Canto I: Treme
The first parade of the first weekend full of parades. That day, back home, Gothem was celebrating the ninth or tenth day without a single murder. That day, New Orleans had three. For a city with a metro population about the size of Queens, New York (only one of the 5 boroughs of Gothem), it was an impressive number and truly 2015 looked to be as bloody a year as any in terms of murder and mayhem.
My motel was in Treme. It is a place on TeeVee as part of a show of the same name, but it also turns out to be a real place. A very real place. As the truck tore around the corner in front of me and crashed into a number of parked cars, I was reminded that this is reality. Real shit is really happening for real. I ducked down almost going prone on the sticky sidewalk in the event there was some gunplay. The crashing man jumped out of the cab of the truck and took off running down the street. Several police cars came to a halt moments later, and the officers quickly took to the chase. Then a man carrying a huge hand cannon ran after the police running after the [allegid] criminal. And by “hand cannon” I mean a DLS 2500 top-of-the-line fixed zoom or something like that. So I assumed he was a reporter and I didn’t want to embarrass myself by whipping out my iThingy to snap off a few pics with – what, at best 2.5 megapics ? I will admit the criminal element in me looked at those police cars, doors open, engines running and thought… life of crime joyride? Maybe I’ll just go get brunch…
Canto II: Barkus
I wandered a few blocks until I was in the French Quarter and deep in the thick of a gathering of some sort. It was one of the day’s parades. I enquired as to what I was seeing from some locals. They were not local. Neither were the next six people who I talked to, but finally I discovered that there was to be a parade for dogs in about an hour. Enough time for brunch, I took an empty table on a balcony and had some rather mediocre fare realizing that 90% of the slop they serve is to tourists and for all I know comes from the same kitchen deep within the city, while the remaining 10% of truly delicious food is priced as $$$ on yelp and therefore outside of my budget.
I took a cocktail to go. Something I hadn’t been able to do since Moscow… another city with a high murder rate. Not that I’m comparing… just saying…
Plastic cup in hand I parked myself for the parade.
Barkus is indeed that parade for dogs and the people who love them. In my time in NOLA I spoke with many people about this parade and to a one, their opinion was positive or negative depending on Raceclassorgmnder lines. Did you manage to see one of our parades for humans, an older woman quipped. I assured her I had. That Barkus is one of the new non-traditional parades, she told me rolling her eyes.
Indeed Barkus may be non-traditional for a tradition-heavy city such as The Big Easy (TBE). Coming from Gothem, I am used to people worshipping:
1. Their dogs
2. Their babies
3. The way their dog and baby play aren’t they so cute and Zoey has good papers and Cloe just got into an exclusive pre-school
And not in that order.
However, this dog day afternoon did not raise my hackles. It seemed about as normal as things get these days.
After the 10000000th cute dog, I realized that deep down I am a cat person and any creature that allows itself to become part of a parade was not a creature I could respect as part of a long-term relationship. Dogs look for approval and guidance and allow themselves to be adorned in a number of costumes. They are totally an OTO (one-time-only) type of hook up animal. You know, watch a friend’s dog for a week or so but not more than that kind of casual encounter. Would any number of cats allow themselves to be part of a parade? Ever try to get your cat into a costume?
Since I only had the day to explore TBE, I took leave of the dog parade, this event that when I looked about to the crowd seemed to be very, very, very of a certain Raceclassorgender. Not that I have an issue with that, but, I did expect a little more by what we today call “diversity.” Not that there was anything wrong with the I am sure very progressive crowd that was assembled. It just didn’t strike me that this “looked like TBE.”
Canto III: The Parade for Humans
A few corners and an hour or so away, I found that diversity. If by diversity one means the opposite crowd to those who attended Barkus. This was the traditional Mardi Gras (MGs) I see on the TeeVee. Drunken, wasted crowds oggling high school and middle school girls hopping about in skin tight uniforms, interrupted by floats form which costumed reavelers toss so many beads about to awaiting fans, some of which have huge laundry bags full of these beads. In this crowd there were families and young and old all cheering the parade for humans. Some were smoking tea while others were deep in their cups. A woman had a daughter with her who wore see through tights to which the old men who arrived on their three wheeled bikes grumbled, she can’t be more than thirteen what is the mom thinking, to which they continued to stare at the very dangerous and obviously immature ass on display. Indeed, this was the sort of mix we had for the human parade which for me, was on both sides of the NOLAPD barricades.
I bought a rather large beer for $3 from a man selling them out of the front of the CVS because it is rare I get to have an open container. I made my way down the street hoping over the many wet spots, the slippery spots, and the chunky bits on the sidewalk as well as the piles of beads that had hit the pavement and scattered about. Some piles were clusters while others were mixed with crowd detritus. It was rather strange to see people vie for these sacred objects when one could get a wheelbarrow load of them just scoop them up and take them home to boil them for a few hours.
I must admit I am ignorant of this MGs. I thought it was one weekend – at least that is how Bud Lite Lime advertises it up North. It’s a weekend before Fat Tuesday which is often nickel chicken wing night or Lady’s Night or Ragnarok Night. I know it is MGs only because the banners come up and down and everyone jokes one must receive beads only for exposing one’s [female] breasts and hawhawhaw we should to to TBE some day for MGs and we all plan to but then never do… But no, the MGs is as real as a car crash and a long series of activities that build up to the Fat Tuesday celebration and the traditional Clearing of the Streets by the NOLA PD on Horseback at midnight. I was told that sometimes the affair last for three weeks from Three Kings Day until Ash Wednesday. While it was another week until the Tuesday of Fat, I had arrived at the midway point and was lucky enough to catch one day of the mayhem to come.
Canto IV: The Casino
The human parade continued and the beads came my way. Some I caught, others I picked up when they didn’t hit the “wet spots.” A dude handed me a whole pile saying, take these to your kids I just don’t feel like carrying them anymore. And with an overabundance of beads, I was ready for the next TBE adventure: the casino.
Having draped my beads over my head like some loose tart, I showed my ID and was at once at the casino floor. From failed city to struggling state, the solution to our economic condition, especially those “Urban ones” is to build a casino. It is as if the worse off the population, the more casinos. A hallmark of Late Capitalism perhaps, but I also know that I can get free drinks if I play the penny slots and space my game out so that the server has come a few times before I have lost the obligatory $3 one sacrifices to the penny arcade gods. After a few “free” (because I tipped for each one and lost USD $4) I surveyed the crowd and realized, again, that I could be anywhere in any casino since the cast of characters is exactly the same.
I now had the next session.
Canto V: Everything Else
The sun had set and it was time for dinner and music. After a little happy wandering, I came to an inexpensive place in order to have more mediocre tourist chow. My battery was too low to check out Openurbanyelpspoontable for reviews and tips for “the best seafood in town” or “don’t miss this whatever they serve here I think that has eyes John, I think it’s looking at me!” After dinner, I then set out to find music, which is… not hard… some could say it was even … undifficult … or antichallenging in this big city. Music is everywhere, even when you don’t want it. There are street musicians who look like lost Tulane kids. There are crusty hobo traveling musicians who look like crusty hobo travelers. There are brass bands that advertise they are from Treme, and those that don’t. There are girls with guitars with and without stools to sit on. There are music venues with and without cover charges. This din of music goes on every night, every day, all the year breaking only for natural disasters and perhaps not even then. I dipped in and out of various establishments in order to catch a few songs here and there. I heard Hotel California about 16 times. I could not commit to an entire set. Since the real concerts all started at 9 or 10 or 11 or 2AM or whenever the band showed up, I had to turn in just when things got going. I trudged back to my place, a comfortable room on the edge of town just about at that imaginary line that neither tourist nor TeeVee producers cross where TBE opens up into just being another gulf city on the hot tulgey coast of the battered and broken toxic and industrial Deep South Empire. I stuffed my beads into my carryon luggage, and perhaps was the only one in the city having traveled to TBE who was now tucking into bed at 10PM during Mardi Gras. Outside, somewhere, a car backfired.
Or was that a gunshot?