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Adiu paure Carnaval February 13, 2013

Posted by Mark Folse in Carnival, cryptic envelopment, literature, Mardi Gras, New Orleans, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
1 comment so far

At the conclusion of Carnival in Nice, France, an effigy of Monsieur Carnaval is burned, the ancient story of the burning man, the sacrifice in fire. As told by Mama Lisa’s World Blog, in that rite Monsieur Carnaval “is responsible for all the wrongdoing people do throughout the year. At Carnival time in France, Monsieur Carnaval is judged for his behavior throughout the preceding year. Usually he’s found guilty and an effigy of him is burned.”

Accompanying the ritual is a song, and I offer the lyrics collected by Mama Lisa below, both in Occitan (the language of the Troubadors) and in English. I suggest you click the link to open in a new tab or window so you can follow along as far as the MP3 goes.

And so, from New Orleans, Adiu Paure Carnaval.

Adiu paure Carnaval
(Occitan)

Adiu paure, adiu paure,
adiu paure Carnaval
Tu te’n vas e ieu demòri
Adiu paure Carnaval
Tu t’en vas e ieu demòri
Per manjar la sopa a l’alh
Per manjar la sopa a l’òli
Per manjar la sopa a l’alh
Adiu paure, adiu paure,
adiu paure Carnaval

La joinessa fa la fèsta
Per saludar Carnaval
La Maria fa de còcas
Amb la farina de l’ostal

Lo buòu dança, l’ase canta
Lo moton ditz sa leiçon
La galina canta lo Credo
E lo cat ditz lo Pater

Farewell, Poor Carnival
(English)

Farewell, farewell,
Farewell, poor Carnival
You are leaving, and I am staying
Farewell, poor Carnival
You are leaving, and I am staying
To eat garlic soup
To eat oil soup
To eat garlic soup
Farewell, farewell,
Farewell, poor Carnival.

The young ones are having a wild time
To greet Carnival
Mary is baking cakes
With flour from her home.

The ox is dancing, the donkey’s singing
The sheep is saying its lesson
The hen is singing the Credo
And the cat is saying the Pater.

The Kingdom of God Is A Hand. February 9, 2013

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, Carnival, Central City, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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MLK Band

The evening begins with Ruby Bridges and ends with this picture of two young men in the Dr. Martin Luther King Charter School Marching Band. I wonder how many in the crowd remember who Bridges is, the small girl sent by parents as obedient as Abraham through the spit and vitriol walk to Golgotha past the Ku Klux mothers, into the segregated 1960 William Frantz Elementary School in the Ninth Ward. This evening she rides a float of honor in a Carnival parade staged by women the eldest of whom were likely raised like myself in Catholic and suburban schools as white as 1960 William Frantz and everyone in the crowd and on the floats likes to think we are far past all that.

The two unnamed young men attend a Ninth Ward school named for the famous civil rights leader, a school as uniformly black as William Frantz was white in 1959, a new school in the charter anarchy unleashed after the Federal Flood in the name of free-market reform. I wonder if their parents, likely raised in the Bantustan New Orleans Public School System and turned loose after their allotted sentence with half an education, carefully reviewed the dozens of new schools before selecting this one, or if they chose it because of Dr. King’s name, because it opened in the mostly de-peopled Ninth Ward, its name and location a symbol of a struggle that began in 1960 but which has never really ended.

The pair stopped right in front of me on St. Charles Avenue and 2nd Street during a stop in the parade, the older keeping up the parade rest beat while verbally schooling the younger one who struggled to keep up. I study the picture for some resemblance, perhaps they are brothers, but I don’t find any and think a wise band director chose to place the novice next to the older one, someone willing to take the younger under his wing and teach him the ropes. The seriousness of his face before I raise my phone camera as he speaks to the younger, all the while keeping up the rigorous tattoo, the way the younger one tries hard to match the drum strokes, shows the older to be someone with the innate authority to lead by example. He will make a fine teacher or preacher or military officer someday, in one of the few openings in America where the color of character really matters.

When I raise my camera the young men are both suddenly eyes-front and Marine Band erect, representing at their best. In a city where too many young men his age mistake fear for respect, he has mine immediately, both as teacher of the tradition and as the clearly proud person picture who wears his uniform patches as if they were a Nike swoosh drawn by the hand of God. It’s not fair to judge their school or the entire charter school movement by one young man but I have to think that the Dr. King school is doing something right. His pride and discipline shine like the best military band or ROTC unit you will see this carnival. His willingness to take responsibility for the younger drummer while never missing a beat, the way he snaps to attention and the young one follows his lead, is a badge of character as clear as the letters on his jacket, stands out from the crowd like the white plum on his hat.

I can’t help but think of how the most successful charter schools cherry pick students, of all the kids left behind in the Orleans Parish and Recovery School Districts, the ones unlucky enough to land in a corporate McDonald’s charter to be processed like so much meat, those who wind up bleeding out on someone’s porch over slights real or imagined. The teacher Jesus did not set out to save the whole world. Translations later he is said to proclaim that the kingdom of God is at hand but I have to wonder if he meant his own hand; take this, he said, and be lifted up. Someone has lifted this young man up and he extends his to the younger and even as I type up this years list of the murdered I find in the middle of a Carnival parade not a moment of escape but a moment of hope.

Sin. Repent. Repeat. February 7, 2013

Posted by Mark Folse in Carnival, cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, Mardi Gras, New Orleans, Toulouse Street.
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Cartoon moonjam madam meet Sir Sluralot on Chartres by noon or you’re on your own with the feather men & rum demon lizard stampede squeezing through Bourbon Street toward some bar-hell bathroom line where someone wearing that very feather (you’re sure of it) you lost at MoMs offers you to cut in line with a smile and a slip of his tipsy cup. This is just when Sir Sluralot and his calypso courtiers appear singing Indian and you turn around and the feather’s gone and so are you leaving that crew to call you tomorrow wondering where you went but your phone is dead beside the feather bed you found on Frenchman following the drums.

Everybody’s Having Fun January 19, 2013

Posted by Mark Folse in Carnival, Krewe du Vieux, Mardi Gras, New Orleans, Toulouse Street.
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Hot gluing feather boas to a tulle bustle is not what most men in America are doing on a Friday night. Most men in America could not, turned loose in a fabric store with five minutes and a $10,000 prize, find a bolt of tulle. When my daughter’s last North Dakota recital came and her mother was in New Orleans, I felt uniquely equipped by my Carnival training to carefully trim her tutu to the desired length.

Of course this means its Carnival Time And Everybody’s Having Fun assembling some sort of costume. When I lived in North Dakota people would say, “Oh, Mardi Gras. Always wanted to do that” but I’m not sure they really meant it. There is something in the Lutheran soul not properly equipped for a religious holiday involving men wearing bustles of tulle and boas in a general atmosphere of public drunkeness and lewdity. And I cannot imagine any of them dressed as a cross between Foghorn Leghorn, Super Chicken and Priapus.

Yes, there will be pictures tagged in Facebook I am sure and no I do not care what employment counselors think of that. I want everyone at my employing bank, Moloch. N.A., to know just how much fun they are not having Saturday night, how much fun we’ll be having on Tuesday in a few weeks while they slave over laptops and Policoms. I worked with a fellow for a while who managed an invite to a selective sub-krewe and who’s wife had landed a plum job at the Contemporary Arts Center any number of art majors I know would kill to have. He was British and I loved to kid him about “going native.” I was sure they would never return to the world headquarters of Moloch but they did.

I will never understand that decision.

Adiu Paure Carnaval February 22, 2012

Posted by Mark Folse in Carnival, Mardi Gras, New Orleans, Toulouse Street.
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At the conclusion of Carnival in Nice, France, an effigy of Monsieur Carnaval is burned, the ancient story of the burning man, the sacrifice in fire. As told by Mama Lisa’s World Blog, in that rite Monsieur Carnaval “is responsible for all the wrongdoing people do throughout the year. At Carnival time in France, Monsieur Carnaval is judged for his behavior throughout the preceding year. Usually he’s found guilty and an effigy of him is burned.”

Accompanying the ritual is a song, and I offer the lyrics collected by Mama Lisa below, both in Occitan (the language of the Troubadors) and in English. I suggest you click the link to open in a new tab or window so you can follow along as far as the MP3 goes.

And so, from New Orleans, Adiu Paure Carnaval.

Adiu paure Carnaval
(Occitan)

Adiu paure, adiu paure,
adiu paure Carnaval
Tu te’n vas e ieu demòri
Adiu paure Carnaval
Tu t’en vas e ieu demòri
Per manjar la sopa a l’alh
Per manjar la sopa a l’òli
Per manjar la sopa a l’alh
Adiu paure, adiu paure,
adiu paure Carnaval

La joinessa fa la fèsta
Per saludar Carnaval
La Maria fa de còcas
Amb la farina de l’ostal

Lo buòu dança, l’ase canta
Lo moton ditz sa leiçon
La galina canta lo Credo
E lo cat ditz lo Pater

Farewell, Poor Carnival
(English)

Farewell, farewell,
Farewell, poor Carnival
You are leaving, and I am staying
Farewell, poor Carnival
You are leaving, and I am staying
To eat garlic soup
To eat oil soup
To eat garlic soup
Farewell, farewell,
Farewell, poor Carnival.

The young ones are having a wild time
To greet Carnival
Mary is baking cakes
With flour from her home.

The ox is dancing, the donkey’s singing
The sheep is saying its lesson
The hen is singing the Credo
And the cat is saying the Pater.

All on a Mardi Gras Day February 21, 2012

Posted by Mark Folse in Carnival, cryptic envelopment, Mardi Gras, Mardi Gras Indians, New Orleans, Toulouse Street.
2 comments

“Don’t be fallin’ out of your house with no needle and thread in you hand.”

I heard that on WWOZ back in the early 1980s one Monday before Mardi Gras, before Lundi Gras and before Orpheus, when that night we stayed home and put the finishing touches on costumes. I don’t know who it was. It might have even been the great Tootie Montana. I like to think so.

I knew about Mardi Gras Indians back then, something that happened deep back in neighborhoods were we never ventured. I saw them first as a very young boy, young enough to remember watching Rex pass from my father’s shoulders. I think it was the corner of Galvez and Canal, but it could just easily have been the corner of Claiborne, back before the expressway. We saw them on the corner as we drove down to the French Quarter early to spend the day at my great aunts Gert and Sadie Folse in the 800 block of Royal Street. My father pulled over to the side in mid-intersection for a moment and to a boy that small they were something monstrously wonderful.

As I sit on my stoop and smoke a cigarette and the first neighbors come out. A young woman climbs into her car in tights and a tank top with a garbage bag of costume. A car pulled up at my neighbor’s. Jimmy said he has to cook 200 pounds of meat today down on Broad. I can hear the cars down on Gentilly Boulevard. I am tempted to jump into the shower and emerge a boneman just as the sun comes up, to go down to street to give the people on Gentilly a proper boneman greeting. I may yet head out the door and do just that. I don’t think most of my neighbors here on the sketchy edge of the Fauborg St. John understand it is a boneman’s role to wake the neighborhood on Carnival Day, but perhaps I could give some child in the back of a car riding up to Mardi Gras on Claiborne Avenue a memory they will recall some Mardi Gras morning when I am gone down the river.

Krewe of Aeolus February 18, 2012

Posted by Mark Folse in Carnival, Mid-City, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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I’ve never been that fond of Endymion, which on the stretch nearest my house is a festival of boorish suburban drunkenness and animal territoriality. I’m taking a class in anthropology and have to keep a journal and I’m pretty sure what the next entry will be about, but I’m not going out in this foul weather to refresh my memory. The spray paint marking vast swaths of the public neutral ground as private property began to appear Thursday night, followed by the rebar and caution tape. The tents and locked porta-potties came next.

If you want to see American culture at its basest selfish and aquisitorial level, the complete collapse of social comity one might expect in the Zombie Apocalypse, there is no better place than the Orleans Avenue section of the route. Hell, in most of the zombie films the survivors show more cooperation and camaraderie, which would I guess make the neutral ground hordes the zombies. The chief of police promised to enforce the ordinances against this behavior but if you believe that I have an imaginary prime stake on the Carrollton Avenue street car line I want to sell you.

The gods, it seems, are not pleased with this behavior. Drenching rain, howling winds, frequent lightening and the prospect of tornadoes is likely to dampen some of the enthusiasm of the villaging hordes. The only downside to this will be if Endymion is moved to Sunday night behind Bacchus, which will mean many of these same people will try to crowd themselves onto Napoleon Avenue tomorrow night.

Now is the Winter of our Discomfort December 18, 2011

Posted by Mark Folse in Carnival, Christmas, New Orleans, NOLA, The Odd, Toulouse Street, Xmas.
4 comments

The cranky gas wall furnace is so old I sometimes think it is here by order of the Historic District Landmarks Commission, the committees we have set up to preserve New Orleans historic character by regulating with the fickleness of ancient gods such critical items as the appropriate style of doorknobs allowed. The ugly grey panel inset on my wall is inefficient, unreliable and expensive: the very model of histrionic preservation, but I believe it mostly remains through the inertia of a typical New Orleans landlord. It still works, after a fashion, so it stays. Its cousin the floor furnace is largely extinct as a result of the flood, and the wall furnace lacks the charm of stepping on a metal grate barefoot or the portal to hell sensation of passing over one in operation, but it’s what I have.

The instructions of operation on my wall furnace are so faded that with an eight-cell flashlight and my readers on it still requires the skills of a document historian experienced in the decoding of ancient and marginally legible texts to make them out. Fortunately, it is not my first, and even after 30 years I remember how to turn the regulator just so and to warm the temperature sender for a bit to get the pilot lit. Thank the gods for the invention of stick lighters, as this was once an operation requiring a pile of kitchen matches that brought back memories of reading Jack London’s To Build A Fire.

Once the faint pilot is flickering, after an extended period prone on the cold floor holding down the starter and counting slowly to sixty by Mississippis while the sensor warms up enough to keep it going, you can at last turn on the heat. I know never to turn the gas up past the point it just starts to flow, and to keep my face and arm out of the immediate vicinity of the works. Crank it up too high because the house is cold, the floor is colder and you are desperate for some heat and the explosive blow-back of ignition will belch out of the access panel like a dragon with indigestion.

Winter this far south is not the cozy Rockwell fantasy of the paintings of Thomas Kinkade. (Yes, there is a link. Follow it at your own peril unless you have a large collection of cherubic porcelain children). Our vistas are not snowy landscapes of farmhouses set against a backdrop of evergreens with a skating stream or pond in the foreground and perhaps a horse drawn sleigh in there somewhere. It is brown lawns and winter killed uncut lots, the latter revealing a year’s collection of litter, which is one of New Orleans’ major local products after cheesy t-shirts and tourist vomit.

Our winter season is a confusing mix of Indian summer days and a cold damp so penetrating we must swath ourselves in animal skins like Neolithic primitives. You can keep your expensive, technical mountaineering shell and layers of fleece that work so well for Nordic skiing. Nothing but a thick layer of wool or a shell of leather can keep out the wet chill. The pea coat will never go out of fashion in New Orleans because it is not a matter of fashion but survival. I spent my time up north decked out in Cabella’s most modern fabrics learning to navigate a pair of beaver tail show shoes, awkward constructions of bent wood and tanned animal sinew. with a design dating back to the flint knife. Originally a gift that spent a few years crossed on the wall, my friend who gave them to me insisted they were fully functional and he was right. It was good to get out of the house for some reason other than shoveling, scraping and chipping away winter to a standard acceptable to finicky Nordic neighbors fond of an orderly neatness that does not come naturally to a born Orleanian. Give me a good pea coat for a trip through the French Quarter any day.

Forget a roaring fire. The bricked in hearths below the lovely mantels that rob you of a functional wall were designed for shallow coal fireplaces. I had one still open for use when I lived on Carrollton Avenue that I determined would still draft by lighting a small torch of newspaper. I confirmed it was not terribly obstructed by getting my eyes and a flashlight up the flue by a contortion usually only attempted by advanced students of yoga. Still, it could just manage the smallest of commercial press-wood and paraffin fire logs. I’m sure it had not been properly serviced by a chimney sweep since the last ice man sold his mule to the tourist carriage companies, but somehow we managed not to burn the building down. The first Christmas Marianne and I had the family over for Christmas dinner I fired it up, hoping the most festive part of the afternoon would not be the arrival of the fire department but the damn thing worked and I miss it.

We are simply not built for winter in New Orleans: not our homes, not ourselves. Every few years the city gets the idea to line Canal Street with palms to amuse the tourists but one good, hard freeze (the local equivalent of a howling blizzard) and they are gone again. City government is a dumb and lumbering beast that survives because is just to big to kill, and then what would your Delgado drop-out cousin do if not supervise the mowing of the neutral grounds? If we had real snow down here, we would all die after burning up the last stick of furniture before they would get the plows out.

§

Other than the icicle winds there are few signs of winter in New Orleans. The feral green parrots still favor the neighbor’s tree, some weedy thing that has managed 30 feet but is so covered in cats claw it is impossible to determine the species. There is an odd dissonance in sitting out for a cigarette in a sweater, thick flannel pajama pants, and my L.L. Bean slipper socks (indispensable for uninsulated hardwood floors) listing to their raucous tropical chatter.

Few trees change color down here to warn of winter’s approach. Only the cypress and some species of birch favored by northern transplants reliably show some Fall color and the fickle things wait until just before the solstice to change. I remember brilliant October afternoons driving the winding roads and low hills of western Minnesota, stopping along the way for pumpkins and apple butter. Here the display of bright orange and red leaves is a catch as catch can affair, and must be viewed between the blustery cold front that triggers the brief display of color and the next which blows the leaves away. Before you know it, industrious homeowners and city workers are out blowing all the leaves into the gutters, ensuring we will all enjoy the occasional use of our pirogues and canoes in the flooded streets.

Winter does have it charms. There is the arrival at your holiday party of a fabulously drunk contingent just out of some other booze-fueled party, intent on making hot-buttered rum, spilling liquor and sugar and melted butter all over the newly installed granite counters. This drives the lady of the house to distraction–convinced they will be ruined–in spite of all of your attempts to explain that the damn things are rocks forged over geological time and not likely to be dissolved by hot dairy products.. There are the fiery hogshead cheese and pickled okra, the Pickapepper sauce over cream cheese and the oceans of alcohol to warm everyone with festive cheer.

Winter is racing season at the Fairgrounds. While bundling up to drink the best Bloody Marys in the city while gambling lacks the rustic charm of snow-shoeing or a sleigh ride through the park, it does get you out of the house and all of the frantic jumping up and down and hollering does get the blood flowing. There are the festive lights that the city’s residents take to a level only a place trained by the gaudy display of carnival would attempt. An inflatable Santa astride a Harley-Davidson may be a universal American icon of Christmas, but there is a Chalmette-aptness to them down here.

And while the rest of America settles in to watch the bowl games, sipping non-alcoholic cider next to their roaring fireplaces, we are busy pulling out hot glue guns and feathers, spilling sequins all over the kitchen floor, because Mardi Gras is just around the corner. Come Twelfth Night, when the true believers in the spirit of Creole Christmas will haul out their tinder-dry trees to the curb, we will all bundle up in our animal skins and pea coats to observe the ancient ritual of a mob of happy drunks boarding a streetcar to inaugurate Carnival. You can keep your ice-skating outings and sleigh rides. Me, I’m ready for the real pleasure of winter: the first parade of the season.

Adiu Paure Carnaval March 9, 2011

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, Carnival, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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At the conclusion of Carnival in Nice, France, an effigy of Monsieur Carnaval is burned, the ancient story of the burning man, the sacrifice in fire. As told by Mama Lisa’s World Blog, in that rite Monsieur Carnaval “is responsible for all the wrongdoing people do throughout the year. At Carnival time in France, Monsieur Carnaval is judged for his behavior throughout the preceding year. Usually he’s found guilty and an effigy of him is burned.”

Accompanying the ritual is a song, and I offer the lyrics collected by Mama Lisa below, both in Occitan (the language of the Troubadors) and in English. I suggest you click the link to open in a new tab or window so you can follow along as far as the MP3 goes.

And so, from New Orleans, Adiu Paure Carnaval.

Adiu paure Carnaval
(Occitan)

Adiu paure, adiu paure,
adiu paure Carnaval
Tu te’n vas e ieu demòri
Adiu paure Carnaval
Tu t’en vas e ieu demòri
Per manjar la sopa a l’alh
Per manjar la sopa a l’òli
Per manjar la sopa a l’alh
Adiu paure, adiu paure,
adiu paure Carnaval

La joinessa fa la fèsta
Per saludar Carnaval
La Maria fa de còcas
Amb la farina de l’ostal

Lo buòu dança, l’ase canta
Lo moton ditz sa leiçon
La galina canta lo Credo
E lo cat ditz lo Pater

Farewell, Poor Carnival
(English)

Farewell, farewell,
Farewell, poor Carnival
You are leaving, and I am staying
Farewell, poor Carnival
You are leaving, and I am staying
To eat garlic soup
To eat oil soup
To eat garlic soup
Farewell, farewell,
Farewell, poor Carnival.

The young ones are having a wild time
To greet Carnival
Mary is baking cakes
With flour from her home.

The ox is dancing, the donkey’s singing
The sheep is saying its lesson
The hen is singing the Credo
And the cat is saying the Pater.

Always for Pleasure March 6, 2011

Posted by Mark Folse in Carnival, cryptic envelopment, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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It’s sometime toward four in the morning as we amble in loose groups down Newton Street toward our cars and away from the Mystic Order of Mysfits Ball. There’s no real point in wearing a watch to MoMs unless its necessary to your costume, in which case you should find a broken one to wear. The point is to step briefly outside of time and the world and into the by turns quixotic and erotic bestiary of the MoMs, a moment at the peak of Carnival reserved for those who truly understand the masque, who step into their costumes so completely that they are–for a few hours–transformed, surrender themselves completely to pleasant ecstasy the way the devout surrender themselves to be mounted by the loa.

At MoMs are lieutenants whose job is to inspect people’s costumers. The tickets read Full Costume Required, and those who don’t comply are placed in Costume Jail for a while and given the alternative of surrendering their pants. We slip past the inspection line through a break in the police railings just to save time, confident we pass muster. The lieutenant who frisks everyone who enters, with particular attention to womens’ breasts and everyone’s crotch, sticks his hand down the back of my pants and announces loudly that’s he’s found crack. He peers into our eyes and says, well, the only problem is your pupils are not sufficiently dilated. We’ll get to work on that, we tell him. This is definitely not the Family Gras a nearby suburb hosts the same weekend. This is as far from the Chamber of Commerce vision of child-friendly daytime parades and the frat adventure travelogue of big ass beers and show your tits as the Coliseum was from the rites of the mystery cults. It is the ancient Dionysian spirit of surrender to animal pleasure resurrected for the modern world.

This particular party has gone on for over 30 years, a core of a few hundred people from the Gentilly who started out at a Disabled American Veterans hall in Arabi and which has grown into a coveted ticket, a massive party of a few thousand old friends and total strangers in costumes that tend toward the lewd and the illuminated. The same band–the Radiators–has performed for over 30 years but is breaking up this year. I haven’t been to MoMs in seven years, finding the all night revelry with no where to sit and an irresistible urge to stroll and costume-watch and dance until almost dawn a bit much, but I remember the early MoMs balls, spent Wednesday nights in college at the Luigi’s pizza restaurant where the band the Rhapsodizers transformed into the Radiators, and I can’t imagine missing what I feel like may be the last genuine MoMs.

It’s done now and you think you are, too, a pleasant exhaustion in which the muscles are not tensed by hours of dancing but deeply roll-back-on-your-pillow-and-light-a-cigarette-with-a-sigh relaxed. You are aware at some level that it’s cold and damp and your costume is bare-chested but you are flush with warmth. You should be watching the broken and puddled industrial street but your eyes wander off to the constellation of sodium lights in the sky that mark the twin river bridges, a reminder that it’s time to go home.

“Can you give us a ride across the river?” Marie Antoinette asks. Two women in period dresses, one in a full out Louis Quatorze wig and matching makeup, are walking along beside us. “We’re going to Mid-City.” Well, so are we and the chances of their getting a cab in Algiers this time of morning are slim, although an empty United Cab glides by as we walk, ignoring their hand signals.

I look at my friend for a moment. “Sure, come on.” As if rewarded for our generosity, as we reach Lamarque Street and the car we find an abandoned cooler. I open it,and find it is full of well-iced citrus-flavored soda water. A mystic and perfect piece of luck. Our little group and the people around us all fish out a can, and we drag the cooler out of the street so we can leave. As the two women climb into the car I start rearrange things out of the back seat to make room for them. One hands me a stack of books and asks what it is. I give them my best calling-on-a-bookstore spiel about a Howling in the Wires, and one immediately announces she wants to buy a copy. Things are off to a fine start.

Our passengers are bubbling with excitement after their first MoM’s Ball and can’t stop talking about it. We ask where they are from. They’re in from L.A. for their first Mardi Gras and I pepper them with questions, putting on my best cab-driver-out-for-a-tip manners including some blow-by-blow travelogue. We pull up to a stop sign and I tell them we can take a right into Gretna, where the local police could match the L.A.P.D. club swing for club swing on a D.W.B. stop, or a left if they wanted to pick up some crack.” They break up laughing over the crack remark. “This is the over the river and through the hood shortcut.” I can’t help it. If someone is on their first trip to New Orleans I immediately act as if they were guests of friends who just stepped into my house. And there’s something in me of the voluble cabbie once I have a couple of smitten visitors on the hook.

We all fumble in our costumes for a dollar for the bridge toll, and as we drive up the span with the city laid out before us they start to debate if they want to be dropped off downtown to find a cab to Mimi’s, a popular local bar in the Bywater. I know the place well, I tell them. We launched the book upstairs. They turn out to be friends of the owners, and to know the tapas chef well. Marie Antoinette tells us how her friend (Lisa G is all I remember of a name) once spent a night in a sleeping bag with the chef after a wedding they all attended.. “But he’s married now,” she adds. I never get the other woman’s name straight and she remains Marie Antoinette in my head for the rest of the night. Marie has been in town before, and was supposed to interview local blues player and character Coco Robicheuax for her thesis, but I never manage to get out of her what her thesis was about. (He’s the fellow who decapitates a chicken in the radio studio in Treme). I ask them if they’ve been watching Treme and Marie has. Her “sissy” works from the Treme team, doing makeup.

We are a set of four old friends by now in the way that only strangers who share a table in New Orleans ever seem to be. If they want to be dropped at Mimi’s, I think: no problem. Glad to show the visitors a good time. I look at my companion. “You want a drink?” “Sure.” We pull off the expressway at O’Keefe and head downtown. As we near Canal Street, the corners are crowded with people trying to hail full cabs. They would have been lucky to make it home much less Mimi’s if we’d dropped them in the middle of downtown, and Mimi’s is a fair walk from Canal. We make our way around the edge of the Quarter, comparing cities we have known to New Orleans. “I can imagine what would happen if you started asking strangers for a ride in L.A.” and they agree whoever was stranded would be there until it was a safe hour to call a friend for a ride.

We roll down Rampart, Marie pointing out Armstrong Park (“it used to be called Congo Square, she explains”) to Lisa G, proudly showing off her New Orleans knowledge to her first-time visitor friend. When we park on Franklin, Lisa G. holds out a twenty and says she wants a book. “Keep the change,” she says and I wrestle with layers of elastic to find the short pants pockets under my costume. “Fair enough.” Its getting on toward morning but Mimi’s is still full. The woman find a table empty except for a glassy-eyed drunk sitting bolt upright against with wall with a thousand yard stare. They ignore him and circle up at the rest of the chairs and we join them. I excavate the twenty and get a couple of drinks from Neptune the bartender, forgetting that Marie and Lisa G. had promised to buy. I barely sip my whiskey, wondering why I bought it but gulp down the water back. Our table is suddenly crowded with strangers and a few people Marie seems to know. “Y’all just come from MoMs Ball?” people ask, looking at our costumes. A complete stranger comes up and hugs a couple of us. We look at each other trying to figure out who knows him, but he seems to read that. “I don’t know y’all, but I could tell you just came from MoMs. Wasn’t it great?”

Lisa G. keeps telling us how much she loves this place, wants to move here. Lisa G. has lived a lot of places and traveled. Chicago. San Francisco. New York. She’s not crazy about L.A. San Francisco feels comfortable to people from New Orleans, I explain, and tell her the old saw that it’s one of the few places people who leave the city don’t eventually return from. San Francisco is just as bad, says says. People there don’t make eye contact with each other. “Yeah, it has this vibe” Lisa G. says, but it’s not New Orleans.” Yeah, it’s not, we all agree. She has the bug bad, the “NOLA gene” that gets switched on when certain people first visit, my friend says.

“There’s just no other city like this in the world,” Lisa G. says in that wistful way locals know means: she’ll be back.

People in costume continue to pour into the bar, ready to continue their party until dawn. We all admire each others attire and nod appreciatively. More strangers stop to talk about MoMs, and our little foursome grows into a boisterous, impromptu party of extravagantly dressed people who were all strangers 30 minutes ago but who recognized initiation in the mystery cult of MoMs the way Masons once noticed each others watch fob. Here in New Orleans it might have taken a little longer to assemble an impromptu party without that cue, but it likely would have happened anyway. It always does.

No, we all agree, there really isn’t any other city like this in the world.

Onward Through the Fog March 4, 2011

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, Carnival, cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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The Green room is smoking, and the Plaza burning down
Throw my baby out the window, let those joints burn down
All because it’s Carnival Time, woooooohhh, it’s Carnival Time….!
Oh Well it’s Carnival Time and, everybody’s having Fun!

See you on the street or see you next week, unless I manage to bang out before Bacchus on Sunday an account of what will probably be my last Mystic Orders of Mysfits ball. It will be the final appearance at the Radiators at this over three decade old tradition, which started out as a small party of a few hundred on the Lakefront and later in the DAV in Arabi and later grew into a monstrous rave of a thing which I’ve avoided for the last several years. Still, I was in Luigi’s when the Rhapsodizers transformed into the Radiators. We’ve got some history, including many old Arabi MoM’s balls, so I think I need to be at what will be for many the last “real” MoM’s ball. If I don’t make it past the costume police, they can have my pants. And if I burn my t-shirt as wel, well, it should make for an interesting costume.

The Travesty of the Commons March 3, 2011

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, 504ever, Carnival, fuckmook, FYYFF, parade, Toulouse Street.
3 comments

This is a repost from last year, but bears repeating. I’ll probably be missing Endymion this year but will venture out to my first parade tonight, and expect to find the usual suspects appropriating private space for their own enjoyment while the police look on unconcerned.

Photo courtesy of that Yellow Blog guy

While reasonable people are safe in bed, visions of flashing Krewe d’Etat throws dancing in their head, there are other truly Odd people out in the dark doing strange things on the neutral ground: painting lines, stretching bits of yellow tape, and effecting odd geometric shapes from wire utility flags. They are out claiming the public neutral ground as their own private parade party spot.

This is nuts.

The ladders are bad enough. Now we never had a ladder that I remember growing up, but this isn’t long repressed ladder envy. I have fond memories of being hoisted on my father’s shoulders to watch the parades pass down Canal St. Ladders are a great way for small children to see the parade. That is how this all started out. Instead my beef is with the people who arrive in the dark of night (or sometimes midday, apparently unencumbered by inconvenient jobs) and plant rows of ladders along the curb on parade routes. The result: only these lucky few can actually see or catch any throws. The rest of us get to stand in back and watch them.

Technically, this is illegal. A ladder must be as far back from the curb as it is tall, and cannot be chained together with other ladders to make a wall. Sadly, the NOPD gave up enforcing these regulations after Katrina. Given that we live in one of the three most dangerous cities on Earth, I guess they have a point. This did not, however, prevent them from deploying the full force of the city to tone down Mid-City’s bonfire.

But on that same neutral ground every year, people (mostly not from our neighborhood) show up and spray paint themselves blocks of neutral ground larger than some homes in our neighborhood, and if you want to challenge their right to do so you had best be ready for fisticuffs. This is insane. Parades are supposed to be for everyone. That is why we allow them to roll down the city’s public streets, rather than having them circle the floor of the Superdome for ticket buyers. But try telling that to the neutral ground Nazi’s.

It is simply another example of the continued crumbling of the basic social contract, and the tendency of some in the greater world to privatize the commons for their own benefit to the greater society’s detriment. When Washington and Baton Rouge are run on this basis, why not grab your own piece of public property for your private party?

When people are ready to come to blows because you might want to stand on a piece of common ground they cleverly spray painted an imaginary box on, is it any wonder we roam around the city killing each other for slightly more egregious slights?

All I know is if the NOPD is too busy to care about this sort of thing, then maybe we should go back to having the bonfire we all enjoyed because, frankly, we’re not interested in being bothered with all the city’s troublesome regulations either.

Feel free to break into This Land Is Your Land at any time, especially that verse we never sang in school:

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

Repent Now! Nothing Down! Easy Terms! February 20, 2011

Posted by Mark Folse in Carnival, Krewe du Vieux, Mardi Gras, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
2 comments

You know carnival is upon you when you wake at the crack of noon from the daylight leaking into your bedroom, drag yourself to the window to open it a crack and find the sun is shining, the birds are singing and you think: oh, the horror. You retreat back to the bedroom where the three-way lamp is on its dimmest setting and contemplate the bed but you’re still fighting a head cold through all this and you and the sheets both feel greasy and unclean after the last few days so you drag yourself back to the kitchen and make coffee. Hot, black, chicory coffee that complements the blackened whiskey and cigarette flavor of your unbrushed mouth; you can almost imagine the tiny crows picking over your tongue, the fly-specked battlefield of last nights revelry. You pad barefoot into the bathroom for an endlessly satisfying piss that seems to go on as long as a honeymoon at Niagra Falls, then step over to the basin and contemplate your face, the black makeup under your eyes that won’t come off with soap and water and you think: that looks about right. A shower sounds good but you think, another cup first and you sit and scroll through the messages of all the friends in from out of town, already making plans for the rest of the weekend and decide in for a penny, in for a pound. After a long, hot shower you amble back into the bedroom and count your boxers and decide the mass of laundry in the corner can wait until tomorrow. You pour some more coffee and answer emails, return calls and you think about the long road ahead to Shrove Tuesday and you know come Ash Wednesday it won’t be so much a matter of repentance as falling out with the unholy spirit, muttering in tongues, into a deep and pleasing exhaustion, your Dionisiac spirits appeased for another year.

Odd Words: Lupercalia Edition February 13, 2011

Posted by Mark Folse in Cajun, Carnival, cryptic envelopment, Mardi Gras, New Orleans, NOLA, Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
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Poet, playwright and performer Ray “Moose” Jackson got this out by email last night, and I wanted to get it out here right away so you have time to think of creature costumes if you’re so inclined. It doesn’t say and I haven’t asked but if this is the longer version of a short excerpt about an Irish sailor in the slave trade I heard at the Goldmine a few months back, “This Ship ‘o Fools” should be fantastic.

Le Cru du Loup Garou Presents: Lupercalia — La Balle des Loups Garous on Friday, Feb. 18 atg 8:00 pm SHARP with: “This Ship o’ Fools” written and performed by Herbert Kearney and Moose Jackson at Reneavus, St. Claude and Spain Street, Followed by: Slow Danger Brass Band Parading us to the Skull Club for: U.D.D.U and a crazed cajun-celtic jam. Bring yer fiddles. Cajun food by Nick Slie. Dress as your favourite beast (costumes required). Suggested Donation $10 at the door. Proceeds go to fund the Secret Loup Garou Canoe Parade!!! For more info: Come to the ball. Vampyres will be served free stake.

Sugar Skulls Rule Krewe du Vieux January 31, 2010

Posted by Mark Folse in Carnival, New Orleans, NOLA, parade, Toulouse Street.
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Pictures by Grace and Adrastos, with lots more here. More when I have revolved into something more fully human. Doctor John with the 911 Band was fantastic.

Adiu Paure Carnaval February 24, 2009

Posted by Mark Folse in Carnival, New Orleans, NOLA.
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At the conclusion of Carnival in Nice, France, an effigy of Monsieur Carnaval is burned, the ancient story of the burning man, the sacrifice in fire. As told by Mama Lisa’s World Blog, in that rite Monsieur Carnaval “is responsible for all the wrongdoing people do throughout the year. At Carnival time in France, Monsieur Carnaval is judged for his behavior throughout the preceding year. Usually he’s found guilty and an effigy of him is burned.”

Accompanying the ritual is a song, and I offer the lyrics collected by Mama Lisa below, both in Occitan (the language of the Troubadors) and in English. I suggest you click the link to open in a new tab or window so you can follow along as far as the MP3 goes.

And so, from New Orleans, Adiu Paure Carnaval.

Adiu paure Carnaval
(Occitan)

Adiu paure, adiu paure,
adiu paure Carnaval
Tu te’n vas e ieu demòri
Adiu paure Carnaval
Tu t’en vas e ieu demòri
Per manjar la sopa a l’alh
Per manjar la sopa a l’òli
Per manjar la sopa a l’alh
Adiu paure, adiu paure,
adiu paure Carnaval

La joinessa fa la fèsta
Per saludar Carnaval
La Maria fa de còcas
Amb la farina de l’ostal

Lo buòu dança, l’ase canta
Lo moton ditz sa leiçon
La galina canta lo Credo
E lo cat ditz lo Pater

Farewell, Poor Carnival
(English)

Farewell, farewell,
Farewell, poor Carnival
You are leaving, and I am staying
Farewell, poor Carnival
You are leaving, and I am staying
To eat garlic soup
To eat oil soup
To eat garlic soup
Farewell, farewell,
Farewell, poor Carnival.

The young ones are having a wild time
To greet Carnival
Mary is baking cakes
With flour from her home.

The ox is dancing, the donkey’s singing
The sheep is saying its lesson
The hen is singing the Credo
And the cat is saying the Pater.

The Mardi Gras Mysteries February 23, 2009

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, Carnival, cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, Mardi Gras, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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“Don’t be fallin’ out of your house with no needle and thread in your hand”
–Mardi Gras Indian Chief heard one Lundi Gras evening long ago on WWOZ-FM

It is only Monday morning and already I have Wednesday’s aching legs, tottering on squat stilts in search of coffee-and-chicory. Already I have Wednesday’s mouth dry as ashes, and I think: Lundi Gras? Am I getting too old for this? Tonight they will march by torchlight in honor of Orpheus, and I am not ready.

And yet I know that sometime much too early tomorrow morning someone in an Odd costume wearing my face will walk down Felicity Street, feeling the old ballast cobbles through thin costume shoes I know better than to wear. As I approach the Dionysiac crowd, the howling of sirens and brass in the distance, I will catch a glimpse of something–the sun flashing on sequined creatures singing of wine, a flock of silvered balloons escaping to heaven reflected in the eyes of a child–and it will not matter how I felt today or Wednesday’s cost at the Counting House.

Carnival Preview: Shin Fein February 19, 2009

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, Carnival, cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, Mardi Gras, New Orleans, NOLA, Sinn Fein, Toulouse Street.
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Here is a preview of my Carnival costume. I’m calling him Shin Fein, for reasons that will be obvious to most people who stumble into this Odd corner of the Intertubes. The Chinese name Shin can be (loosely) translated as Belief, Faith, etc. which I think goes well with the concept of Sinn Fein.

I may have taken a picture with a dorkier looking expression at some time in my past, but I certainly haven’t kept a copy of it around. I look like I should be holding up a sign-board and have ink stains on my finger tips. And, no, I have not gotten a gold tooth, but it would certainly match.

Mrs. Wet called me “vain” when I noticed that she hadn’t fixed the collar before she snapped the picture. I think she was still mad at me for running around K-Mart holding up women’s pants to my waist and asking if they made me look fat. (Yes, those are women’s capris in a size that requires the use of scientific notation. They were the best I could do for slacks).

The hat was the genesis of the costume. The jacket goes well, either gold side out or green side out. The pants were a compromise, but work OK with the gold stockings and shoes. By the next time I pull this out, I hope to have found some decent Kung Fu pants in just the right color.

Now I just have to think of a good mixer for green tea. I’m not to sure about vodka.

See you on the Avenue or roaming the quarter.

singfein1

The Travesty of the Commons February 17, 2009

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, assholes, Carnival, Carrollton, Mardi Gras, Mid-City, New Orleans, NOLA, parade, Toulouse Street.
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13 comments

Photo courtesy of that Yellow Blog guy

While reasonable people are safe in bed, visions of flashing Krewe d’Etat throws dancing in their head, there are other truly Odd people out in the dark doing strange things on the neutral ground: painting lines, stretching bits of yellow tape, and effecting odd geometric shapes from wire utility flags. They are out claiming the public neutral ground as their own private parade party spot.

This is nuts.

The ladders are bad enough. Now we never had a ladder that I remember growing up, but this isn’t long repressed ladder envy. I have fond memories of being hoisted on my father’s shoulders to watch the parades pass down Canal St. Ladders are a great way for small children to see the parade. That is how this all started out. Instead my beef is with the people who arrive in the dark of night (or sometimes midday, apparently unencumbered by inconvenient jobs) and plant rows of ladders along the curb on parade routes. The result: only these lucky few can actually see or catch any throws. The rest of us get to stand in back and watch them.

Technically, this is illegal. A ladder must be as far back from the curb as it is tall, and cannot be chained together with other ladders to make a wall. Sadly, the NOPD gave up enforcing these regulations after Katrina. Given that we live in one of the three most dangerous cities on Earth, I guess they have a point. This did not, however, prevent them from deploying the full force of the city to tone down Mid-City’s bonfire.

But on that same neutral ground every year, people (mostly not from our neighborhood) show up and spray paint themselves blocks of neutral ground larger than some homes in our neighborhood, and if you want to challenge their right to do so you had best be ready for fisticuffs. This is insane. Parades are supposed to be for everyone. That is why we allow them to roll down the city’s public streets, rather than having them circle the floor of the Superdome for ticket buyers. But try telling that to the neutral ground Nazi’s.

It is simply another example of the continued crumbling of the basic social contract, and the tendency of some in the greater world to privatize the commons for their own benefit to the greater society’s detriment. When Washington and Baton Rouge are run on this basis, why not grab your own piece of public property for your private party?

When people are ready to come to blows because you might want to stand on a piece of common ground they cleverly spray painted an imaginary box on, is it any wonder we roam around the city killing each other for slightly more egregious slights?

All I know is if the NOPD is too busy to care about this sort of thing, then maybe we should go back to having the bonfire we all enjoyed because, frankly, we’re not interested in being bothered with all the city’s troublesome regulations either.

Thankfully the secret den of the Krewe of Too Loose is conveniently located on the side away from the neutral ground, and the people at the end of our nearest street intersecting the parade route are civil, even friendly, and you can actually wiggle up front without anyone taking a swing at you. Unlike the famous postulate of the tragedy of the commons we don’t ruin our own bit of space because it is our own, a corner we all pass every day. We behave as we do because we are neighbors.

Feel free to break into This Land Is Your Land at any time, especially that verse we never sang in school:

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

Krewe du Vieux 2009 February 9, 2009

Posted by Mark Folse in Carnival, cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, Krewe du Vieux, Mardi Gras, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
3 comments

Update: Not sure how I got near the top of the Google heap for Krewe du Vieux 2009, but I promise to get some links up Tuesday night that will take you to people who were much less hungover than I and did a better job of recapping the parade. Links added down under.

blog1

Another fantastic Krewe de Vieux is just a blurry memory of a great time had before, during and after. Here are three members of the Secret Sub-Krewe of B.L.O.G. (Micheal, Leigh and your own humble narrator) at the before party. Mike and Leigh are new to Seeds of Decline, and had a fantastic time at their first KduV.

All of the krewes’ response to the theme of Stimulus Package rose to the occasion with no sudden drops in blood pressure, and the fun lasted well over four hours with no trips to the emergency room. I liked the new route, but was running low on throws and energy by the time we reached Frenchman. Not using a cart caused us some problems since we like to throw, but I was generally happier working out of a throw bag. Not being the mule to the throws cart I actually saw a larger number of people I knew along the parade. Colton School was a great venue for the ball, and the music was the best it’s been in several years.

I’ll get back here and link up some pictures but it’s a crazy day at work and yesterday I was not ready to do any thing not absolutely required for survival (including those three pints of Hair o’ the Dog at Finn McCool’s for Stehen Rea’s book launch party for Finn Mccool’s Football Club: The Birth, Death, and Resurrection of a Pub Soccer Team in the City of the Dead I’m not a footballer but his wife and mine work together, and I’m looking forward to reading his book).

Once I get a free minute tonight, I’ll roll up some links to blogs and photos from the festivites from other members of the Benevolent and Lewd Order of the Garrulous (B.L.O.G.).

Later Still: Here’s the links I promised. I think the thinness of the posts is a powerful indicator of just how much fun everyone had Saturday night. It’s going to take us days to recover. I can’t get to Flickr from work (nasssty Counting House firewallll; we hates it) but if you go there and search for Krewe du Vieux 2009, you’ll find quite a few snaps. I do not recommend viewing them at work, unless you have to move that big shipment of edible candy underwear off the counter to get to your PC.

Library Chronicles Quick KdV notes

Maitri’s VatulBlog The Best Krewe du Vieux Parade Yet!

Michael Homan After Krewe du Vieux

Adrastos Krewe of Cleavage

Humid Haney KDV 2009 The Stimulus Package

Nola-dishu Krewe du Vieux 2009 with lots of pictures (see warning above).

Are you ready to stumble!? February 6, 2009

Posted by Mark Folse in Carnival, cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, Mardi Gras, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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Don’t miss Krewe du Vieux this Saturday, starting at 6:30 pm and being frog marched through the quarter by the cranky N.O.P.D. along the death march route shown below. Your humble narrator marches in Seeds of Decline, and our theme this year is Fanny Mae Goes Down on Wall Street. We’ll have some surprising Community Chests, so take a Chance with the Monopoly Man cause he got the dough-rei-me for you.

map09-2

Welcome to Seeds and to the secret sub-krewe of the Benevolent and Lewd Order of the Garrulous (B.L.O.G) fellow bloggers Liprap and Micheal Homan, who join Adrastos, Matri, Hana, Dangerblond and who all else am I forgetting? (Um, Alli, Ray and Karen is who). Let the absinthe flow and the good times go rolling along.

monocard4-copy

Carlos Mencia may actually have testicles February 3, 2009

Posted by Mark Folse in Carnival, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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“I’m glad Hurricane Katrina happened. It taught us an important lesson: black people can’t swim.”
–Carlos Mencia

If you think the title of this post is funny, you are probably a fan of Carlos Mencia, or likely would be. Here on Toulouse Street we are not quite so excited to see he was selected as one of the celebrity riders of Harry Connick Jr.’s Krewe of Orpheus. But it does take some cojones for Mencia to come down and ride on a float in the city he suggested it was stupid to rebuild.

It looks like the Blog of New Orleans has stolen all our thunder* on this one with their response to the Krewe’s announcement that among their featured guests is the comedian, restaurateur and astute social critic who came up with the above quote.

Personally, I want everyone in New Orleans to see the above quote and to vid the clip cited below, and for the NOPD to suggest to Orpheus that they can’t afford to protect Mencia’s sorry ass on the night before Carnival.

For some backstory, you need to go in the wayback to 2006. Those of us who don’t watch much Comedy Central or who have stumbled into his show and fled the room as if it were filling with carnivorous army ants probably would have missed Mencia’s take on New Orleans.

Fortunately someone sent an unrelated clip to NOLA novelist, activist and blogger Poppy Z. Brite. She ended up clicking on another Mencia clip on Comedy Central, and she Was Not Amused by what she saw. That led to this post on 3/6/06 on her blog Dispatches from Tanganyika that launched the phrase We Are Not OK. A number of us picked up on that phrase We Are Not OK, most famously Ashley Morris.

I agree with a lot of my fellow local bloggers that we have bigger things to worry about then some idiot riding on a float: living in the world’s third most violent city, rampant government corruption, Louisiana State University’s plan to bulldoze an entire neighborhood before they figure out how to pay for their new fantasy hospital temple complex (leaving us all without sufficient hospital beds three-and-a-half years after); things like that.

Worrying about Mencia is like getting upset about whether there will be lemony-fresh street washing in the Quarter to help hose down the blood the next time someone is gunned down at 8 p.m. on a Saturday evening.

Still, I recognize the importance of the tourist industry, and I want everyone–even Mencia–to feel welcome. I think all we might reasonably ask from Mencia is an apology for being an asshole. However, I have a strong suspicion that he doesn’t recognize he’s an asshole, so until someone comes up with a twelve step program for assholes I suspect we wont’ be getting that apology letter anytime soon.

Hey, Carlos, if you actually have the endocrinal fortitude to show up, I just want to let you know: We Are Not OK, still, all these years later. But we are not going anywhere. We are rebuilding right here, so you can come down and ride on a float in Carnival. A couple of cautions: stay off of Bourbon Street, don’t drink anything in a funny shaped container, and, oh yes: some of us throw back.

Bellona on the Bayou February 26, 2008

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, Carnival, cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, literature, Mardi Gras, New Orleans, NOLA, postdiluvian, Toulouse Street.
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scorpionsml.jpg

In reponse to Greg’s suggestion in the comments on “That Bright Moment” that the real connection between postdiluvian New Orleans and the work of Samuel R. Delaney is the dystopic novel Dhalgren, I offer you this Scorpion-like figure I encountered while waiting on Royal Street for the Krewe of St. Anne to come by.

The scorpions in Dhalgren are criminal gangs that decorate themelves in elaborate electronic costumes that project figures of light such as dragons around them. This picture (which I hadn’t originally posted to my Carnival Flikr set) reminded me more than anything else of what I have seen of my mental pictures of those scorpions. I wish that thought had popped into my mind on Mardi Gras so I could have asked this fellow (who sat at the next table at the coffee shop for quite a while and bummed a cigarette) if that was in fact what he intended.

Queen of Denial? February 9, 2008

Posted by Mark Folse in 504, Carnival, Debrisville, Flood, flooding, French Quarter, home, Hurricane Katrina, Jazz Fest, je me souviens, Katrina, levee, Mardi Gras, New Orleans, NOLA, parade, Rebirth, Recovery, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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Hollywood Reporter columnist Ray Richmond came to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, wandered Bourbon Street and its immediate environs like a good tourist–noting the drunken hordes, the breast obsession, and the beads, all of the touchstones of a Tourist at Mardi Gras. His blog notes that he did venture out of the Quarter and into The Ruins, fand found “a watterlogged [sic] ghost town pockmarked with wide swaths of untouched damage. Meanwhile, those who dared stick it out — or more likely, had no choice — are forced to live in flimsy FEMA trailer housing where their homes once stood.”

His reaction to this odd (to him) juxtaposition was to wonder at the boosterism of the city fathers in promoting Carnival, and the commitment of the costumed locals to have their day even in the middle of Year Three of the postdeluvian era.

The local and national media don’t really talk about this stuff anymore, as Hurricane Katrina is yesterday’s crisis. It’s also far better for tourism and for the city’s tenuous self-esteem to promote the fact that New Orleans’ self-gratifying, anything-goes character is back in full. “New Orleans Hotels at 90% Capacity — and Counting!” exulted one headline. The only hurricane you seem to hear about anymore is the one that’s served in a glass (dark rum, pineapple juice, splash of grenadine). It’s all something of a facade, of course, but that’s spin marketing for ya. There’s simply not as much to be gained from peddling the slogan, New Orleans: Merely a Shell of What We Once Were.

“….We can all sleep better knowing that New Orleans is once again safe for the rowdy and the inebriated, the naked and the perverse. For a city that’s still struggling to crawl out from under the lingering devastation of Hell and high water, it now finds itself drowning in denial, which rapidly has become the most powerful of opiates for these huddled, thinned-out masses.”

Ray, we are not merely a shell of what we once were, even if half of the city’s buildings are. Carnival is not denial; for us it is life. The picture of the man dressed as a soiled baby president is part of (or a dedicated hanger on to) the Krewe of Saint Anne, one of the groups dedicated to elaborate costuming in Mardi Gras. The people who worked half the year on fantastic costumes in spite of the state of our city are no different than my wife soldiering through celebrating Christmas while her mother died. To suggest Mardi Gras is inappropriate would be tantamount to suggesting that commerce in New York be suspended for a few years because of 9-11. If that were to happen, what would be left of the city? Would what remains even be New York? The same is true for New Orleans: to cease to be ourselves would be to surrender, and we have not, will not give up.

For people like the Krewe of St. Anne and all of those you saw following them, Mardi Gras is not a denial but instead a celebration of who we are, of why we live here. It was an affirmation that we do live here, that we will live here, come hell or high water or both, in the way we have for close to three centuries. We not only had Mardi Gras this year, we had it last year, and we had it in 2006 — six months after the Federal Flood, when half of the city had no running water or telephones. We costumed and paraded and partied.

We’re glad the tourists are back, even the vomiting hordes of Spring Break in Hell types. We need their business. We need your business, and that of your readers. Tourism remains a top industry. We want you to come for Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest, and we want you to take time out from those celebrations to see the rest of the city, the real city that stands in hollow, gray ruin not a mile from the Fairgrounds where Jazz Fest plays. We want America to know the one thing your story missed. We stand in ruin because we have been left to our own devices to rebuild. The money is all gone down the rat hole, parceled out to pay for fabulous no-bid contracts to Haliburton and their ilk for debris clean up and other tasks that followed the storm and flood. The money meant to help rebuild is tied up in Byzantine federal red tape. Little has actually reached the people who live here. And still they come home, maxing out their credit cards and cashing out their retirement and one-by-one rebuilding their houses and lives. We are doing it on our own because we just. Sinn Fein, baby.

They come home because they have tried life elsewhere in America when they had no choice but to leave, and they chose to come home. The come back because there is no place for a Krewe of St. Anne’s in Houston or Dallas or Atlanta or Memphis. They come home not for Bourbon Street but for the joie de vivre of the entire city, for the way of life which Bourbon Street caricatures for the tourists. The come because we have built a culture here over 300 years which is different than what the rest of America has, a life visitors don’t understand but are drawn to, which they come and sample with envy. A person may still be waiting — two-and-a-half years later — for a final insurance settlement or a check from the Road Home program, living in a camper trailer beside a home they are trying to rebuild themselves after a long day’s work elsewhere. They may be tired and beaten down, but they will have Carnival.

This is not denial. This is who we are. This is why you came, why the hordes on Bourbon Street came. This is why the floats rolled and the marching crews walked. They city may lay still half in ruin, but New Orleans is back because New Orleans is a people and a way of life. We have risked everything and spent every penny we have to be here because we will not let that way of life vanish from the earth, cannot imagine spending a life elsewhere, a life different from this.

See you at Jazz Fest.

Down by the riverside February 6, 2008

Posted by Mark Folse in Carnival, cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, French Quarter, Mardi Gras, New Orleans, NOLA, Odds&Sods, parade, Rebirth.
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This year on Mardi Gras, with my family all home sick I took off all on my own oddy-knocky and made a point of trying to catch all of the marching krewes I could and taking a lot of pictures, starting with waiting for the Krewe of St. Anne’s on Royal Street in the Marigny and ending with finding St. Anne’s as they marched down to the riverside. I managed to track down the Ducks of Dixieland and Kosmik Debris, but never saw Pete Fountain (largely because I stayed in Marigny until after 11 waiting for St. Anne’s). I also found the Krewe of Whoo Hooo, Mondo Kayo dancing on Frenchman, and a few other odd groups I had not seen before.


Video of Krewe of St. Anne at Royal and Frenchman Streets

As a result, I missed most of the day’s parades, only catching a half dozen perhaps of Zulu as they turned onto Canal Street. The corner of Royal and Canal is not a great place for throws. The floats make a turn there and the barricades are kept far back. The only beads I had for the day were two pair I got from Queen Colleen, mother of old friends who famously parades through the Quarter pushed in a shopping cart by her adoring students and family.

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Queen Colleen

My one throw was from Zulu. Not a coconut, but a walnut painted in gold. At the day’s end, when I joined St. Anne’s at the riverside and had taken my fill of pictures, I joined the St. Anne members who were memorializing their dead of the past year by throwing beads or more personal items into the river. I clambered down onto the rocks, and offered the Zulu nut to all of the ghosts of New Orleans and the Federal Flood. Inspired by the story of the Bone Men below, I invited them all to come and walk with me the rest of the day, to come and taste the visions of a day spent walking through Mardi Gras, to see the pictures I had captured not with my camera but with my memory.

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St. Anne’s at the river

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St. Anne’s mourners
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More St. Anne’s mourners

Memo to my friends and family: this is how I want to go. Hire a band, invite everyone I know, and take my ashes and put them in a cart and parade them through the quarter on Mardi Gras Day. Take them to St. Anne’s in the Marigny, and parade down Royal to Zulu and Rex at Canal Street. At mid-afternoon go to the Moonwalk and wait for St. Anne’s, and scatter them there.

The Last Mardi Gras February 4, 2008

Posted by Mark Folse in Carnival, cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, Debrisville, Flood, flooding, French Quarter, ghosts, Hurricane Katrina, je me souviens, Mardi Gras, Mardi Gras Indians, New Orleans, NOLA, parade, Rebirth, Recovery, Remember, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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As I did last year, I’m going to just re-post a piece I wrote in the fall of 2005 on Flood Street – Dispatches from an Imaginary Disaster, and then for Carnival 2006 and 2007 on Wet Bank Guide called The Last Mardi Gras.

If I don’t see you at St. Anne’s or on Frenchman, I’ll see you on the other side. As I once heard a Mardi Gras Indian chief say on WWOZ one Monday night in the long ago, “don’t be fallin’ outta yo’ house with no needle and thread in yo’ hand.”

The Last Mardi Gras

In this city, people talk incessantly of past pleasures and of those to come, even as they regard the meal or the drink or the parade in front of them. We live in a stream of memory as dark and deep and powerful as the river. Memory’s currents clutch at us and steer our lives, must be compensated for just as the ferry pilots must at every crossing, must be feared less they take us down into an eddy from which no body returns.

Some of my earliest memories are of Mardi Gras. I remember as a child of perhaps five seeing Indians dancing at the corner that might have been Galvez and Canal as we drove to my great aunts’ on Royal Street. Later that day or perhaps a year before or after, I can clearly recall watching Rex passing down Canal from atop my father’s shoulders. Half a life later, my girlfriend and I slouched outside a hall in Arabi in the lost hours before dawn on the night of MoM’s Ball, and a famous photographer took our picture. I’ve never seen this photograph, but I will go to my grave easier knowing that years from now, on a wall or in a book, someone will see us in our motley glory, dissolute and unrepentant and utterly glorious in the moment. They will see us and say: this is what Mardi Gras was like back then.

Twenty years separate those moments, and another twenty separate that MoM’s Ball from the first postdiluvian Carnival. For all that span of years and a century before, Mardi Gras has been as reliable as high water. No one really needed to tell me there would be a Mardi Gras this year as there has been every year in my living memory, and as I am certain there will be a Mardi Gras when no one remembers what it meant to sit on the lawn of the Wildlife and Fisheries building of a certain winter Tuesday. No disaster leaving behind life more complex than the cockroach could prevent it.

Just as certain, at some point of during Tuesday;s twilight people will begin to talk of about last Mardi Gras, and of the Mardi Gras to come with the certainty of the sanctified they are most certainly not. The last time in living memory Carnival was interrupted was during World War II. Frankly, I don’t understand why. The soldiers and sailors on leave wandering Perdido Street drunkly in search of women wouldn’t have been harmed by the tableaux of paper maiche floats lit by the dripping oil burners of the flambeau. Carnival was probably canceled by somebody from the wrong side of Canal Street, whose father before him decided Storyville had to be closed to protect the doughboys of World War One from dissipation. There always a Do-Good Daddy looking to tone the city down.

I don’t think anyone with the city in their heart understood the cancellations, but I’m sure those generations accepted those losses the way we accept the closing of a favorite restaurant: by finding a new and equally good one to sit in and eat and drink and discuss the loss of the old favorite, remembering what we ate on such a date and with whom. Until, of course, we discuss where the owner or the cook of the failed place is expected to return, and start to anticipate the day we will sit at that as yet unset table, and remember what we ate on such a date and with whom.

Of course there will be a Mardi Gras. I might need to ask which krewes would roll on what nights, to inquire of friends where the MoM’s Ball might be. But no one needed to tell me that Mardi Gras would happen, especially the one hidden inside private parties in bars or in courtyards, punctuated by forays out into the streets to parade. The year the police went on strike and the parades all fled to the suburbs and the Mardi Gras of the hoteliers and the airlines was canceled, we dutifully assembled at the Wildlife and Fisheries Building on Fat Tuesday.

Suspicious National Guardsmen and out-of-state troopers warily regarded the ragged parade of the early intoxicated, smelling of burnt leaves and breakfast screwdrivers, dressed in ways only the part-time preachers among them could have imagined, and then only in a place warmer than the city in February. We were not about to let a simple thing like a police strike spoil the party. Several among us dressed as the National Guard in uniforms from the surplus stores in Gentilly, armed with perfect replica rifles by Mattel. When we went to buy wine and beer at the Walgreen’s on Canal, and our friends burst into the door yelling “secure the beer cooler,” clerks fell to the floor in fright, fearing perhaps that the Guard had had enough, and were about to shut down carnival.

I fled the city a few years later, and did not return for Mardi Gras once for almost two decades. The few Mardi Gras that followed the police strike were colored by my reasons for leaving the city, memories rent by heartache and drowned in drink. Those last few years did not yield the stories I would tell my children if they fed me too much wine at some holiday dinner years from now. For many years, the police strike was the Last Mardi Gras. My children, a boy ten and a girl fourteen, grew up knowing Mardi Gras through the Disney film fairy tale filter of the stories I dared to tell them, from the magazine that came with the king cake from Ma Mere every year, in the music I played them from Twelfth Night until the day. We ate jambalaya and king cake, and donned masks and beads to dance wildly to Mardi Gras Vol. 1 in front of the large plate glass window of our home in a small Midwestern town. Neighbors across the street peered through their curtains intermittently at the scene, but no one ever worked up the courage to ask us what we were doing.

I have taken my family to New Orleans. The kids had sneezed powdered sugar all over each other at the Cafe du Monde, fondled baby alligators on flat boats out of Barataria, had learned to eat seafood and gumbo and jambalaya, had even wandered with me through Storyland in City Park. I took them to the exhibit at the Cabildo to learn about Mardi Gras. It’s a wonderful set piece but, like a high school health film on sex, it is not quite the same as the actual experience.

So we piled onto an airplane bound for New Orleans the year before the Flood, and went to Mardi Gras. I took them to St. Charles and Napoleon, and my son waved his deftly caught spear with complete abandon. My daughter was bashful about begging trinkets from strangers in a strange land, until I flung myself stone cold sober on my knees in the middle of the Avenue and begged as loudly as I could for a female horse posse rider to give me a purple, green and gold flower for my daughter on her first Mardi Gras. After that, she got the idea. No pretty girl on St. Charles Avenue should go home without her weight in beads. She only needed to ask.

We stood for hours all weekend, parade after parade, never tiring of it, interrupted only by a friend’s party Endymion party on Saturday night. After Endymion, I left them with Ma Mere and set out after midnight to return to the MoM’s ball for the first time in two decades. MoM’s had always been one of my favorite things about Mardi Gras, a gathering of all who chose to live in the fabric of Mardi Gras and not just inhabit a costume for a few hours, a party only the resolutely dissolute can enjoy, or survive. MoM’s is what I hope Saturday night in Hell will be like, should I find myself stuck there between planes. But thousands in a shed did not hold up to the memories of hundreds in a hall in Arabi decades before. I don’t know if I will return to MoM’s, preferring this one true memory of carnival’s past. And then I can say well, I don’t go anymore, you know, but back when…

I agonized for weeks and months before we went: should I take the children to the Quarter on Mardi Gras Day, or back to St. Charles? As I child, I spent most Mardi Gras at my great aunt’s apartment on Royal Street, now the Hove’ Parfumier. I decided they should have a glimpse of the secret heart of Mardi Gras, or as least as much as they could handle. So we rose up early on the day, donned our costumes, and boarded a cab bound for Frenchman Street. We waited endlessly across from the R-Bar for St. Anne’s, not knowing those marchers had chosen another route. Facing a rebellion, we took off and made our own way up Royal, stopping to sit a moment on Tante Gert and Sadie’s stoop, making Canal just in time for Zulu.

After Rex, I left them in my sister’s care for the endless truck floats, and retired to friend’s places in the Quarter. I stopped briefly in the Abbey, a place that had never been the same since Betz sold it. Instead of the usual motley crew of bikers or transvestites or other folk I had often encountered on past trips home, I found it full of drunken twenty somethings who looked frighteningly like the crowd I remember from my own days, as if the Abbey were haunted for the night by the spirits of the place of my memories. I bought a round of snakebites for a familiar seeming couple and then the currents swept me back to Frenchman Street, a mad Green Man second lining with a huge palm tree totem given to me be someone who knew just how to complete my costume.

Now I have a new last Mardi Gras. We are coming back to the city to stay, to march again and again, so that there is no longer a Last Mardi Gras, just the last Mardi Gras. I will march until my time is done, and then I will borrow a ritual from St. Anne’s, in this city of borrowed rituals. I will have my children scatter what remains of me into the river on Fat Tuesday. For me, it will be the Last Mardi Gras. For them, it will simply be a moment from last Mardi Gras. They will say a few words, shed a tear, and then all of us will be swept away by the currents. They will turn away from the river, while nearby a drunken trumpeter will perhaps blow a few bars of Oh Didn’t He Ramble, and I will march in their hearts back into the Quarter once more.

Samedi Gras February 2, 2008

Posted by Mark Folse in Carnival, Dancing Bear, Debrisville, Mardi Gras, Mid-City, New Orleans, Rebirth, Recovery, Toulouse Street.
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I took a stroll up and down Orleans with the camera running. My wife and son are sick as dogs so the long anticipated Begindymion Bachanal will have to wait for another year. For now, I’m just wandering the neighborhood and enjoying the scene.

Shoe February 2, 2008

Posted by Mark Folse in Carnival, cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, Mardi Gras, New Orleans, NOLA, Rebirth, Recovery.
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All Hail Muses!

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Burn your t-shirt February 1, 2008

Posted by Mark Folse in Carnival, cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, Debrisville, music, New Orleans, NOLA, Radiators, Rebirth, Recovery, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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Has it really been thirty years since the Radiators first took the stage? Me, I go back to my time at UNO in the late 1970s–when the Driftwood newspaper staff had a firm claim on the center table in front of the gas log at Luigi’s every Wednesday night–and as far back as the Rhaps before that.

Sadly, I missed the 30th Anniversary shows at Tipitina’s due to the below mentioned funeral and sickness all around, and won’t make MoM’s Ball. As I’ve written before, I rather prefer the memory of s smaller MoM’s with primarily the Lakefront crowd back in the day to the current version, but that means I’ll miss seeing these guys again.

As we finally crawl out of the hole of funeral, sickness, etc. and get ready to finally start Mardi Gras (better late than never) with tonight’s parades and Samadi Gras up the block tomorrow here’s a bit of the Rads from ’91. May their fire never go out.

Update: I decided I needed more a a fix than I could get off of You Tube or the records I had (well, tapes mostly). I force marched past the Divine Protectors of Endangered Ladies (sorry, y’all) to Louisiana Music Factory, where I found Work Done on Premises (the Rads first, self-produced recording captured live at Tips many moons ago) on CD. Talk about a traveller in time…

Nothin’ but the bones January 26, 2008

Posted by Mark Folse in assholes, Carnival, cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, Mardi Gras, Mardi Gras Indians, New Orleans, NOLA, Rebirth, Recovery, Remember, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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The weekly newspaper Gambit brings us this story of the fearful future of the bone men and other African-American Mardi Gras traditional marchers. In on of the city’s oldest neighborhoods outside of the French Quarter, the local population is being squeezed by gentrification, rising rents and the demolition of the Lafitte Housing Project. What is at risk here is not just affordable housing or the comfort of coming home, but something infinitely more rare and precious: a living culture unique in North America.

For Bruce ‘Sunpie” Barnes, Mardi Gras day begins quietly in the darkened pre-dawn hours as he takes a solitary journey to a local cemetery to commune with the dead. Kneeling before graves, he asks the spirits of the past to enter his body so that he can become their living vessel, joining his soul with theirs as he takes to the streets. Later, at sunrise, he emerges in full costume, calling out and waking up the Treme neighborhood with his group, the Northside Skull and Bones Gang, which has followed the Carnival tradition for decades.

‘We’ll bring all the past dead spirits to the streets,” Barnes says. ‘Mardi Gras is the one day we do that.”

How much longer will the bone men and downtown Indians survive? That’s part of the focus of the story, which first emerged when the police broke up a traditional second-line parade in Treme honoring a musician who had passed on, scuffling with and arresting musicians. These unscheduled events are a century old tradition cherished by the neighborhood’s longtime residents.

Speaking to the Times-Picayune back in October when the confrontation between musicians and the police took place, lifelong Treme resident Beverly Curry explained why she came out that day in spite of bad leg: “I need to be here, to show my support for our heritage”

For a century, she said, that heritage has included impromptu second-line parades for musicians who die, “from the day they pass until the day they’re put in the ground,” she said. Those memorial processions still occur with regularity, without permits, as is the tradition. But, increasingly, NOPD officers have been halting them, citing complaints from neighbors and incidents of violence at similar gatherings.

….”Curry and other longtime residents point fingers at Treme newcomers, who buy up the neighborhood’s historic properties, then complain about a jazz culture that is just as longstanding and just as lauded as the neighborhood’s architecture.

“They want to live in the Treme, but they want it for their ways of living,” Curry said.

Who the hell decides to move to Treme, then calls the police when a second-line parade passes by? Why did they chose to live downtown, in this neighborhood of all places where second-lines (impromptu and the scheduled social aid and pleasure club versions), where bone men and Mardi Gras Indians are part of the very fabric of the place? What possible benefit is there to this redevelopment if it strangles the area’s culture?

Yes, you, yuppie scum. If you people feel you must live downtown, buy yourself one of those lovely high-rise condos being thrown up in the CBD and stay out of the traditional neighborhoods. You can climb into your Lexus and drive yourself to your favorite Uptown restaurant, if you can bring yourself to pass through or even (gasp!) park in the neighborhoods where the best ones are, neighborhoods full of the sort of people you apparently do want to live next to.

Is this the vision of the future of the city–gentrification leading to the death of the real New Orleans, what happened in Charleston after Hurricane Hugo, the threat I warned readers of WBG about over two years ago? It is a fearful thought, more so than a block-long trooop of possessed bone men: the death of the spirit that walks and sings and dances daily in the people of New Orleans. If the yuppie property flippers and their customers destroy Treme to save it’s quaint architectural charm, then it will not be Treme but something else. Only the bones of the houses of the old place will remain, and the spirits of three centuries will rest uneasily when the bone men no longer come to call on Carnival day.

Note: Hat tip to Anima Mundi and Library Chronicles for first calling out this story.

Krewe du Vieux Soldats: Fading, fading… January 20, 2008

Posted by Mark Folse in Carnival, cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, Krewe du Vieux, Mardi Gras, New Orleans, New York, Rebirth, We Are Not OK.
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This morning’s exchange of emails among the New Orleans bloggers who march in Krewe du Vieux:

Me, 9:32 am: Subject Line: Ughhhhhh Message: Who turned on the sun?

Maitri, 10:10 am: Just woke up. Hobbling around kitchen in search of coffee and bloody marys. Oy.

Karen, 10:20 am: My fallen arches are killing me.

Peter, 11:29 am: My feet are still cold and my legs are in need of an amputation or something.

Kim, 11:41 am: Can ya’ll please keep your voices down? It’s making my head hurt.

On another note, my last blog post was perfectly prescient: two years running now I’ve managed fabulously drunk and I managed to not find several of the bloggers in a space of a few thousand square feet. That tiny space was packed, however, with the skimmed cream of New Orleans insanity. I tried several times to get back to Mama Roux’s table to try to cadge a jello shot and find Kim, but it was simply impossible to squeeze back there. (I finally got one from my co-worker, L.H.; questioning him and his charming wife still didn’t uncover the secret of how two newcomers to New Orleans managed to get into MR).

Peter, Grace, Lisa, Ashley and his bride looked fabulous in their seersucker robes and cocktail hats honoring Lafacadio Hearn. I also never managed to squeeze my well-lubricated body into C.R.A.P.S’ tight cranny (now cut that out, filthy minded old sot), and so I never did see Matri, either. I did see Ray, who walked with C.R.A.P.S. as security. Bec of New Orleans Slate marched with us and shared our throws since she rejoined our Krewe at the last moment when the captain sponsored her to march. (Hurray for Billy). She’d been out of circulation mostly taking care of her husband after his terrible accident involving his mule and carriage.

I lost my flask of Absenthe somewhere early along the parade route. (Dude! I’ll give you a hundred dollars if you drink the greed shit in that bottle in the street). This was probably a good thing, as a little absinthe goes a long way. Thankfully d.b.a was close to hand, and in spite of their sociopatheic manager-cum-bouncer we finished up the night with a raft of good German beer. I didn’t know a single name on the band list but spent an hour or more scrunched up at the front of the stage and had a blast. It was all good.

Coming to Take You Away January 19, 2008

Posted by Mark Folse in Carnival, cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, Debrisville, French Quarter, Krewe du Vieux, Mardi Gras, New Orleans, Rebirth, Remember, Toulouse Street.
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The Magical Misery Tour is coming to take you away (coming to take you awaaayyy….). Perhaps, once you’ve seen us all out on the streets, you’ll think they should be coming to take us away. No matter. It’s time for the Krewe du Vieux to once again stain the shiny, Sidney-Torres washed streets of New Orleans and once again diminish the city’s magical brand as They City That Forgot to Care.

Our King is Ronald W. Lewis of the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans: Director, House of Dance & Feathers and President, Big 9 Social Aid & Pleasure Club.

The secret sub-subKrewe of B.L.O.G.* will once again celebrate by getting notoriously drunk and failing to each other at the ball. Our featured drink will be Absinthe. As the self-appointed captain of this nearly non-existant group, I proclaim Bec our Queen, since I’m so pickled she’s going to make it and march. Not as pickled, however, as I will be later tonight. My personal theme this year is Getting L.H. Really Drunk and Taking Embarrassing Pictures I Can Use To Advance My Career at the Bank. My costume is titled: Oh! Wendy? but only someone who thinks Capitol when they hear “hill” will figure out how the hell it fits into the Seeds of Decline’s theme of Fools on the Hill.

Don’t forget the new start time–6:30 PM–and the new route. route08.gif

And don’t forget the Krewe du Vieux Doo, at 2121 Chartres St., featuring 101 Runners (Mardi Gras Indian Funk), Juice with Special Guest J.D. Hill, Honey Island Swamp Band, and Late Night Trip by Quintron and Miss cat (whatever that is). Tickets are advance sale only at:

  • Mardi Gras Zone: 2706 Royal Street
  • Louisiana Music Factory: 210 Decatur Street
  • Up In Smoke: 4507 Magazine Street
  • Miss Claudia’s Vintage Clothing and Costumes
  • *B.L.O.G. is the Benevolent and Order of the Garrulous.

Torchlight parade down St. Chares Avenue to honor Harry Lee January 18, 2008

Posted by Mark Folse in Carnival, Mardi Gras, New Orleans, NOLA, Odds&Sods, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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Did this really happen? Could anyone be this stupid? The notoriously racist Harry Lee, deceased sheriff of suburban Jefferson Parish, to be honored by the Bacchus Parade?

This item appeared then quickly disappeared from the New Orleans Times-Picayune NOLA.Com newsfeed. I like to think it was a prank, but perhaps someone thought better of it: for example, the N.O.P.D who would have to contain the crowds closer to downtown that would as like as not wrest away a flambeaux torch and and toss it onto the float.

This is a brilliant idea. Parade an effigy of a man noted for his racist views through uptown New Orleans. Were they hoping to provoke a race riot? Or were they just terminally stupid? Was this to be a torchlight parade? Would it feature a burning cross?

Bacchus to announce Harry Lee tribute today

by The Times-Picayune

Thursday January 17, 2008, 9:07 AM

The Krewe of Bacchus will announce today plans to pay tribute to the late Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee.

The announcement will be made at a 4 p.m. news conference attended by Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand; Lee’s widow, Lai Lee; daughter, Cynthia Lee Sheng; executive members of the Krewe of Bacchus along with Mardi Gras artist Michael Hunt.

Update: No, I guess it wasn’t a prank or a terrible mistake. What a grand way to start off the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial weekend.

Stringing up dozens January 13, 2008

Posted by Mark Folse in Carnival, cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, Debrisville, French Quarter, Mardi Gras, Mardi Gras Indians, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street, Uncategorized.
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In a world where all of our holidays come cleverly packaged on the shelves–Christmas trees with embedded lights decked and holiday cookies ready-made at the local grocery’s bakery–most people no longer have the simple traditions long ago. I once cut my own tree, wading through a foot of Minnesota snow at 20 degrees to do it, but I can’t say I’ve ever strung up popcorn. Holidays like Halloween are much the same. Our children’s costumes come in plastic bags and no one dares put out a homemade treat since we now another parents will just dump it in the garbage.

Mardi Gras is one place where the handmade is still valued. Yes, the parade floats are largely mass-produced and much recycled by a handful of shops, the stores are full of kitschy decorations and of course there will be lots of people roaming St. Charles Avenue and the French Quarter in costumes from some store named The Party Pit. That is part of Carnival, but not the heart of Carnival.

On the big day, hundreds of African-American men and women will step out of their houses in costumes like these. The Societé de Sainte Anne and all of the other small marching groups will step out in elaborate costumes made by hand, either by themselves or by seamstresses. My own costume for Krewe du Vieux is still forming up, but it’s fairly simply and mostly conceptual. I may find it easier in a busy life to dress my son store-bought, but I’ve always tried to assemble my own costumes. I don’t got to the lengths of Danger Blonde, who yearly makes custom beaded-object throws and fabulous bustiers for the Divine Protectors of Endangered Pleasures, but if you’re going to dress you might as well be do it right. Every year around this time, I head in my head the admonishment of one of the Mardi Gras Indian chiefs being interviewed on WWOZ sometime back in the 1980s: Don’t be fallin’ out of your house with no needle an’ thread in your hand. I wish to hell I knew who had said that, but it’s stuck with me forever.

One thing we must do every year at our house is collect all of the caught beads we’ve saved up (and my son and I are dogged parade goers, working the neutral ground from morning to night all the week-ends before Carnival), and begin the slow process of untangling, matching up by size, and making up new dozens to toss back out when we march through Marigny and the Quarter.

Stringing up dozens is one of those tasks like cleaning out the attic that is often is slowed down by “remember when” moments (wasn’t Chaos funny last year? Remember the guy we saw….), as well as interrupted by comedy: finding that whoopee cushion, or the little foam rockets you can launch with a rubber band on the tip that turns our bead stringing party into a temporary war zone.

My son groaned this year when I told him it was time to string up the beads into dozens. He would rather hang out with a friend and play his WII. For him, Carnival is mostly new. I am a native with thirty years of Carnival under my belt before we came back to New Orleans in 2006, but this is really only his third year and his second as an Orleanian. It was not, for him, a tradition but a chore like cleaning up his room: until we got started, and found the whoopie cushions and rockets.

As long as I have legs to march I will look forward to stringing up the dozens, especially the few years I have left before my 12-year old boy is either too damn busy to help (like his socially swirling 15 year old sister) or gone from the house. For me, it is not the arrival of King Cakes in the stores (and most places were putting them out with red and green sugar in December), or the first time I open the paper and it falls open to the débutante pictures of Krewe’s ball, or even taking down the Christmas decorations with Mardi Gras Vol. 1 blaring on Twelfth Night. Carnival begins at the Folse house when I start to haul in and down the bags of tangled baubles and dump them out onto the table, and we closed the circle that connects the last Mardi Gras to this year’s Carnival, one string at a time.

Tootie’s Last Suit April 28, 2007

Posted by Mark Folse in Carnival, Dancing Bear, Flood, Mardi Gras, Mardi Gras Indians, Mid-City, New Orleans, NOLA, We Are Not OK.
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I so want to see this movie.

The feature-length documentary, TOOTIE’S LAST SUIT explores the complex relationships, rituals, history, and music of New Orleans’ vibrant Mardi Gras Indian culture while telling the story of Allison “Tootie” Montana, former Chief of Yellow Pocahontas Hunters. Celebrated throughout the New Orleans as “the prettiest,” for the beauty and inventiveness of his elaborately beaded Mardi Gras costumes, Tootie Montana masked for 52 years, longer than any other Mardi Gras Indian…

In the aftermath of It All, I had completely forgotten about the St. Joseph’s Night attack of the NOPD on the Indians, and Tootie’s death while testifying to the City Council about it. This sounds like a film that should be run until the print gives out in New Orleans. At the same time, given all the city’s troubles, I hope that this culture does not vanish into the camera’s lense.

Cargo Cult of the Endymionites March 8, 2007

Posted by Mark Folse in cargo cult, Carnival, Dancing Bear, Debrisville, Mardi Gras, Mid-City, New Orleans, Odds&Sods, Toulouse Street.
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The tribal peoples of Mid-City appear to have erected this cargo cult wagon and covered it with beads in memory of the great god Endymion, which once visited these precincts. On close examination it also contains a snare drum, a favorite of the parading gods, and part of the of the cross-buck lights from the City Park miniature train. I wonder if they intended to signal to the great being that Mid-City is back, complete with amusement rides in the Park for his lordly pleasure. This odd vehicle is on the raised concrete platform in City Park on the west side of the site I recall from my childhood was a seal pool but which Gambit suggests was a swimming pool. (I think I’m right).

Today is Mardi Gras February 20, 2007

Posted by Mark Folse in Carnival, Mardi Gras, New Orleans, NOLA, Odds&Sods, Toulouse Street.
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An editorial by Phil Johnson, long-time news director and editorial voice of WWL-TV and possibly the only man in TV news I’ve ever seen with a beard:

Good evening. Today is Mardi Gras. Since no one can be serious today, we won’t try. But we do reserve the right to be serious tomorrow. Good Evening

Hat tip to Yat Pundit for this and for the lovely and longer editorial here.

Musing on Chaos at the Krewe d’Etat February 18, 2007

Posted by Mark Folse in Carnival, Mardi Gras, Mid-City, New Orleans, Toulouse Street.
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or How’s Your MoMs and all

In which our Intrepid Hero once again drags the cooler, chairs and ladder up Napoleon so that he may haul them all home again together with sufficient plastic trinkets to fabricate his own FEMA trailer.

And we all thought that the Krewes du Vieux and d’Etat had a corner on the irony angle of Carnival, until my friend the dedicated environmentalist pointed out the irony of watching the Krewe of Endymion parade a large set of floats depicting endangered species, pulled by belching diesal tractors while riders tossed out enough precious petroluem based bric-a-brac to entagle and throttle every sea bird and turtle on the planet.
We saw no one today except Dangerblonde (briefly) as her float of the Krewe of Tucks trundled by. I’m glad I caught her at least once, as I will probably spend next Samadi Gras fending off the desperate parking place theives when Endymion returns to its rightful home a few blocks from ours.
Today was great fun, but Thursday before has really become the quality night of Carnival, as we left burdened with an unimaginable pile of truly nifty throws as we returned to finish the night at Adrastos’ and Grace’s nearby home. The themed floats of the satyric Krewe d’Etat are mong the best in carnival, and the first time I’m sure I’ll see a flambeau is escorting the cotton wagon floats of Chaos. And Muses is the one parade where middle-aged men have fighting chance against cute children and teenaged girls.
Endymion’s not bad, but frankly I rarely attended it in years past. For me the Saturday before meant MoM’s ball, with a drop by to the Mahaptos party hosted by friends from UNO in the very long ago. This year, no MoMs ball. I think I have a duty to get my kids to their first full flight of as many parades as possible, and getting to bed at six tomorrow morning is not a good idea if one wants a decent spot by Thoth to try and hold until Bacchus. But next year, first the Begindymion Bacchanal will certainly be followed by MoMs. Guests are warned there will be a strict curfew enforced a the Begindymion Bacchanal by the clever mechanism of starting to serve alcohol to the adults and sugar to the children as early as possible, leaving everyone thoroughly exhausted when it comes time to dress for MoMs.

Mr. & Mrs. Groovy Go To The Sleaze Ball February 11, 2007

Posted by Mark Folse in Carnival, Dancing Bear, Mardi Gras, New Orleans, NOLA, Odds&Sods, Uptown.
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Mr. and Mrs. Groovy go to the Sleaze Ball

Here we are before we set out to the fabulous annual Sleaze Ball, hosted this year by John Steed and Emma Peel at the Uptown digs of Tommy M. and Sue P. Rebecca looks much more like a spy than I do, in keeping with this year’s theme of Spy v. Spy. I set out to find a jacket for to make myself into No. 6 from The Prisoner (Be Seeing You), but found the iridescent-beetle colored coat and mod wig instead. The coat was a prefect fit, and was clearly meant to be. I’m just a goovy extra from the golden era of spy films. Just drop Its All Too Much into the player on repeat mode, and I’m ready.

Krewe du Vieux Goes to Hell February 8, 2007

Posted by Mark Folse in Carnival, Catholic, Dante, French Quarter, Hell, Mardi Gras, New Orleans, NOLA, satire, Toulouse Street.
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Ed Note 5-13-08: Sorry, kiddies but, no, I don’t have a cite for these. Perhaps you should try looking in that big building behind the student union, you know the one with all the books in it that doesn’t sell t-shirts?

As a first-time marcher its probably way out of my league to make suggestions to the assembled captains of the sub-krewes that make up the Krewe du Vieux, but I think the appropriate response to the trumped up protest by an out-of-town group against the parade’s past themes is to adopt the theme:

Krewe du Vieux Goes To Hell

Think Dante and the circles of hell. Think of all of the wonderful examples of sin that could be represented. Imagine Bill Donahue clutching his chest and turning purple. I think this is far superior to my original idea of Great Popes of New Orleans (as I hum the jingle to the old cooking show, sung I’m pretty sure by a girl I had a terrible crush on when I was 11).

No, I think if these guys are right and we’re going Down Under–sans koala’s and Fosters–I say we ought to go out in style. And Heck, looking at these maps of Hell (its been a long time since I crack the Inferno), it looks to me like those of us who Choose du Vieux get the good seats, with an excellent view of the hypocrites and pretty much everyone in local government down below.

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Sure, it may seem a bit harsh to pick on these pathetic protesters, but this isn’t a devout group of local churchgoers. This is a group protesting the 2005 parade in 2007, a group that comes every year to try to save us all from the debauchery, the heirs to the Grape Force whose real mission is to abolish Mardi Gras as we know it. Look closely and you may see a few of them on Circle Six.

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Again, it’s probably not my place as a first-timer new to my krewe to propose themes. But, I’m just saying…

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