Thursday, February 09, 2017

A party the city throws for itself


Happy Lombardi Gras, everybody! On this day way back in 2010, Garrett Hartley broke the Muses shoe.  A few weeks later, at the height of the Saturnalia, the conquering general was given his triumph.

These were good times. We may not see their like again.

On the other hand, it is Carnival time again so the world has not been drained entirely of mirth... yet. I know it must be Carnival now because I find that I have purchased the Arthur Hardy Mardi Gras Guide yet again.  You know the one. It's a big glossy magazine.

Mardi Gras Guide 2017

Only $5.00 this year. Print really must be dying after all. That's a shame... not only in general.. but because people really should read the Arthur Hardy guide.  Every year its Q&A section features the first and most critical point one should learn about Mardi Gras in New Orleans.  Because you probably don't have five bucks on you right now, I have gone ahead and digitized this content for you.

Is Mardi Gras staged for visitors?

A party the city throws for itself

The city actually does spend quite a bit of money promoting and supporting Mardi Gras stuff, but you get the point here. Carnival is an organic celebration. Its forms, institutions and cultural vernacular all change with the times. It is influenced and pressured by political, cultural, and commercial interests. But, as long as people still actually live here (a tenuous prospect, I know) the event belongs to us. This is the basis from which any and all public policy regarding Carnival should begin.  Sometimes we lose sight of that... or at least, our tourism obsessed political class does.

For example, they've already conspired to jam up the traditionally "local friendly" first weekend of parades with the corporate crap festival that comes with hosting the NBA All-Star Game.

NBA All Star Weekend

They tell us everything should be fine but I don't think any of the "tourism leaders" the press talks to about this is very concerned with the typical local's Carnival experience. It will be something to keep an eye on next week.

Something else to watch will be the progress of road work along the Uptown parade route.  Earlier this month, crews began shutting down lanes and busting up concrete along St. Charles Avenue.
According to the mayor's office, the St. Charles Avenue project is divided into six phases, beginning in January and scheduled for completion by spring 2018. Phase one is slated to wrap up just before Mardi Gras and "will not affect any Mardi Gras parade routes or viewing areas," an overview document on the project states.
The official word there is that rules governing the use of state funds for the project dictated that the work begin now and not after parade season a few weeks from now. OK, fine. They also say they'll have this first phase done once the parades start to roll. We'll see about that.

The SELA work on Napoleon Avenue appears to be wrapping up just under the gun.  In fact, a ribbon cutting was scheduled for that this week (postponed due to the tornadoes.)
While landscaping, road striping and other aspects of the project have yet to be finished, traffic is back to flowing normally, cross streets that were blocked have been reopened and the neutral ground will be open for Mardi Gras parades.
As of today, there is still only one lane of traffic open in each direction, the traffic signal at Magazine Street is not yet installed, and there's a big trailer and heavy equipment sitting in the middle of the neutral ground at Laurel Street.  Still, it does look like they'll have it ready to go on time.  And the finished portion looks great.

Napoleon neutral ground

Look at all that green space! Come and get it, Krewe Of Chad. Speaking of which, yeah, they've been at it all month.
Krewe of Endymion fans were busy over the weekend marking their territory for this year's roll (which still is almost three weeks away). The claiming of the turf began last week — a new early record — but went into high gear this weekend, when spray paint was used to delineate vast swaths of neutral ground grass on Orleans Avenue.
The Uptown Chad-ing can't really begin until Boh Brothers clears all the way out. We'll keep you posted on that. The crowding of the neutral ground by territorial squatters and ladders has been a longstanding hobby horse of ours. Our favored solution is not even on the radar of policymakers, unfortunately.  We'll let Arthur Hardy have the last word on that.

Meanwhile, signs of the season are everywhere. Here are a few quick items.

I can't even keep up with the sprawling elaboration of king cake themes each year anymore.  Here's one from the Audubon Institute with crickets on it.

The market for king cake vodka seems to have narrowed. The only brand I've spotted so far this year has been the bargain-level Taaka. Only $8.19 at Rouses.

King Cake vodka is happening in 2017

The reviewing stands are going up at Gallier Hall.  I thought about roping off the mayor's podium Krewe of Chad style when I was down there last week but the work crews were giving me the stinkeye.

Gallier Hall Carnival prep

The krewe flags are starting to come out Uptown.  Here a few I've spotted recently.


Hermes flag


Thoth flag


Iris Flag

Iris also has these banners up on St. Charles Avenue celebrating their (supposed) 100 year anniversary.

Iris banner

This is a technically dubious claim. According to.. again.. this year's Arthur Hardy guide, Iris' founding date isn't clear. Its first ball was held in 1922 but it didn't stage a parade for many years after that because its founding members, "felt that a ball only club was a 'prestige' club to belong to."  This is what these Uptown Ladies are like, y'all.

In order to have their cake and eat it too, they created a second club called Venus during the 1940s which did stage a parade off and on until 1959 when they finally decided they were okay with just being Iris. So technically speaking, 2017 would be the 58th (maybe fewer.. I don't know when or if they've rained out) Iris parade even though the flags all celebrate 100 years.

But that won't happen for a few more weeks.  This Saturday, is Krewe Du Vieux.  I read all about it in the Fake News.

Monde de Merde 2017

Reading between the lines to pick up on what our favorite sub-krewes have planned, it looks like Mama Roux is doing a French Revolution theme. Probably because they are Jacobin readers.  And SPANK sounds like they are going after Jazzfest. Gambit has a preview here.  If ever a year was ripe for raunchy political satire it is now.  This should be a layup for KDV. But then... the election was supposed to be a layup for Hillary and look what happened.

In the meantime, we've got a few more days to get our supplies together.  I usually kick off parade season by picking up a new pair of waterproof hiking boots and a poncho or two.  I think I might be ready for a new bike as well.  It's probably time to start restocking liquor too but we'll get to that.  For now let's just get out and get this thing started.  I can't think of a time I was more anxious to do so.

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