Wednesday, February 03, 2016

How to win at Carnival

Maybe Mardi Gras is a marathon. Maybe it's a sprint. Or maybe it's a triple jump or a sack race or a game of horseshoes where no horseshoes are actually thrown because that would be too expensive to insure. During the last two episodes of our fake radio show we've examined the possibility that it might even be a metaphorical football season. If that's the case, then our team is doing pretty well after the first weekend.

First, a quick note about what we didn't see.  We're based Uptown very near the parade route which makes getting across town to see 'tit Rex or Chewbacchus a tall order logistically speaking.  In past years we've gotten to see a few Barkuses but the Sunday schedule has become so overloaded on St. Charles, that even that doesn't happen anymore.

But, as much as I'd like to see the downtown parades, I think the full schedule is actually a good thing.  Chewbacchus Saturday, in particular, proves the city can, despite official protestations, handle simultaneous parades following different routes. This, in turn, takes some of the pressure off of either route from overcrowding or #KreweOfChad encroachment. I'm sure one of these years, we'll ditch on our neighborhood stuff and make a plan to be down there.  But, in the meantime, we're still catching all the uptown parades.  Here's how that went.


In some ways, it's easy to be Oshun.  Oshun is the opening act. It doesn't have to blow anyone's mind. It just has to show up and get things started.

Oshun children

People know what to expect from Oshun.  Its floats are very simple. It has only a few bands and marching clubs. Nothing fancy. For the most part, the crowd is just happy to see the parades have begun.  On the other hand, it's not so easy to be Oshun.  This is a parade, now in its 20th year, known mostly for its own modesty.  So, even though there are less impressive parades than Oshun on the schedule, Oshun is the parade people are most likely to attend expecting to be unimpressed. So what we have is either a case of managed expectations that are easily overcome, or a bad reputation that pre-ordains the response.


2016 Oshun, as it turns out, was a perfectly nice parade. The modest floats looked good. The riders seemed to be having a good time. I don't even remember what the theme of this parade was but it doesn't seem like that should matter very much.  What mattered was that it started to feel and look like Carnival season again.

Oshun motion

Oshun was followed by Cleopatra.


This was also appropriate for a Friday night. Cleopatra is one of the displace West Bank parades that we've only seen a few of uptown now and we aren't entirely sure how to feel about them.  It's almost like what happens when a new sports team moves to your city.  You feel a little like you've stolen something from someone. Do you even want to enjoy that? Shouldn't they be "rocking" the neighborhood they came from?

Cleopatra Rocks The Big Easy

Cleopatra float

Well we managed to make do under the circumstances. Remember if you bring a young child with you as well as at least one serviceable set of shoulders you can come away from even the opening night parades with a pretty impressive haul. 

Jaylen's haul

Like so many other annoying people on social media this weekend, I tried to Periscope a little bit from the parade route.  The result was a 10 second grainy video of a band walking way with a pan over to a child yelling at the camera that a float was coming and she would need lifting. We won't try that again.  By the end of the night we were feeling our age.

That is, by the way, the same age as Captain Sam here.

Captain Sam

I can't believe I was almost too hungover and tired to run out and photograph this fish Saturday morning for only the ka-jillionth time in history.   But that's fine. It's worth seeing an old friend. Besides, who ever wants to miss the Krewe of Pontchartrain's ridiculously easy fill in the blank puzzle floats?

These were all based on state nicknames. Such as...

The Pelican State

Here is "The _ _ P _ R _ State"

Ladies liberty

The Treasure State

Treasure State

And, of course, The Prostitution State

Constitution State

Menckles wasn't even out of bed yet so I was out by myself with the camera during Pontchartrain. I took a walk up and down the route just to check stuff out. Here's a quick little report on that.

The #KreweOfChad infrastructure really starts to get heavy as you move uptown above Washington Avenue.  All this was up around Sixth and Seventh streets, I think.

Tents and ladders and such

This guy was selling Icees from what looked like a pretty innovative little rig.  He said they are non-alcoholic, unfortunately.

Icee machine

I ran into another guy selling beers out of a big aluminum tub he had set out on a portable table in a driveway.  On the ground in front of the table was a pool cue as well as a "whole set" of billiard balls in a plastic grocery bag I could have had for $60.  For $150, I could have had a framed sepia toned photo of what looked to be some nuns sitting in a room.  "It's an antique," was all the guy said when asked to explain  it.

Even more ridiculous, though, nine dollar sandwiches.

The Grocery

The retrograde social commentary just down the street from there was free.

Save All Monuments

Speaking of retrograde...

Grand Marshall Billy Nungesser

Billy Nungesser

Seemed like the appropriate guy to ride with Choctaw (another West Bank transplant krewe) and its increasingly uncomfortable redface theme-ing.

Choctaw float

Still, in all, the award for worst parade of the weekend has to go to Freret, enthusiasm of its King-For-Life City Councilman Jason Williams notwithstanding.

Jason Williams

Freret looks like it may be having trouble filling out its membership. Several of its floats were half-empty to mostly empty.

Freret's half empty floats

According to the Arthur Hardy guide, Freret has 250 members. That makes them about the same size as Oshun. But Oshun fits its riders on smaller floats whereas Freret rents a set from Blaine Kern. You can read on the sides of the floats a list of which parades each is designated to appear in this year.


And there's nothing wrong with that. As you can see, several krewes do it like this.  Unfortunately, this particular set of floats are too big for Freret's membership.  For viewers, the experience is kind of like opening this "Party Size" bag of Zapp's  and finding out the "Party" only fills about a third of the package.

"Party Size"

The party is disappointing

Anyway, if you're looking to join a parading organization next year. Consider Freret. They could use the help.

That's probably enough for one post.  We'll look at the Saturday night and Sunday parades in a subsequent entry.

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