Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Mardi Gras

Right now you are jealous because you are looking at a picture of the one and only Steven Segal. Sure the picture is totally dark and out of focus, but screw you. That dark mass silhouetted on the float is *the* Steven Segal, who tossed us beads in the flesh. It doesn't get any better than that. It's just a shame that my camera decided to focus on EZ's hand in the foreground, but oh well. That's what drunk camera work gets you. If you're bored, and unfamiliar with this genius of the American cinema, I highly suggest you check out Senor Segal's mini-biography on imdb. It must have been written by his mother as it strains the definition of the words "mini" and "biography". The piece is eight paragraphs in length, clearly defying easy summary, so allow me to quote the opening line so that you get an idea of the tenor of the work: "Steven Segal is a striking and somewhat boyishly handsome looking (often with ponytail) and usually impeccably dressed action star who burst onto the martial arts film scene in 1988 in the fast-paced Warner Bros. production Above the Law (1988)."

Wow. If there are two things that I don't think of Steven Segal as being, one is "boyishly handsome" and the other is "impeccably dressed". I generally think (1) nasty ponytail and (2) silk pajamas, but that's just me. In fairness though, he does make movies about environmentalists kicking ass and he came to support NOLA, so I can't hate on him too much. So thanks for the beads Steven Segal.

As you can see from this picture, I did score a fair number of beads. NO, I did NOT show my boobs to get them. That whole flashing thing is largely a Girls Gone Wild myth. There are no flashings at the parades as they are largely attended by families. Really you will only see boobs on Bourbon Street, and they are generally not the boobs anyone wants to be seeing. These girls look nothing like the GGW girls and you'd have to be very, very drunk to think that they do. Not all boobs are created equal.

If you happened to catch the CNN coverage of Anderson Cooper in NOLA for Mardi Gras, he talked about the bead phenomenon the best. He said that the ground gets littered with uncaught beads because it's all about the contact between the people. It's really kind of true -- you make eye contact with the person tossing the beads, and if you drop it, you rarely pick them up because for some reason that feels like you're cheating. It's a weird sort of emotional connection between the person on the float and the person in the crowd. Then again, they're just beads. And they're shiny.

The following are pictures from one of the best parades, Endymion. The floats are
really beautiful and amazing. Usually this parade happens not too far from my house on Canal street, but this year that part of town was too devastated, so they rerouted them to the main uptown parade route. But the uptown route has more narrow streets and some really large trees. If you look carefully at this picture, you can see that there is a branch knocking off part of the float.

And in this picture you can see the head falling off the float entirely and onto the street. We were standing right by this float when it hit the tree. I pretty much just stared up the thing as it was falling and it probably would have hit me and Tiny had Big N not been behind us. She pulled me and Tiny out the way before it went down. Once the head was on the ground we all took turns taking our picture with it, but again, drunken camera work did not produce very good results. D and I were totally going to keep the head and put it in our living room and I was thinking I'd turn it into a giant lamp, but then some parade person came by and picked it up so no giant lamp for us.

Was this a bad omen for the rest mardi gras? Nah, all things considered the
celebration went smoothly. Despite this fact, there were many naysayers. Everytime I turned on CNN there was a poll in which a large number if not a majority of Americans felt there should be no Mardi Gras. I bite my thumb at them. The only people who had the right to decide that were the people of New Orleans. No one suggested we should cancel Christmas in New York after 9/11. (Speaking of 9/11, as an interesting side note, our energy company Entergy requested a government bailout due to lost revenues. Similar bailouts were done for utility companies post 9/11 - however in NOLA's case the president found that a government bailout of a private company was "inappropriate." I can hardly wait for my new power bills which could jump more than 140%. Which means my power may end up costing more than my rent.)

If there can be Christmas, there can be Mardi Gras. After all, the parades are put on by private civic organizations, not the city (although the city provides all the essential services). And it certainly provided a much needed economic shot in the arm that failed to come from other sources. True, there were some NOLA residents who felt there should be no celebration this year, and I have nothing but respect for their feelings. These were generally the people who lost everything and felt that a celebration merely added insult to injury. But then, I am afraid there is very little that can be done to redress their loss or to help them forget it.

But as a person who lives here everyday, I think Mardi Gras was something that was needed. As the roofers pound away at my new roof giving me a splitting headache, I think back to carnival week and am intensely grateful that we could forget about things for a little while.
Let's deal with blue tarped roofs, and ruined streets, and undrinkable water, and homeless residents, and all our other problems tomorrow. They're not going anywhere. And we celebrate not just to forget our problems, but as an act of defiance show that we're still here.

For those that ignore us, we're still alive and kicking.


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