Wednesday, 15 February 2012 16:12

Forget Politics, It’s New Orleans Mardi Gras Time

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gobletit’s mardi gras folks! so let’s forget about our regularly scheduled political bs for a few days and do what we do best in south louisiana: live.

let’s face it, this 2012 election season is a downer. we’re given a choice for president between the clueless and the brainless, and congress sucks so bad that the house of representatives have never had a lower popularity rating in the entire recorded history of polling!

 other political writers are veering off into other fields just as a distraction: i couldn’t help but notice that another bayoubuzz contributor’s column yesterday revealed his acumen as a music reviewer, critiquing grammy performers and rappers in a column that reminded us all why he should stick to politics.

there are few things more awkward than watching politicos discuss the arts. even though someone once described politics as show business for ugly people, listening to a politico discuss the subject is akin to watching a legless man telling olympians how to run the 100 meter dash. i mean, damn, man, if you don’t like the music, don’t buy the damn cd. problem? solution!

so today it’s my turn. i’m gonna go out on a limb and say to hell with the oh-so-predictable world of politics and focus on what’s important this week in the lives of the good people of south louisiana: mardi gras.

but not the puffed-up stuffed-shirt mardi gras of balls and massive krewes and superstar royalty, and which society matron’s family has secured a major queendom for the family. and not the mardi gras of tourism, of public nudity for beads and drunken fools passed out on bourbon street and being sexually humiliated on viral cellphone videos…oh, wait. those are lsu and alabama fans. never mind…

instead, i wanna say a few words about the mardi gras of, by and for the people, the mardi gras of the streets.

i wanna send a shout out to all the families who spend time making costumes for their kids and helping them make their shoebox floats for school; and an even bigger shout out to the families who make costumes for themselves and their kids, and hit the parade routes and streets as their own mini-krewe.

also an essential part of mardi gras are the innumerable house parties throughout the area on or near parade routes. these parties help fuel the crowds that populate the streets, providing food, drink, friendship, neighborhood camaraderie, and most importantly, clean bathrooms!

beyond the families, it’s time to properly acknowledge the marching clubs that are, to me, the heart of carnival. the well-known clubs like the jefferson city buzzards, the half-fast marching club, the krewe of cork; the divine protectors of endangered pleasures aka diva, and the irish channel corner club.

and then, there are my personal favorites, the krewes largely populated by residents/denizens of the french quarter, fabourg marigny and bywater, that flow into the heart of the quarter come hell or high water: krewes like mondo kayo, with their pulsing rythms and wild attire: the skulls and bonez, reviving and reveling in an art form once almost lost to the celebration of carnival, keeping the spirits of the past alive.

but the marching club nearest to my heart is the society of st. ann, which marches from bywater and through the quarter on mardi gras day. i’ve marched with st. ann every year since moving back to new orleans in 1987, and intermittently for years before that. i was first invited to march by the late great choreographer and dancer judy latour, who also served as the krewe’s de facto parade marshal for years before her passing. i will always be grateful to judy because of her insistence that i show up. i’ve been showing up ever since.

at the heart of the krewe are some of the city’s most creative people: artists, musicians, stage performers, theater people, so many friends and neighbors, all of whom mask and contrive the most creative, beautiful, spectacular, and fun costumes you’ll see on mardi gras day. when you see images of great costumes in the streets at carnival, odds are you’re looking at people who marched with st. ann that day.

spectators know when st. ann is approaching from the brass band music in the distance and by the krewe’s signature icon, a series of tall, ribbon-covered maypoles carried by a number of marchers bouncing up and down to the music. the experience is addictive.

that’s the mardi gras that i love and embrace, the mardi gras of the streets; of urban tradition and artistic creative expression at a personal level; of neighborhoods and families and close friends. we each have our own mardi gras and, for the next few days, the rest of the world will be left behind while we engage in what the world needs more of: living life to the fullest.

after all, it’s a matter of priorities.

happy mardi gras!

-sid arroyo


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Sidney Arroyo

Sidney Arroyo is a progressive political activist and consultant who has worked on numerous campaigns in the New Orleans area.

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