Archive for January, 2015
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.
Huge route change this year, no idea why, but I plan to find out.
Normally the route starts and stops in the Marigny, and goes through the French Quarter too. This year, we march through the Marigny and the French Quarter but instead of doubling back, we march into the Central Business District, and turn up Julia St to O’Keefe where we end. I believe the length of the parade hasn’t changed, it’s still 3.8 miles. We cross Canal Street for the first time, that is exciting. Canal, Bourbon and St. Charles are the best known streets in the City That Care Forgot.
Marching in a parade is what living in New Orleans is all about. I’ve been in Krewe of Clones, Tucks, and now Krewe du Vieux. Mardi Gras is lots of fun as a spectator sport, but joining the parade changes things big time. The fun, comradeship and excitement of belonging to a Mardi Gras krewe cannot be beat. It’s a top drawer New Orleans experience.
From the KdV web site- The Krewe du Vieux was founded in 1987, born from the ashes of the fabled Krewe of Clones. The Clones began in 1978, based out of the Contemporary Arts Center. This ‘Art Parade’ became wildly popular for their imaginative and creative street performance art. By 1985, the Krewe of Clones had grown to 30 sub krewes and over 1,500 marchers. After the Clones imposed rules designed to create a respectable Uptown parade, Craig “Spoons” Johnson of the Krewe of Underwear and Don Marshall of Le Petite Theatre du Vieux Carre conspired to form a new parading Krewe. Their intent was to bring back parading in the French Quarter in the free-wheeling style of the Clones without myriad rules and expenses. Free from the constraints of decorum and reality, KdV was established as a official parade.
The next paragraph is from Wikipedia.com–
The Krewe du Vieux is perhaps simultaneously the most individualistic and the most traditional of all New Orleans parading krewes. It has no large tractor pulled floats like the larger krewes, using only old-style, small, human-drawn or mule-drawn floats interspersed with marchers on foot. It has no recorded music blaring from boom box trucks, for the Krewe du Vieux uses music only from live bands. The floats are handmade and decorated by members of the respective sub-krewes, often with themes satirizing local politics and customs, sometimes of a bawdy nature — in such aspects arguably closer to early-19th-century Carnival traditions than any other Krewe currently parading. The Krewe du Vieux is the only Krewe still allowed to parade through the French Quarter (other than some small walking Krewes on Mardi Gras Day); krewes with larger floats have been prohibited in the narrow streets of the old town since the 1970s.
In fact, Joan of Arc gets to parade in the French Quarter on 12th Night. They are a walking parade, much like KdV.
There aren’t many adult parades in Mardi Gras but KdV fits the bill. Ribald and rude is how I would describe my own Krewe of Underwear. I’m going to post some rude pictures of our floats in this article, so you can see for yourself.
12th Night has come and gone. The 2015 Mardi Gras season has arrived. My parade, Krewe du Vieux, rolls later this month with an all new route. That’s for another entry. This entry is about the Phunny Phorty Phellows, who roll on a decorated streetcar and Krewe de Jeanne D’Arc, who rolled downtown in the French Quarter, which means they basically are a walking parade, much like my own KdV.
The next paragraph is from the Joan of Arc Parade web site-
Our medieval-style parade is set in Joan’s time, 1400s France, with medieval costumes and music, characters on horseback, jugglers, knights, stiltwalkers, giant puppets, king cake and handmade medieval throws. In New Orleans, January 6 is also still celebrated as Twelfth Night, an old medieval holiday which is the kick-off to the Carnival season. We are a secular group, and we welcome anyone with an interest in Joan of Arc, be they Catholic or non-Catholic, artist or non-artist, French-speaking or not. We are an eclectic, authentic New Orleans blend of whimsical and reverent, sacred and secular, spectacular and contemplative.
All of Joan of Arc’s throws are handmade. That is rather extraordinary, as krewes, even walking krewes throw a lot of throws. Another interesting aspect of this krewe is their obsession with Joan of Arc. Krewe members often refer to their namesake as ‘Joan’. That is a bit weird.
The Phellows are a historic group, dating back to 1878. REX formed in 1872, making PPP virtually as old. In the old days, they were a parading group. For their first parade, PPP followed REX, which they did for the next few years. They stopped parading in 1898. The modern krewe was revived in 1981 and became a streetcar riding krewe in 1982. From 1981 to 1986, PPP marched with the Contemporary Art Center’s Krewe of Clones. The Clones are the predecessors of Krewe du Vieux. I was in Clones and am in Krewe du Vieux, which any reader of this blog certainly knows.
Other innovations and features: Beautiful invitations and dance cards like 1800s by a series of royal artists: Beth Kesmodel, Hal Pluche, Jeanne Woods, Arthur Nead, and Kevin Barre.