Today's list is taken from New Orleans by Tom Downs (although the comments are my own)
"Mardi Gras is the love of life. It is the harmonic convergence of our food, our music, our creativity, our eccentricity, our neighborhoods, and our joy of living. All at once."
— Chris Rose, 1 Dead in Attic: After Katrina
I love New Orleans. There isn't any one reason that I can point to and say, "I love New Orleans because of THIS!" (Although, yes, one of the reasons I adore the place is because I realised I was staying just down the road from a Banksy - the one attached to this post). It's not that kind of affection that I have. It's more that I see it for what it used to be, what it is, and what it's working to become. I have no illusions about her as a city. She is a mix of everything: dirty, rich in history, edgy, new, old, crazy, eclectic, cultural times a thousand, incredibly hopeful and ohsomuch more. She has all the quaint and faded beauty of a Southern belle, the kind who remains forever mysterious, full of secrets and eternal feminine guile. She keeps you coming back for more. It is the kind of place that can have you dancing in the street with hundreds of others one minute, and crying the next when you realise how hard they're trying to rebuild still. As a tourist, your own first world problems have no place here. I can't wait to get back there in *checks calendar* 11 days and counting and see how much has changed/is still the same/will never be the same again. I'm there during Mardi Gras (yes, again) and plan to visit a few more places I wasn't able to get to last time, eat a few more dishes I had no room for then, and meet a whole bunch of people I have never spoken to before. Mardi Gras might happen only once a year, but, really, I think that New Orleans itself is a living, breathing, lifelong Mardi Gras, as evidenced by the wild fusion of food, music, people and cultures. I predict good times! Well, good times but safe times. How safe, you say? You can see for yourself in today's post: 5 Mardi Gras laws I will have no problem obeying :)
Do not cross police barriers unless permitted to do so
Getting arrested while on holiday is not *my* idea of a good time. One thing I noticed last time is that even though it's a crazy time of year, the police are amazingly tolerant. They'll smile and pick you up and dust you off when you keel over and send you on your way with a gentle reminder to be careful. When they start to get firm is when people indulge in behaviour or activities that have the potential to hurt themselves or others. I remember seeing one young man (a little worse for wear) shove his friend so hard he fell onto the road into (very slow) oncoming traffic. In a matter of seconds they were both bundled up, handcuffed and taken away to recover. Eep.
It is against the law to throw anything at the floats (except for Tucks' toilet float)
Probably the largest number of health and safety incidents during/after parades are made up of people who got hit in the head by beads. Or bags of beads, rather. And yes, I said bags. Each bag contains something like a half dozen necklaces. Most people take the necklaces out of their plastic bags, and a few don't. You wouldn't believe the number of times I got clocked in the head. Those things hurt. By the end of my stay I was understandably leery of anything that even looked like it was going to come flying at my face. (I'd like to point out that that did not, however, stop me from catching over 120 beaded necklaces at the parades to bring home). Also, what is a toilet float? I'm almost afraid to Google it.
During parades, do not cross the street if it means stepping between members of marching bands or in front of moving floats
I'm guessing that if they've got this law then it's because there really are people who would just dart out in front of hundreds of marching/driving people. Why? The thought of being trampled by marching bands, baton twirlers, the National Guard and great, big, huge floats is not my idea of fun.
Police tend to look the other way (figuratively, anyway) while women expose their breasts in the French Quarter. But don't expect the same tolerance elsewhere
This isn't an activity I purposely make time for here in NZ, so it's a safe bet that I'm not going to do it in New Orleans, either. I'm also stumped as to how this 'tradition' came about. For me, it's like the Sevens and the people who dress up. What does it mean? How did this start? And did it involve copious amounts of alcohol? Where's the link between the Sevens/dressing up? Or flashing for beads/Bourbon Street? I don't get how this started. Is it the debauchery thing? (For the beads, not the Sevens, I have no clue if there's any debauchery involved in attending the Sevens). I do know, though, that there's a certain amount of...not contempt, exactly, but exasperation, certainly, at the flashers, and locals just roll their eyes and carry on business as usual.
It isn't true that it's okay to have sex in public
Am I the only who reads that statement and thinks, 'So..wait what? So that means that there are places in the world where it IS ok to have sex in public? What?' My head hurts.