadians:

Endymion is one of three "super Krewes", called such because they have huge floats and even bigger crowds. Their official motto is "Throw until it hurts". I'm not kidding, it really is. Ironically I don't find their throws all that great--the number of people who end up pushing in front of you generally makes it tough to catch anything but cheap beads. Past Grand Marshals include Dolly Parton, John Goodman, Steven Seagal, Chuck Norris, David Shwimmer and Emiril Lagasse to name a few. The parade ends with the annual Endymion Extravaganza, held at the Superdome because of the sheer size of Endymion's membership. When you include the invited guests, the event often involves over 14,000 people.

Sadly, I only really took pictures of the crowd assembling and then one single picture of the first float. The problem is, I kept having to shove my phone quickly in my pocket to get ready to catch beads before they came flying at my face from all sides. I quickly forgot the phone.

I like the row of men all lined up with their BBQs. Very New Orleans.

Crowd is slowly getting bigger.

The only float I managed to catch on camera :)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Christmas, Canada and the New Orleans SAINTS

*Creeps shamefully back onto blog-sphere*

Hello all,

I realize I have been absent from my blog for a good long while now. All I can say is that my schedule has been intense between the two jobs. Since I've now been inaugurated into the world of mobile-blogging I hope that my pattern of blog-dodging can come to an end.

That being said, lots has happened in New Orleans, and in my life, since the end of last year. I had a brief but wonderful trip home for Christmas, though I didn't have much time to get together with friends. It was nice to see a little bit of snow for the holidays--I sometimes find it hard to get into the Christmas spirit when I'm still putting on flip-flops to walk the dog.

Coming home to Canada is always strange for me. You just wake up one day and realize that somewhere else is also home too. Maybe it was the fact that I wasn't allowed to come home for so long, and by the time I had the chance there were things I had forgotten about living there. Anyway, I'm meandering--I wish I could put it in better terms how it feels to be an ex-pat. Some of you must know.

After the trip to Canada, I returned home to the good ol' Who Dat Nation. Saints madness was everywhere in January and February. The store I work at in the French Quarter started making space in our normal selection of local wildlife-oriented art and t-shirts for shelf after shelf of Saints EVERYTHING. You would not believe the things people will buy if it says Who Dat on it. Or has a fleur-de-lis any where. I worked the day before the Superbowl and I honestly thought that someone was going to get trampled--that many drunk and ecstatic fans all trying to grab the last Saints temporary tattoos (which every store ran out of around noon) or Saints-themed hard hat (seriously). We did more business that day than in the two days leading up to Christmas.

Superbowl Sunday was also the Sunday that the Krewe of Barkus Parade happens to fall and instead of canceling it they moved it up the day to make sure people would still come. Krewe of Barkus is the Mardi Gras dog parade and we try to go every year since it's such a hoot. I took quite a few pics this year and so I'm going to give Barkus its own blog post--hopefully I'll have it up in a few days. Also see future blog posts for details of other 2010 Mardi Gras events.

For the big game my brother-in-law, Sean came over, as did my friend Denise. RJ and I had debated staying in the French Quarter for the game, since we were there a couple of hours earlier for Barkus, but in the end we decided that no matter the outcome we wanted to watch the game from the comfort of our couch, rather than behind 200 people crammed into each French Quarter bar. This definitely worked against us later in the evening but we did have a good time.

The game itself was pretty tense for the first quarter--I retreated to the kitchen at one point since RJ and Sean were pretty much swearing at the TV constantly at that point. Just goes to show you should never underestimate a team that wants it as much as the Saints wanted it. We were jumping up and down and screaming and hugging each other before the game was even over.

Once it was a done deal we walked to Canal street to try and catch a street car, only to find a group of about 40 other people who had the same idea, and no streetcar in sight anywhere. We waited there for about half-an-hour, while every car that passed honked like madmen or slowed down to give high fives to everyone waiting at the stop. Canal has three lanes in either direction and a streetcar stop every few blocks, you can imagine what that was like. We'd all been drinking since before Barkus started so driving was out of the question, and though there was some debate about trying to walk to the FQ, the journey was going to take us about an hour each way. In the end we retreated to the house to watch the post-game--sorry to disappoint, readers :)

According to friends of mine that did make it down there, the crowd was so thick that the mounted crowd control police couldn't even move around very much. Fortunately there was only one shooting that I heard of and no one was killed. Considering the numbers that's pretty impressive. The mood of the crowd must have been pretty jovial at that point.

The mood in the city is still very elevated, even a couple of weeks after the fact. It didn't hurt that the Superbowl happened to fall in the middle of the Carnival season. The theme of pretty much every Mardi Gras parade we went to was "Who Dat". There was a giant Saints parade the Tuesday after the game. It took hours for the parade to complete the route since the police had a hard time keeping people from spilling into the street, there were so many. I thought they were going to tear Drew Brees' float apart just to get close enough to touch him--it was almost scary. They also crowned him King of Bacchus a couple of nights later--only in New Orleans would they name a football star a god and actually give him a crown and a chariot :)

It has been amazing being a city like this for an event like this. It's been said before but no one knows how to throw a party like New Orleans!