City of the Dead: St Louis Cemetery No 1

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rev zombies house of voodoo

rev zombies voodoo shop

The above-ground cemeteries of New Orleans have long-fascinated visitors to the area. Mark Twain famously said that the city of New Orleans has no architecture, save for its cemeteries. Nicolas Cage even bought space for and constructed an enormous whitewashed pyramid for his eventual interment. Thanks to vandals, disrespectful tourists, and ne’er do wells, you actually can no longer visit St Louis Cemetery No. 1 if you don’t have relatives interred there unless you are accompanied by a licensed tour group. I selected Haunted History Tours at random (all the tour groups advertise that they’re the number one tour group, and they all pretty much depart from one voodoo shop or another so it’s impossible to differentiate between them from afar), and fairly shortly into the tour I was sure I had made the correct choice. I’d seen a number of tour groups wandering through the french quarter, and some of them were so large that I’m not certain the people in the back knew what was going on or could even see the thing they were there to hear about before the group made it to the next thing on the list. Our tour group was seven people plus the tour guide, which made it easy to hear and ask questions and get a more personal tour experience. 

We departed from Rev. Zombie’s House of Voodoo (meh, I’ve seriously seen some of the candles for sale in there at Urban Outfitters), and walked up the street toward the cemetery, learning the original sites of the graves so none of us invest in potentially haunted property, and taking a couple of quick detours at Louis Armstrong Park and Basin St. Station to talk about the history of the area, learn about why people and GPS devices get so confused when talking about directions in New Orleans (you’re not going north, south, east, and west in the crescent city–you’re going lakeside, riverside, uptown and downtown), and take one last opportunity to use a restroom since (surprise!) there aren’t any in the cemetery. While we were in Basin St. Station, our tour guide recommended a book, Frenchmen Desire Good Children, about the history of New Orleans and its interesting street naming conventions. Somehow, I got the title mixed up in my head and went back to Basin St. Station later and requested to buy a copy of City of Saints and Bastards, to which the people working there looked quite perplexed and asked me which tour guide recommended that book, again? It turns out once they figured out which book I was actually after, that they were sold out, but they also enthusiastically praised it, and said it’s the book that all New Orleans tour guides study before they take their examinations. I bought it later on Amazon and just very recently started to read it, which I wholeheartedly recommend you not do, because it is the single most racist piece of shit I’ve ever read. I said “What the fuck?!?” more times in the first ten pages than I did throughout the entirety of the series of Twin Peaks, and it wasn’t a perplexed kind of Twin Peaks-y “What the fuck?” but a truly horrified, can’t believe this book came highly recommended, really can’t believe that the author just compared native americans to dogs sort of “WHAT. THE. FUCK.”. I think I would have preferred City of Saints and Bastards to this hot garbage.

tomb of marie laveau

marie laveau tomb

xes on tomb

a cemetery for all

brick tombs

bricked up tomb

broken nameplate

 

But back to the tour. It was interesting to see how differently the city of New Orleans handles burials. We learned that because of the heat inside the tombs, in about a year’s time, there are only bones left in the tomb, which means that they can be reused over and over again, adding more names to the plaque on the front, while the bones intermingle in an area at the bottom. This is why you see double-decker tombs in the cemetery, because if you had multiple family members die less than a year apart, you wouldn’t want to open the tomb until the decomposition process had ended. With two, unless your family was having a really bad year, it’s unlikely you’d have to worry about opening up a tomb that wasn’t…uh…fully baked. We also learned that tomb maintenance is handled by the family or by a trust left by a family for said purpose, which is why some tombs look pristine and others are crumbling. 

Marie Laveau, the voodoo queen of New Orleans, is interred at St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, and even though maintenance people keep whitewashing away the Xes people scratch on the sides of the tomb, hoping for her favors even in death, more keep appearing. Evidently, if your wish is granted, you’re supposed to return and circle your Xes and leave her a gift in accordance with the size of the favor–although her tomb has been cleaned, it’s plain to see that not many favors are granted. Some people also believe that Marie Laveau’s bones are not interred within that tomb but are instead elsewhere in the cemetery out of fear of them being stolen, which is why triple Xes are found all over various tombs in the cemetery from people hedging their bets.

 

burial table

city of the dead

crumbling brick tomb

crumbling tomb

escapee

grout

growing its own flowers

homer plessy

life finds a way

lion drawer handle

marble sculpture

marble tomb

 

nicolas cage tomb

 

pink tomb

plant life

 

row of tombs

rusty gate

st louis cemetery

st louis

Visiting this cemetery made me think a bit more about what I’d want for my own body when I die. I’ve joked about being packed into a lipstick tube and launched into space, I’ve suggested that it would be totally fine if I was just tossed into a dumpster, but it is important to really consider the impact not only our lives have on the planet, but also our deaths. The single coffin below ground has to be a thing of the past, as our world population has exploded and there just simply isn’t room. Family crypts are an interesting solution. Maybe I can get in on Nic Cage’s badass pyramid. Either way, right now, I’m seriously in the mood for some brick oven pizza.

New Orleans! Home of pirates, drunks, and whores! New Orleans! Tacky overpriced souvenir stores!

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When I was in my early twenties, I would have loved Bourbon Street. I would have definitely reveled in the seediness with a Huge Ass Beer(tm) in each hand, a poboy strapped between my boobs, and I would have offered bites of the sandwich to anyone in exchange for strings of tacky plastic beads, plus I probably would have come home with at least six new t-shirts with slogans ranging from mildly suggestive to banned in three states. Now that I’m older, saggier, significantly less rock ‘n’ roll, and way more possessive of my sandwiches, Bourbon Street doesn’t really do it for me. Every morning, the streets are literally hosed off from the previous night’s debauchery, and the smell that arises from said hosing can only be described as the scent of bad decision making.

  horse hitching post

napoleons itch

wrought iron veranda

 

buggy outside lafittes

It could be solely that I am older and more cynical, but especially during daylight hours, it feels like every tagline on Bourbon could be followed by “…you assholes!” “Pizza by the slice…you assholes!” “Huge Ass Beers…you assholes!” “Barely Legal Club…you assholes!” “Put some spice in your life…you assholes!”  “Balcony upstairs party party party…you assholes!” “Home of the hand grenade…you assholes!” Even the stuff that’s sold as sincere is kind of bullshitty. Take Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, for one. It’s advertised as the oldest bar in the United States, a pirate bar, and it is a pretty old bar, but not the oldest–it wasn’t a bar at the same time it was an actual blacksmith shop. They also claim that the Lafitte brothers (the pirates in question) used the place as a base for their smuggling operations between 1772 and 1791. However, the elder Lafitte didn’t even come to Louisiana until 1803. And then there’s the faux aging on the outside of the building, which makes it look less authentically old and more like a pirate bar as built by Disney. The only thing I would buy as being authentically old in the building is the bathroom, which will sincerely make you regret breaking the seal on your bladder with the aforementioned Huge Ass Beer…you asshole.

lafittes blacksmith shop exterior

lafittes blacksmith shop

beer at lafittes

nola poboys

Which isn’t to say that dreams don’t come true on Bourbon Street or that nothing good happens there. I was meeting up with friends to take a tour nearby, so we decided to grab lunch at NOLA Poboys on Bourbon beforehand. They actually didn’t have a permit for their deep fryer at the time (waiting on a visit from the fire department) so anything that would normally be fried on their menu was unavailable–which I was totally fine with because I do occasionally eat things that haven’t been deep fried.

I ordered a hot ham and beef sandwich, and while the sandwich itself was delicious, the truly wonderful thing happened in the wake of the sandwich, when I went to wash off the gravy that had dripped down to my elbows. You see, ever since I first encountered one of those super powerful hand dryers that flap the skin on the backs of your hands around like it’s trying to push it aside and dry you at the mitochondrial level, I have wanted to stick my stomach under one and see what happens. The problem is, these dryers are always right out in the open, so you never really get a level of privacy that’s particularly conducive to this type of scientific experiment. However, the bathroom at NOLA Poboys was an all-in-one unit, complete with super hand dryer, and thus, science could happen.

blubber

…As my gut whipped around like the Blob caught in a freak tornado, I may have shed a tear composed of 90% joy, 10% shame. Bourbon Street is truly a magical place.

 

District: Donuts Sliders Brew

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 district donuts sliders

 

“I’d like four donuts, a cinnamon roll, two biscuits, and three coffees…for here.”

more

As the words left my mouth, there was no doubt in my mind I was the fattest person alive. However, I feel that if you only have time to visit District once, you’d do the same. It helped that I had two willing partners in donut-eating to try the bounty that you see before you.

 

district donutsClockwise from the upper left (ignoring the coffees): banana pudding donut, pad thai donut, plain glazed donut, buttermilk drop, maple praline donut, buttermilk biscuit, brûléed cinnamon roll.

It is a goddamn good thing this place is outside of easy driving distance for me or I would be dead inside of a month. Did you even know that a cinnamon roll could be brûléed?! Because I didn’t, and that shit is a revelation. Cinnamon rolls are basically already the perfect pastry,  and adding the crisp crackle of torched sugar on top takes it up into the stratosphere.  What kind of mad science is this?! Is it possible to make something too delicious for your tastebuds to even perceive it? I feel like if any donut shop has a chance of making that discovery, it’s District.

In terms of the donuts themselves, the pad thai donut was my clear favorite. Sweet but not as sweet as the others, it definitely had the distinctive flavors that made you think of pad thai without crossing over into “Oh weird, this is too much” territory. Next was the banana pudding donut, which was aaamazing but so dense and rich that a bite was enough. The maple praline and the plain glazed were both good donuts, but I felt like neither really compared to the other two in terms of flavor impact. Following up all that sweet donut and cinnamon roll with a savory biscuit is necessary to pull yourself out of the too-much-sugar zone–I preferred the standard buttermilk biscuit to the buttermilk drop in both texture and flavor. I need to go back to District and try their sliders. All of them. Maybe with a donut bun.

donut

 

Bugging out at the Audobon Insectarium In New Orleans

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venus flytrap light fixture

People have an almost primal reaction to insects. After all, they are the most alien-looking creatures we encounter on a regular basis. As Jeffrey Lockwood puts it at Popsci, “You could think of our fear and disgust of insects of being as a conspiracy of evolution and culture.” I myself feel a combination of fascination and disgust with insects, which is dependent on the type of insect I’m encountering and the context of said encounter. After all, it’s one thing to obsessively hunt insects in Animal Crossing, and another to have your mother scream while braiding your hair that your head is covered with bugs, prompting a call to the principal who came over and picked both bugs and eggs out of your hair at the kitchen table which then prompted an announcement over the school loudspeaker about there being an outbreak of lice and that no one in the second grade should be sharing coats or hats or brushes and everyone knows it’s you. Hypothetically speaking, of course.  One thing to have a butterfly flit around you in the garden and another to have a horde of spiders flooding out of a cardboard box in your direction. I think that the Audobon Insectarium in New Orleans enjoys playing with this juxtaposition of fascination and repulsion, placing enormous scaled-up insect nightmares next to smaller, cuter real life versions with tiny presents and holiday trees in their enclosures.

audubon insectarium

biodiversity pyramid

beetle

beetles

underground

The Insectarium must also enjoy getting a good shriek out of  people. In the Richard C. Colton, Jr. Underground area, you walk into a very dimly lit room, where something promptly bursts out of the wall in your direction, which caused Jason to squeal like a little girl and brought vivid flashbacks of Tremors screaming to the forefront of my mind. The entire rest of the underground area, I was on edge, waiting for something else to move or jump or slither past…so of course, nothing did.

creepy underground bug

ant battle

worm rider

However, all of that anxiety really works up an appetite, so thankfully, I was right on time for the opening of The Bug Buffet, where chefs whip up various dishes containing insects to teach you about the environmental benefits of eating insect protein, and you get to try any and all of them that your little heart desires. I decided I was going to try and set aside everything I’d been taught about the grossness of bug eating and take it on its own merits (or lack therof, depending on how things turned out.) After all, I’ve almost certainly unknowingly eaten any number of insect parts or rat hairs or any number of things that would make me heave if I thought about them too closely, so it probably wasn’t going to kill me*.

bugonthat

the bug buffet

bug buffet

chocolate chirp cookies

insect dips

On the menu for that day:

  • fried waxworms with cinnamon and sugar
  • cajun crickets
  • fried waxworms with taco seasoning and chili powder
  • chocolate “chirp” cookies with roasted crickets
  • cream cheese and onion cricket dip
  • mango chutney with poached waxworms
  • tomato salsa with crab-boiled mealworms

The only thing I didn’t try was the salsa, and that was out of a greater objection to the cilantro in the salsa than the mealworms themselves. If you can get out of the “oh gross, bugs” mindset, they taste kind of like nothing. Maybe the crickets had a slightly nutty flavor, maybe. Mostly, they just take on the flavor of whatever is around them, which is good in the case of apple pie waxworms and maybe not so great in the case of devil-weed mealworm salsa. While I daintily picked out a solitary waxworm and apple combo to place on a wheat thin (the preferred cracker of insect-eaters everywhere), I realized I had the chefs to myself so I could annoy them with my particular brand of hard-hitting questions. I learned that all of their insect supply is farmed and shipped to them, which I found relieving as I was envisioning them just sweeping the dead and sick and just plain unsociable ones out of the bottom of the cages–you know, waste not, want not and all that. I also learned that, no, neither of them have witnessed someone take a bite of something and start dry-heaving right there in line, setting off a vomit chain reaction that led back to the entrance of the Insectarium and right up Canal Street all the way to Bourbon. They were also more than happy to provide me with information about their supplier in case I was interested in hosting some lavish insect eating affair in my own home.

giant deep fried waterbugs

Along the walls in the Bug Buffet, they also had some photos of insect cuisine that I think I would find a lot more, ahem, challenging to consume. Things that would take more than one bite to eat and which I’m imagining would sort of ooze into one’s mouth like a fruit gusher…which aren’t even that pleasing as a fruit-based product, and would be even less palatable as bug goo. Look, I said I was working to set aside those prejudices, not that I was wholly successful and one step closer to being an all-around perfect human being.

And then, next to the door of the tiny termite cafe, they had this diorama that nearly made me lose my snacks. They can call it a roach’s christmas, but I feel a more apt title is “Christmas is ruined and for baby jesus’ sake, clean the kitchen” which I suppose is just a matter of semantics. 

roach christmas

cockroach tea

….and another hard no. Please and thank you, I would rather have lockjaw than drink whatever flakes off of a cockroach when it’s been boiled. If it works, though, a lifetime supply of tetanus remedy is really economical–you can step on rusty nails left and right and just keep using the same cockroach as those hardly little fuckers will survive the apocalypse and surely think nothing of a little boiling water, shaking it off and nonchalantly strolling away to go make a nest in your sandwich.

my god its full of stars

red crayfish

crawfisharmor 2

armor

stag beetle

put your hand in here if you dare

In the room dedicated to insect defenses, there was a box labeled “put your hand in here if you dare,” to teach you a lesson about how quickly a spider can strike. Both remembering the incident in the underground area, Jason passed, and I hovered in front of the box like the world’s largest and most afraid baby, moving my hand closer and then yanking it away. A kid witnessed this dilemma of adult babydom and rushed right over to cram his hand inside, screaming when the harmless puff of air went off and making everyone in the room collapse with laughter. Good thing it was him and not me, I may have thought. But never you worry, I got my comeuppance less than ten minutes later at their interactive video insect show, where the chair unexpectedly punches you in the back to simulate an insect sting and I shrieked like the devil himself had popped out of the ground in front of me and wanted to have a serious discussion about my potty mouth. So, if you’re counting, that’s no fewer than three screams in one museum, which is damn impressive for a museum. Maybe more on a crowded day at the bug buffet.

 

black butterfly

black yellow red butterfly

butterfly

butterfly damaged wing

yellow butterfly

After all of that screaming, I was definitely ready for a more chill time in the Insectarium’s butterfly garden. Unfortunately, the butterfly garden was where every shrieking kid in the greater New Orleans area decided to hang out, grabbing butterflies out of the air and bellowing at the top of their lungs, while the employees fruitlessly tried to tell people to look with their eyes and not their hands. I wonder if the same thing would be an issue in a roach room, or if everyone would still be screaming and touching, but for different reasons.

*The same cannot be said of those who have shellfish allergies–you may also be allergic to insects so eat with caution if you’re dead set on doing so.

Mardi Gras World in New Orleans

http://www.mellzah.com/index.php/mardi-gras-world-in-new-orleans/

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mardi gras world entrance

“Sounded like some sort of…party going on in the background. Are any parties today, Skinner?”

“Nah. It’s not really a party town. Though if I remember correctly, they occasionally hold a function called Mardis…something.”

So last week on the blog, I talked a little about the various Mardi Gras functions–the krewes, the parades, and the balls. Today, I’m going to go a little more in-depth about the parades and what it takes to get one from concept to reality. To learn about that myself, I took a trip to Mardi Gras World, a working warehouse on the New Orleans waterfront.

touring mardi gras world

First, our group was led into a back room, fed a slice of king cake (any tour that starts off with cake is a good tour), and shown a video about the history of Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans. Afterward, we were given free rein with a rack of costumes and the props scattered around the room. People didn’t seem as stoked about it as I was, but got into the spirit after I immediately popped out of my seat and slapped on a costume. As their once and future king, it was only right and natural that I set an example for the rest of the room to follow. Heavy is the head that wears the polyester crown.

dressed for mardi gras

dress up

serious king

Once we’d had our fun, we were led into the workshop, where Mardi Gras is made. Building Mardi Gras parade floats and props is a year round job. The floats themselves are owned and used exclusively by each krewe–they used to be drawn by teams of horses or mules, but are now essentially giant rolling tractor tanks. The naked floats cost around $80,000 apiece, and you need 14 floats minimum to have a Mardi Gras parade. Decorations on each can easily run upwards of another $10,000, so you’re looking at over 1.13 million dollars for a krewe’s first parade, and that’s excluding costumes and parade throws. This is not a cheap enterprise.  Now consider that there are around 70 krewes, and they each run their one parade one time over the course of the festival. One and done. There is a huge amount of money invested for a few miles of parading.

To help bring costs down, the props on the floats are rented rather than bought outright. When a krewe has decided on the theme for their parade and a general outline of what they want, they’ll call the prop warehouse and let them know, because it’s entirely possible that they’ll have something onsite that can be slightly reworked and reused, and that’s significantly cheaper than building a new prop from scratch. It also means that the krewe doesn’t have to store enormous props from year to year that they themselves might not be able to or want to reuse in a future parade. Some krewes, to save money, will also decorate their own floats, make their own costumes, and build their own props. Those who don’t rely on workshops like this one to make their ideas materialize.

floats

What’s involved in making a prop? First, a prop is sculpted in miniature in clay as a maquette. This can then be sliced to show the artists how to replicate it in a much larger scale. Many large props start as humble sheets of foam, which are glued together with expanding foam into a large stack. This resulting stack is light, carveable, and sandable. Once the final shape is achieved, the foam is then covered with paper mache, primed, and painted. Before it’s painted, it’s my understanding that it can also be used as a mold to create fiberglass replicas, so if they need multiples of the same prop, it’s much faster and easier to crack out a second fiberglass version than to create a second identical one from scratch.

carving foam

smoothing foam

reaper

not a closet

too much caffeine

making mardi gras float flowers

terminator

adorable bat

prop shop

float props in progress

styrofoam dust

ambassador of zululand

king

knight

spooky tree

Once the official tour had finished, we were given the opportunity to wander around the warehouse at our leisure, taking photos, observing the artists at work, and trying to take everything in (there’s so much stuff in the warehouse that it’s hard to see everything, much like House on the Rock). I couldn’t help but feel a little overwhelmed with the feeling that this is what I’m supposed to be doing with my life–helping create one of the biggest, artsiest parties in the world every year. That is, of course, if I had any artistic talent other than stringing together lots of curse words, which unfortunately doesn’t cause my inbox to be overflowing with cool job offers. But now that I know how it’s done, maybe I can try to put together some foam props for future Halloweens, ignoring the fact that the last time I used a can of expanding foam, I made such a mess and it enraged me so greatly that I wanted to throw the can into the sun. But you know, other than that, I’m good to go.

(There are lots of photos of amazing finished props under the cut, including King Kong, Cerberus, dragons, and gold leafed-everything. This post was getting photo-heavy as it was.)

Continue reading: Mardi Gras World in New Orleans</p>

Cochon and Cochon Butcher in New Orleans, LA

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http://www.mellzah.com/?p=44331

Sometimes when you’re making a trip, you have to make some hard choices. Such as: it’s lunchtime in the lower Garden District of New Orleans and you’re standing on the corner in front of Cochon, where the ribs are reportedly so delicious they made a friend of a friend cry, and the equally-praised Cochon Butcher, where devotees swear by their perfect sandwiches. How does one choose?

porquenolosdos

We started at Cochon, where we ordered the aforementioned ribs, boudin balls, and fried alligator bites, plus a cold microbrew to wash it all down. You know, health food.

cochon hot sauce

The ribs were in fact excellent, a little sweet, a lot spicy, and so tender they practically leaped off the bone and down your throat. The watermelon pickle they were served with was an interesting complement, sharp and vinegary which helped temper a bit of the heat from the sauce. The boudin balls were exactly what one might expect from deep fried sausage–comforting and utterly decadent. The surprise standout was the alligator. I’ve tried it before at some roadside cafe in the Everglades (apparently I was so nonplussed I didn’t even blog about it–there wasn’t much to say at the time save for the fact that they were chewy, greasy, gross, and I was cool with stopping after eating one.) The alligator bites at Cochon were good. GREAT. Not overly chewy, not sodden with grease, but surprisingly light tasting, and the chili garlic mayo made them sing. I stopped after a few, but not because I wanted to, but because room had to be saved for our trip next door.

butcher sign

santa chewie  le pig mac at butcher

Cochon Butcher is the lower-key cool Portland cousin of Cochon, the one that doesn’t need reservations and has a wookiee hanging out in the dining room. Although a number of items on their menu looked incredibly tempting, we elected to split only one (because, frankly, a few more bites each were all we could handle): le pig mac. Two house-made pork sausage patties, cheese, special sauce, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun. Look at that stunner. The toasted, glossy bun that you’d only see on a fast food big mac in a commercial. The perfectly gooey cheese, the special sauce oozing out just so. That side of house-made pickles. You know those late night burger runs in your twenties, where you’ve been drinking and smoking and screaming with your friends in some dingy loud bar for the better part of the night, and you’re so desperately hungry that the crappiest burger tastes like food from the gods? This tastes like that, only sober, in the daytime. And when you take big ravenous bites like a starving wild dog right out on the street, the people next to you will be too busy doing the same to judge you.

Sometimes the best choice between two options is choosing both.

The Presbytere Museum in New Orleans

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bottles from the ceiling

The Presbytere Museum is a study in contrasts, from the height of revelry to utter devastation, showcasing gobs of money being thrown around for fun and how the poorest suffered during one of the bleakest periods in New Orleans history. You see, the upper floor is dedicated to the krewes and history of Mardi Gras balls and parades, while the lower floor is dedicated to the destruction and horrors of Hurricane Katrina.

From the moment I stepped into the first room, I was overcome with emotion. Watching the news, reading about it online, I still had no concept of just how powerful the storm was. I still don’t, not really. But I do understand it better than I used to. When you’re exhausted from hearing something on the news, you can just turn it off and walk away. There is no turning this off. It’s staring you in the face. It’s a garage door that was spraypainted with a message about a dead dog–a beloved pet that the owner would find a way to return and bury. It’s a teddy bear that was so  coated in mud and silt that you wonder how it could have ever been soft, a child’s cherished possession. Your decision to walk away here is more meaningful, deliberate. Can you close off the sound of the wind whipping in the next room, ignore the 1600 bottles hanging from the ceiling representing the people who died in the floods and the hands of the first responders reaching out to help?

Ten years later, New Orleans is still struggling to recover from Katrina. I know, you got tired of hearing about it. There’s always more tragedy somewhere. A new worthy cause. There’s too much pain in the world for us to try and bear, much less comprehend it all. But if you can, spare a thought today for the people who didn’t make it out. For the people who did and lost everything and had no home and no family to come back to. For the people who tried to start anew somewhere else and were treated like second-class citizens because of their ‘refugee’ status, in their own country. For the people who came back and who are working hard to rebuild their homes and their lives. And help them if you can.

katrina fema garage door

destroyed teddy bear

One of the ways New Orleans is recovering from Katrina is via tourism, and there’s no greater draw for tourists to their city than Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras, a French Catholic tradition, was first (simply) observed in the New Orleans area in 1699 (though obviously celebrated elsewhere before that time, it did not originate in New Orleans). The first recorded Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans was held in 1837, and the celebration has grown significantly in scope since then, with more than 40 parades running through the city over the course of the event, each headed by a different krewe.

What is a krewe? It’s an association of people who pay membership dues in order to put on these grand events, and membership is determined by the krewes themselves–some limiting their members to relatives of previous members, and some are open to all who can afford to pay. Membership fees also vary wildly, depending on how sizeable and elaborate their parties and parade are. Each krewe hosts their own parade, decides their own theme, pays for everything associated with having a parade, from floats to costumes to throws. It’s my understanding that the only way to be in a Mardi Gras parade is to be a member of a krewe. Me? I want to roll with the Krewe of Barkus, mainly to be part of a dog gang and have a solid excuse to think about puppy costumes all day long.

krewe of barkus

butterfly float

hobgoblins of fearFrom the Mistick Krewe of Comus parade bulletin of 1891–their parade theme was Demonology and all their floats were badass, with badass names. Hobgoblins of Fear, Vampires of War, and the one my friends and I would’ve ridden on, the Harpies of Remorse.

mardi gras queen

zulu 2000

zulu king

astounding headdress

mardi gras costumeA mardi gras costume design sketch. I think a bunch of these would make a rad coloring book.

creepy wizard

 

seahorse costume

parade throwsThe average amount of parade throws for one person on one float.

 

Mardi Gras parades are the public celebrations for all to enjoy. Mardi Gras balls are highly exclusive social events, with elaborate invitations, fancy favors bestowed at the end of each dance by krewe members (some of which are so large and ungainly that they’re later mailed to the recipient’s home), a king and queen complete with crowns, wands, and jewelry so bedazzled they’d make Miss America weep with envy, and a strictly formal dress code. Such a thing would never fly in Seattle, where utilikilts are considered semi-formal. What I’m saying is, I am both super bummed that I have never been invited to a party like this and at the same time, I completely understand why no one with taste would ever invite me to a party like this.

 

mardi gras invitationIf you give me a piece of gilded china as an invitation to your party, you can be guaranteed of my attendance. I could be having dinner with the President that day and I’d be like “sorry, bro, can we reschedule? I’ve got a truly baller party to attend.” Once I told him about the china invitation, he’d understand.

crown and sceptre

 

the gifts of satanLiterally no reason to post this other than the name “The Gifts of Satan” makes me laugh every time I read it.

mardi gras carnival party favorThank you for the pleasure of this dance, here is an elaborate jeweled pin as a lovely parting gift.

           public restrooms    Also no reason to post these bathrooms other than they made me laugh.

 

New Orleans is a city that has known adversity and finds a way to party anyway, to celebrate life in a big way, to see a period of fasting ahead and say “fuck it, we’re going to eat and drink and party until we can hold no more”, a city that rolls with the punches and comes back bigger, stronger, and more vibrant. They’re still coming back from this last punch. But they are coming back.