The plan was to leave yesterday early. Bridget and her friend Maddie were exhausted and happily sleeping. So was I until the Krewe of Buzzards gathered outside my house at 7 am and woke me up, and then lured me outside where I was immediately captivated by the spirit of Mardi Gras. The weather was just about perfect: mild and overcast, but not too cool. So Becky and I decided to ride our bikes down to St. Charles to check things out.
People were milling about in an array of colorful garb, and it was great to cruise through the scene swiftly. Bikes are definitely the way to experience Mardi Gras. After all, on Fat Tuesday the city is essentially one large urban park, filled with masks and music and food and glitter. A car is not only difficult to move or park, but it also filters out the festivities. A scooter is nice, but it makes noise and can’t get through the crowds as easily as a bike. From here on out the bike is going to be my ‘official Mardi Gras vehicle.’
There is so much to discover on a bike. For instance, Becky and I discovered that we could ride and drink Bloody Mary’s at the same time. Who knew this sort of technology existed?
After we covered ground from Napoleon to Jackson (snapping pictures and chatting with quirky characters) we decided to call it a day. Well, actually, Bridget woke up and called me and wanted to know when we were leaving. I got home and packed up the SUV (same one I used to evacuate after Katrina) and waved goodbye to Buddy. We paused for a group picture and then hit the road.
I took the same ‘evacuation route’ that I had tried unsuccessfully to take back in 2005 the day before Katrina hit. And, ironically, the highway was packed almost like it was then. This time, though, it was people trying to get to the Zulu parade which was passing below the interstate as we made our way out in an easterly direction. Bridget and Maddie went back to sleep clutching their iPod’s. It was way too quiet so I put on the radio. WWOZ, of course.
Mile after mile I listened to the sounds of Mardi Gras and questioned my decision to leave. Every car that passed had beads hanging from the rear view mirror, and most of the drivers were also wearing beads around their neck, just as I was. When we got near to Bay St. Louis, Mississippi the sounds from the radio station began to falter and then soon gave out altogether. A full wave of sadness started to come over me. I was now over an hour from home, left with a few traces of Mardi Gras but without any of the essential music. I felt sort of like when the power went out during Katrina.
About five minutes later an 18 wheeler rolled up next to me and I looked over at the cab. Streaming from the the large side mirror was a bunch of purple and gold beads, flapping wildly and rapping along the side of the truck. I stared at the road ahead listenting pensively to the smacking sounds coming from the truck. And, as the big rig barrelled on, damned if I couldn’t make out the rappity rap of Al Johnson’s ‘Carnival Time.’
Next year, there is no way I’m leaving town for Mardi Gras. Especially if the Saints wind up in the Superbowl and play on the Sunday right before the 2008 Carnival. That would be a party for the ages, wouldn’t it?