St Charles Avenue
When a Carnival krewe’s membership grows by roughly 50% last year (actually this year), you might say they have captured the public’s imagination. It takes a big effort, ridership and budget to make a real splash on the St. Charles parade route. We have Bacchus, Muses, Orpheus, and Thoth with well over 1,000 members, and the biggest of all, Endymion, has just over 3,000 members. Now NYX has 2,232, making them the second biggest krewe. A super krewe is measured by more than membership. The parade counts a lot. They have a very original throw, the decorated, logoed woman’s purse. But they have no original floats yet, as they are building their first for 2016. You need super floats for super krewe status, so NYX won’t arrive on that level until they have a handful of icon, original floats owned by the krewe, and not just rented ones.
When you see the Bacchagator or the Jester Float, it’s exciting because you are witnessing two of the icon floats of all of Carnival around the world.
In Greek mythology NYX was the Goddess of Night. NYX stood at or near the beginning of creation and was one of the first elements emerging from Chaos along with day, fire, and water. Her appearances in mythology are sparse, but reveal her as a figure of exceptional power and beauty. NYX had prophetic powers, and gave oracles from her home at the edge of the cosmos. She mothered other personified deities such as Hypnos (Sleep) and Thanatos (Death), with Erebus. She was older and more powerful than Zeus, who deferred to her wishes.
Each year the krewe visits the tomb of Marie Laveau, legendary Voodoo priestess, to ask for good weather for their parade. Laveau is buried in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.
2015 was my best Mardi Gras in five years. I saw more parades and had more fun. That’s due to better parade company. I’m a parade freak, and if I go to parades with like minded freaks, I’m apt to enjoy myself lots more. 3 years ago I was forced to change my long term parade freak partner and it took me a couple of years to get it right again.
Wednesday, February 12 when Druids and Nyx rolled, I paraded with a special friend of the opposite sex who I hadn’t paraded with before but she told me she was a parade freak. That turned out to be true and a surreal, delightful Mardi Gras parade night was had by both of us.
At Zulu I caught 4 coconuts and at REX, which had a different medallion for each float, I caught over half. I do fairly well at the parades although I’m rarely the target demographic because I costume a bit for all parades and I’m active on the parade route, that is I scream Happy Mardi Gras, Throw Me Something, and other similar exhortations. I had a ball at the parades on Fat Tuesday 2015. It was quite cold all day and windy, but the rain held off completely. I biked to Zulu and then biked to REX.
Surviving Fat Tuesday on Rouses’ Cheese Straws
My food situation was well in hand on Lundi Gras, but by Fat Tuesday, all my plans of a delicious spread had fallen apart. I had made a big pot of my special red beans in the crock pot, and bought a high grade of cold cuts, some mini pistolettes, good cheese and tomatoes to make some sandwiches to eat on the go. On my bike I couldn’t carry the container of beans, and I couldn’t find my cold cuts. So off I went on Mardi Gras Day on my bike with a package of Rouse’s cheese straws, some Pepperidge Farm Nantucket cookies, and two small packs of Cheetos. All day I snacked on the cheese straws, which were to die for- deep cheese flavor with just the right amount of heat and spice, plus some vodka and OJ and Pabst Blue Ribbon.
Young Parade Goers Costume in Large Numbers
One of the most heartening trends this year was the preponderance of young parade goers who costumed in some respect for all the parades, not just Fat Tuesday. I took the St. Charles streetcar a lot in 2015 for Carnival and every time I got on there were lots and lots of young folks wearing a head piece, mask or other costume part. I realize part of my attraction to Mardi Gras is the make believe and fantasy aspects of the celebration, so I really found all this new costuming very attractive. You can dress up and become anyone or anything your mind and imagination can envision and create. The possibilities are endless.
Adult Dance Troupes Take Center Stage
More and more high flying adult dance troupes have joined in the parading fun. The Sirens, Muff-A-Lottas, 610 Stompers, Disco Amigos, Pussyfooters, Dames de Perlage, Try Athletes, Bearded Oyster Dance Troupe, Rolling Elvi, Organ Grinders, Roux La La, Amelia Earhawts, Kolossos, and the Star Wars themed 501st Legion were just some of the fab groups entertaining the crowd. I have a friend who texted me after a fun night of parading together that she found a Roux La La couzy in her bra when undressing that night. She said it was the perfect testament to a great evening. O.K., maybe she’s more than a friend.
Lighted beads were ubiquitous for the night parades. Proteus lit up the necklace part, not the medallion like everyone else. There were light up pitch forks, blades, styrofoam tubes, and just about anything else a light could be attached to.
Muses is well known throughout the Mardi Gras universe for their shoe throws. I received my most unusual Muses throw right from a float rider. It was a pack of rice beads with the plastic connectors, but it has a small metal Muses M attached with the ubiquitous bead/medallion metal connector. What kind of statement was Muses making with these retro beads?
Nyx has really come into their own. There were decorated purses coming off the floats in large numbers and many dancing troupes.
360 lenticular cups were thrown by D’Etat, Orpheus, Babylon and Iris. A lenticular lens is an array of magnifying lenses, designed so that when viewed from slightly different angles, different images are magnified.
Parade Route Parties
I attended a number of gatherings along parade routes off of St. Charles and Frenchmen Street. I had a lot of fun and laughs at each and every party. Walking back and forth between the house and the parade is the height parade enjoyment. Some soirees are invitation only, which a security guard checking online invites, but for many others, just showing up is enough to gain entrance. Often the food, booze and crowd is a step above the average New Orleans party- and New Orleans is well known for throwing world class parties.
Proteus in the Daytime!
Hell freezes over! Pigs fly! Since the start of time, or whenever Proteus began parading, whichever came first, Proteus parades at night. Flambeaux carriers only light parades after the sun goes down. Wrong! The start time for Proteus and Orpheus were moved up 75 minutes due to inclement weather considerations, so they rolled in plain, old daylight.
This is only the second or third story that will go on both of my blogs. Crime and Mardi Gras do occasionally mix.
There are signs all over the French Quarter which state Caution: Walk in Large Groups. We (heart) N.O.P.D. We Just Need More. This isn’t a good sign for a city about to enter one of the biggest holidays of the year, Mardi Gras. Approximately 1 million visitors descend on New Orleans each Carnival season and most will hit the Quarter soon after arriving. They will be greeted by a French Quarter bathed in unsettling signs.
Security is a growing concern to many New Orleanians and Americans. When New Orleans is perceived as a dangerous place, less people make plans to visit. The streets of New Orleans during Carnival are full of state troopers, federal agents, virtually half the police force at one time, plus scads of private security personnel. Downtown there are a lot of weirdos that make it down to Mardi Gras also.
In the last 11 years, at least 27 people were injured and one killed on parade routes and Bourbon Street. That is one horrific statistic. Carnival has historically had a violent side. I personally have been very close on St Charles Avenue to a major shooting incident a decade ago. I’ve had very large groups with me at times and much smaller at other, but no one in my group has ever been accosted on the parade route or downtown or in Metairie or other parades around the metro area.
Another growing trend, private security cameras, have caught many of these assaults and shown the brazenness of the perpetrators. The variety of weapons employed is staggering. This footage shows up on YouTube and adds to our collective anxiety.
Since Katrina, the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) has lost about 500 officers, and I’ve written about this problem recently on my other blog about jail and justice in New Orleans here. Michael Glasser, president of the Police Association of New Orleans, a police union, says I have been to some roll calls where there is one cop, two cops. Mayor Mitch Landrieu would like around 1,600 officers. I’ve authorized as much overtime as is necessary, says our Mayor.
The Mayor has personally felt the sting of crime very recently. One of his personal vehicles was stolen in front of his home over the weekend. The 2006 Jeep was recovered within blocks of his house by an off duty Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s deputy. The Jeep was equipped with LoJack technology. The deputy was heading home across the Mississippi River bridge after finishing a 12 hour shift. His LoJack receiver in his patrol car picked up the signal. He called in the information and found out the car belonged to the mayor of New Orleans. He followed the signal and found himself near the 2nd District Police station. He stopped and checked in, then began pursuing the stolen vehicle again. He ran into the Jeep at General Taylor and Constance streets.
Turns out the New Orleans police never received the LoJack signal as Jefferson Parish did. Hmmm.
According Glasser, This shows crime is not limited to a handful of people in the traditionally ‘bad areas.’ Anybody can be a victim, and ironically, the victim in this case is the person screaming the loudest that crime is down. And while he admits there’s a staffing shortage, I think he underrates the importance of that.
Talk about falling on your sword! The second oldest krewe in Jefferson Parish and the only krewe left on the West Bank are about to fall off the cliff. Both have received revocation orders from Sean Burke, Parish Community Affairs Director. I’ve written before about the suicide march Jefferson krewes are on.
In 2009, fourteen krewes held Mardi Gras parades in Jefferson Parish on the East and West Banks. 3 of 4 West Bank krewes have moved onto St. Charles Avenue uptown- Alla, Choctawand Cleopatra. The east bank krewes haven’t moved, though Rhea dropped out after their bingo revenue took a steep dive and they had trouble paying their bills.
If Adonis and Zeus are forced to drop out, Jefferson Parish would have 9 krewes left, all on the east bank. It amazes me that all the parades on the West Bank are disappearing. 9 isn’t a firm total by any means. Thor and Atlas, two established krewes, didn’t parade in 2014. The Guardians of Atlantis, a new krewe, was scheduled to run in 2014 but canceled out last summer.
Zeus’ 2014 parade only had 2 bands, 3 short of the minimum set by the ordinance. They also were short a couple of floats. Each infraction can result in permit revocation. I’m sure the offending krewes will appeal. Zeus is another old krewe, they started in 1957.
This is the end of an era, and it doesn’t portend well for Mardi Gras in New Orleans overall. The West Bank has a proud tradition of parading going back decades and decades. Alla, Jefferson’s oldest krewe, started in 1932, grew from a neighborhood parade into a super krewe, the brainchild of Blaine Kern Sr. It disturbs me West Bank parades are gone, I believe the entire process was very shortsighted. The West Bank deserves a robust parade schedule. What are all those West Bankers to do for Carnival parades in 2015?
68 degrees and sunny is the forecast for my parade, the ultra cool, edgy, historical KdV. My costume is taking shape very nicely, my throws are novel for me, and I’ve reviewed all rules and regulations I’m supposed to know as a Krewe of Underwear Escort. The parade rolls through the French Quarter and Marigny at 6 pm. KdV’s theme this year is Where the Vile Things Are. Our king is wetlands restoration advocate and historian John Barry.
Check out my story on Ray Nagin’s federal corruption trial, now with the jury, here.
A bit more about my main costume. I have a furry purple and green animal jumpsuit/costume. Over that I have neon green pimp’s jacket. I have a long purple, green and gold silk scarf with a pansy design, plus a purple sheer scarf with shiny gold mini dots throughout. I’m going to cross the scarfs around my neck and down my back in a cape-like way, and secure the crossing with a Carnival colored crown pin. I have some old KdV and MOMs Ball buttons to wear on my jacket. I still need a hat and mask, but I’m going to the Costume Bazaar on Feb. 16 at the Healing Center, 2572 St. Claude Avenue.
The tune is by June Victory and the Bayou Renegades, Don’t Rock the Bow, from their release, June Victory and the Bayou Renegades.
Krewedelusion follows KdV. They have a New Orleans celebrity for their 2014 Ruler, DJ Soul Sister, aka Melissa Weber! This is a good way for a krewe to garner some free media. The Nola Defender broke the story. Queen Melissa “DJ Soul Sister” Weber is inheriting the throne from Cheeky Black, last year’s Queen. The Soul Sister is the R&B bomb! Her DJ sets are considerably hotter than many live music sets that occur before and after her set.
We are honored, announced Captain Oscar Diggs in a release, that New Orleans native and internationally renowned superstar disc jockey Melissa Weber shall be our next Ruler and shall be crowned Soul Sister #1 and Captain of New Orleans.
I’m such a huge Mardi Gras fan, I love those purple, green and gold Carnival colors. Except for a couple of exceptions, I always costume in those colors. I cannot help it- they are the only ones that will make me happy when I costume, I admit. I’ve got a super, special, all new for me costume for KdV and Fat Tuesday.
Last year, Carnival wasn’t the same to me, the first since my wife passed. This year, I feel my old Carnival mania and deep seated love returning. It feels great. I live a scant 2 blocks from St. Charles, and 1 block from Napoleon. That’s parade central! I think I’ll have a crock pot of gumbo ready all parade season. Maybe set the record for gumbo serving over 10 days.