To hear Glen Abbott interviewed about his first Mardi Gras on WIBW radio in Topeka, Kansas, click here.
Mardi Gras 2012. It’s over. The fat lady has sung (or barfed, more likely).
Beads were thrown, enormous quantities of booze were consumed, and undoubtedly many boobies were flashed.
As for that last part, I didn’t see any because I didn’t go to the French Quarter (mind you, I’ve got nothing against breasts, it’s just that I’ve gotten to a point in my life where I don’t feel the need to go out of my way to see ’em. Hmmm, maybe I’ve matured. Well, probably not, but that’s a discussion for another time and place).
But what I realized as a Mardi Gras virgin and a new resident of New Orleans is that it’s not like what you see on TV — but then again, very little is. I discovered that Mardi Gras is about more than just the “unholy trinity:” booze, beads, and boobs (I refer here to drunken boobs as well, not just the anatomical ones), despite the picture America gets from national media coverage.
As locals know, Mardi Gras is actually an entire season of parades, pride, and celebration. Weeks of festivity leading up to Fat Tuesday, with krewes of all shapes, sizes, and colors doing their respective thing.
The range is astounding, from old-line krewes like Rex and Zulu, to newer upstarts like ‘tit Rex (pronounced “T-Rex”), a satirical crew that marches pulling shoebox-sized floats, or the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus, which promises to “save the galaxy, one drunken nerd at a time,” and whose parade is led by a Sacred Drunken Wookie.
Sure, there is drunken excess and wanton carnality. This is New Orleans, after all, and we wouldn’t want or expect anything less.
But away from the French Quarter, Mardi Gras is a family activity. Most of the larger parades begin Uptown before winding their way to the Quarter, and Uptown seems to be where families and locals go to watch them. You see kids and parents in costume, barbecue grills smoking, and coolers full of beer and soda. Sure, people drink in the streets, because that’s what you do in New Orleans, but everyone I saw seemed happy, respectful, and in control of themselves — enjoying Mardi Gras with friends and family.
A few random observations:
As a newly-minted New Orleanian, that’s my take on Carnival. You may or may not agree with me, but I hope you enjoyed it as well. Boobs not included. Or maybe so — not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Glen Abbott is a New Orleans-based freelance travel writer/photographer. Visit his blog at www.TravelinGringo.com.