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Mardi Gras heats up considerably.
All heaven and hell break out on Fat Tuesday.
Everyone parties their butts off at the Polish Dog stand.
All aspects of Carnival from the walking clubs through Zulu,
Rex, the truck parades, and his most majestic Mystick Krewe of Comus are
observed and explained. It’s a wild world. Everything concerning
the actual story and celebration of Mardi Gras is revealed
for all who don’t know. [It takes a native to explain these events.
The Krewe of Krowd Kontrol, Krewe of Sanitation, Meeting of the Courts,
and Tyger’s visions wrap up the significant day.
“If Ever I Cease to Love”
“Well, I’m going to New Orleans. I want to see the Mardi Gras.
Yes, I’m going to New Orleans. I want to see the Mardi Gras.
When I see the Mardi Gras, I want to know what Carnival’s for…”
Henry Byrd, Professor Longhair to the uninitiated
if they exist, belts Mardi Gras cadenzas like a heavyweight boxer on the
music station which spans the radio waves with
continuous Carnival sounds from top to bottom.
“A city under siege,” the WWOZ announcer cutting in,
“if you’re not already up, get out of bed
sleepy heads. It’s Maaaaardi Gras in New Orleans,”
pronounced with limy English accent and long “eeens.”
The announcer, as he is genetically programmed to do,
continues his Mardi Gras wake-up call.
“Ready or not fiends, this is New Orleans
and this is Carnival, the greatest free party of earth.
No avoiding it, so get your buns out of the oven,
get your Fat Tuesday buns into the fryer. Paaaaarty!”
Tyger breaks through traffic like Saints scat-back Ruben Mayes
through the hated Falcons line, flies past Mr. Milty’s house o’ pain —
he will make his Polish Dog stand at some point most assuredly —
betting the nag with a clear path over and under
Magazine Street spilling down onto curiously circuitous lower Camp Street.
Derelicts move slowly like a defeated army away from the impending confrontation.
They have seen this kind of before and are leery of it like so many beaten dogs.
Traffic laws mean nothing now.Tyger takes advantage of this special dispensation
turning the wrong way up one-way St. Joseph Street. He stops mid-way down the block
from the YWCA parking lot Mac moved his van there the previous night
as did Nick Bowers his car, leaving a space perfectomundo between
for Tyger’s dharma bum wreck. It fits nicely — thanks so much —
in front of the “no parking” sign confident this special day will yield no ticket.
Only a person who has the misfortune or utter stupidity
to park in a special parade towing zone will get nabbed.
They will be in for a rude awakening sometime before Comus in that case.
Nazi cum scum meter maids — if that is not too
insulting to Nazis — don’t mess with cars on streets like St. Joseph.
Couldn’t get a tow-truck in there if they wanted.
Parking time. Tyger completes maneuvers while the continuous flood
of Mardi Gras music rolls tide rolls. A final radio send-off by Al “Carnival Time” Johnson
who is singing, d’uh, “All because It’s Carnival time. Oh, it’s Carnival time,
Oh well, it’s Carnival time and everybody’s having tun.”
Click. Already. Check the clock.
Off with “Carnival Time” — who, incidentally, drives a cab in
the Carnival off-season — and on with the big shoe. Tyger cuts a
small sliver from a Mickey Mouse acid hit, lovingly sliding
it onto his eagerly salivating tongue. He holds it in place for
just a moment before fully ingesting.
Hey comrades, it’s Carnival time which makes a lot more
sense if you are tripping the light fantastic. Just ask Peter
Fonda and Dennis Hopper as they “Easy Rider” through 1969.
Tyger surveys the crowd walking down wide St. Joseph Street
proud. Huge rented trucks assume their traditional places
on party bent street corners.
Truck people already are busy beavers barbecuing on
grills and hibachis along the street. Women sit on chairs inside
the vehicular parties.
Recreational Vehicle central has likewise graced the scene
with all inhabitants early birds risen. Maybe it’s 7:30 a.m.
(No use bringing a watch as Greenwich Mean Time is rendered meaningless.)
The Polish Dog stand party is in full-swing mode.
Tyger catches the infectious disease. He grins at a fatass
woman dressed as ballerina whom he recognizes from every Mardi
Gras past, presented, and perhaps to be.
“Whoa, no hot tub this year?” Tyger facetiously asks the
prima ballerina as she pirouettes uproariously. “What a great
idea,” she replies as if she gets it. ”Maybe next year.”
“Maybe never, babe.”
A quick surveillance of the scene reveals the usual unusual
behavior. Families dressed as strange fish swim back and forth in
endless aimless streams along St. Charles Avenue. Or is that
simply Tyger’s acid test imagination?
Come on comrades, what do you think?
Of course, that man is not really a crawfish.
His companion isn’t truly an oyster.
It’s Just, drive the point home one last note Al Johnson,
CARNIVAL TIME! O.K.? Everybody having fun?
The flood of outrageous costumes and behavior continues by
levees and sea walls unabated. “Bitch, bitch, bitch,” a man
dressed as a motley clown says as he laughs, pointing the fickle
finger of fate at an equally colorful companion.
They hold squeeze bottles filled with mysterious purple
liquid. Radish juice maybe, or an exotic fruit flavored
concoction. Whatever it is friends, it is doubtlessly highly toxic.
Welcome, then, to the street parade, the first conscious
moments of Fat Tuesday. The police, dark chicory coffee and
attitudes in hand, start setting up barricades along St. Charles Avenue.
Barricades are optional, only used for the largest of
Carnival day crowds. The temporal authorities must be expecting a
huge throng, weather being pleasant for Feb. 16.
“Hey buddy, how’s it going,” Roy greets Tyger checking in
at the Polish Dog stand. “You ready to party?”
His teenage son dances to disco music
emanating loudly from a nearby recreational vehicle.
Where else in the world at — 7:45 a.m.? — are so many
drunk, stoned, and tripping people partying their asses off like
this assisted, and yes, even encouraged, by the authorities?
Perhaps the Socratic method answers that question.
Tyger cuts through the heavy pedestrian traffic making his
way to the Seaman’s Lounge. It is the same old Zeno’s Paradox of
regular semi-derelicts and Mardi Gras extras. There are always
more approaching the bar no matter how many have departed.
No queue to the bathroom yet formed, Tyger enters, ignoring
an outstretched hand extended by a rather ragged looking
scarecrow. He seems under an impression that he might be the
official bathroom attendant for the day.
Hey dude, buy a vowel, get a clue. Whatever he is, sorry
Charlie, no tips available from Tyger who has seen it all
before and takes a precautionary piss. Maybe next year, old sot.
After taking care of business, Tyger goes to the long wood
bar inhabited by refugees from a Charles Bukowski lifestyle and
orders the usual, man, Bloody Mary. It costs $3 and because it’s
Al Johnson Carnival time tastes like the greatest mixed drink on earth.
Tyger strolls a few blocks down St. Charles surveying the
harbingers of impending brain damage. Chairs, ladders, coolers,
and all the accoutrements of this costumed army of revelers are
scattered everywhere, and beyond the horizon .
Lee Circle now is surrounded by spectator
bleachers and party patrons. Batter up friends, and that’s not just the fries.
Tyger struts beneath General Robert E. Lee’s stony visage
and around to a clear view of the expressway on-ramp — out of
commission obviously — broad vista containing an amazing
multicolored tableau stretching as far as visibility laws. Or
is that just the Mickey Mouse acid coming around. Speaking of which,
What is that snap snap popping at Tyger’s heels? He half-
jumps startled amidst the mini-explosions. Hahaha in his face,
who could it be, could it be … Armor’s? Who else.
“Have you slivved yet?” Armor’s inquires as Tyger regains
his senses. “Thanks for sharing that pal,” Tyger says. “Sliv to live.”
“I’m going to take a full hit,” Armor’s informs Tyger and
all who are happening nearby after which he carefully unwraps
a small square of paper disguised artfully as Bugs Bunny. “What’s up doc?”
“Whoo-wee, baby,” Tyger- watches approvingly. “You still have
some of the Bugs Bunnies? Those were massive.”
Armor ‘s cranes back his head and tilt, drops the acid.
“I need a drink,” he grandly announces to the oblivious multitude,
setting off for the well chartered waters of ye olde Seaman’s Lounge.
Colors, oh those bleeding tie-dyed colors … as Tyger spins
like a crazy top appreciating the pure fluidity of motion. His
brain purees, quickly liquifies. He chases liquid sky again .
How appropriate that the master of the secret passage and
guru of the sudden exit would as if by magic, disco presto reappear
at such a propitious moment. Besides, it’s the psychic law.
An exchange of information transpires.
“Ahh, hey, hey. Mr. Milty, I presume.”
“In the flesh dear Tyger- person. Have you slivved yet’?”
“A horse is a horse of course of course. Ya got to sliv to live. How about you?”
“Need you ask, dear boy?”
To the about to be initiated into what follows as Carnival
lore, here is how Mr. Milty is — shall we say — dressed.
He sports a giant self-painted face mask. This is not the sort of
vision one would in a dark alley want to face.
Kids seems to like it. And psychopaths.
The rest of his wiry frame from no-neck to toe is draped
with a bright bright orange jump suit. A 32-ounce squeeze bottle
filled with a highly inflammable mixology experiment dangles from
a money belt/utility holder. Chernobyl has got nothing on this
radioactive concoction. Mr. Milty raises his highly toxic mixture
to the heavens above, uttering a small Mardi Gras invocation,
as he must assuming the role of shaman of the moment.
“Let’s get bent,” he says in ever so slightly muffled tones,
squirting a light green liquid through a disjointed hole in the
face mask where his real mouth is located.
“What the Sam Mills is that?” Tyger asks.
“Try some and find out,” Milty teases.
“Oh Lord, not again,” Tyger says, shaking his Seattle
Mariners baseball cap covered head.
“You remember what happened last time.”
Carnival crazies demand that Tyger sample a stream from
the scary black and gold Saints squirt bottle.
“Whoa. Seriously, Milty. What the hell is in this? ”
“Eth cocktail with Berry Berry Blue Kool-aid,” states the awful face.
“Oh Lawd, not ethanol again. This is what happened last time.”
Armor’s returns like a good penny. The three whoop it up
along the St. Charles curbside. It is a little past very early in
the morning. Multitudes throng to chosen spots all over the city of New Orleans.
Zulu gathers apostles on Claiborne and Jackson Avenues.
Rex, fitted with his royal train, proceeds to greet
fawning subjects near Napoleon Avenue at Camp Street as is
annual habit. All is right with the weird world of Carnival.
The crowd becomes thicker, reveling in disorderly, mindlessly
passing in every conceivable direction. Gaggles of vendors
gather. They waddle downtown apparently to brave the mass of
humanity stretched along the Avenue and filling Canal Street to
inhuman capacity. And the French Quarter?
Don’t even ask, comrades. Some Mardi Gras moments
are best left for personal on-site investigation, if one dares.
The Vieux Carre is only for the hardiest or most inebriated, of souls.
Suffice it to say the deep blue sea bobs with outrageous
big boobs costumes, on men; women most scantily clad,
or cross-sex dressed; drag queens playing kissee, kissee; bankers
dressed as pirates, lions and, over there an Oscar Meyer wiener ,
half-bitten, accompanying a hard boiled egg; a large green potato
person; a family of frolickers all dressed the same as playing
cards in a deck; clowns, of course; and every possible fantasy
that has ever existed in the human mind or reflected human or
“Whooaaa,” Armor’s calls. “Here comes the nuclear family.”
They irradiate the spot every year.
The pater familia apparently works at Waterford III Nuclear
plant in Northeast Louisiana and shares the gang’s Polish Dog
stand pre-programming. (It is actually one of the best spots from
which to view the parade because the crowds are manageable. Of
course, convenient logistics and Polish Dog heaven also are present.)
Nuclear family dad wears a blue cap adorned with white atom
symbol, as well as beet red face. “Better stay away hey hey,” he
jokes. “I’m radioactive.” He is joking, right?
“Now, that I can believe,” remarks Tyger as Armor’s walks
over to schmooze with Mr . Nuclear catastrophe.
It happens every year.
Armor’s and bestest buddy for the day begin their annual
tete-a-tete. The confab always lasts for hours.
What do you suppose they possibly could be discussing?”
Tyger asks Milty. “I don’t think you want to know,” Mr . Milty replies laughing.
“You’re right Milty. Don’t know what I was thinking.”
A larger than ever commotion and sudden quick movement on
the street precedes the intoxicating sound of the “Mardi Gras
Mambo” blasting over a portable loudspeaker.
”Is that the parade?” an ignorant tourist inquires. Tyger is
embalmed in happiness, willing to be patient.
“By my calculations,” he notes, looking at his watch
merely for show, “that is Pete Fountain’s Half-Fast Marching
Club,” which of course confirms his opinion almost instantly.
The club belies it’s moniker as members walk
less than half fast, slowly careening from side
to side of the avenue passing out flowers, silver club doubloons, and kisses,
each of which are bestowed in overly generous fashion.
Their sacred mission is to stop at every tavern along the
route until gracing the French Quarter with their good times
rolling presence. Pete Fountain, clarinetist and originator
of the club, is pulled on a small float by a few of his close friends.
Club members dock for a moment at the Seaman’s Lounge. Tyger
takes the opportunity to approach the clarinetist who hands him
a doubloon with his likeness. “I saw a celebrity,” Tyger exults,
returning to the surging crowd.
The club dissipates, swallowed by the massive crowd in its
wake. Dragons, sea creatures; a trio in Nina, Pinta, and
Santa Maria uniform boat costumes; a myriad of painted faces and
swirling colors swallow the celebration whole.
One guy marches as the hole in the donut accompanied bv a
friend dressed as a giant question mark.
“Huh?” Tyger asks Milty.
“Huh,” Milty replies. Silly question.
Mermaids, representations of Louisiana edible foodstuffs and
inanimate objects, a man dressed as heaving barf, are spewed
out into the swirling eddies of Mardi Gras madness. The sliv to
live crowd, as well, seems highly affected.
The Jefferson City Buzzards, an ancient and cherished
walking club, follow Pete Fountain. They are dressed as clowns,
returning traditional favors when members of the crowd,
preferably big-tit women, bestow upon their flushed red cheeks
the appropriate shirts to the wind responses.
Some supplicants seem more eager than others. One used-up
looking hag tackles a walker. “Can she do that?” Tyger wonders.
” I think she cari do anything she wants,” Milty replies.
“Ooooh. That is one ugly woman.”
Mac, Sarah, Milty’s girlfriend d’jour, the Nick Bowers clan
and Sandy Alexander with his new bride Mary Ann drop into this
haze, barely noticed at first. So, the complement is complete.
Fortunately, as always, they have arrived just in the Bowers
of time for the sun has flown across the cloudless deep blue
sea of sky. Snap your fingers, poof, past 10 a.m., here comes
the blessed Big Shot leading the mostly black Zulu Parade.
Get ready for the funny black faced maskers tossing to the
crowd one of the most intensely prestigious of throws, the
decorated Zulu coconut. Everyone wants one. The crowd launches a
collective wail: “Throw me a coconut, mister! Coconuts!”
Zulu after Zulu, spears and African warrior outfits straight
out of Tarzan movies; riders tease the crowd with coconuts,
spears, cups and beads, holding them aloft, waiting for the
nitrous peak of noise and emotion, then pulling them back.
A few wave signs proclaiming the sentiment of the moment.
“Show us your tits.” Carnival currency has a value all its own.
Tits indeed are being shown. The cutest possible babies — youthful
children, and the other kind — are being presented to Zulus for
approval and possible coconut coronation as the massive;
wonderfully painted parade floats whizzing like wasps by.
A zillion cups, doubloons and Zulu beads strike the ground
in an unison of desire. Normally respectable people scramble like
eggs along the frying pan ground everywhere the mind’s eye wanders.
The masses stomp, wildly wave hands, shout, in any way
possible attempting to attract rider attention. Mass hysteria,
the awful beauty of complete disorder and dramatic tension of
existence coalescing, divides itself in basic genetic patterns,
burrowing to the bottom-line of human endeavor .
Winners shout in triumph holding spears and coconuts to the
golden sun for divine approval. Losers cry by the curbside having
just missed that black and gold cup, that strange miniature
plastic silver crown, or any one of a thousand suddenly all-important
party favors. Life has become its own caricature.
Huge bands from local high schools and places far-away march
double-time between floats, then stop as the parade waits for any
of a thousand possible mishaps to be resolved.
(Zulu holds a marching band contest, always attracting the
very best. As noted, any parade might stop as a
float, rider –or both — break down, or for a crowd related accident.)
So, boom boom barn barn to the front and throw me something to
the rear in one non-stop sensual explosion. “Yipes!” Milty jumps
ass backwards. Mac has scored a direct snap and pop on his face.
“Get a real job,” Mac shouts. Hahaha.
Oh, wondrous communion of human nature. Nobody even notices
acid tripping scoundrels. That is because tripsters
everywhere tripping on chemicals, or on the natural high
provided by the gathered multitudes turning reality on its head.
“This is a great Mardi Gras. The greatest Mardi Gras ever,”
relates Sandy to Mary Ann as a torrent of beads rain down upon his shoulders.
“Oh my goodness. Thank you. Thank you,” he cries to the
unseen throwers, holding above his head for show an unopened
plastic package of a gross of beads.
Maskers always seem to divine who should get what and why.
That’s Carnival karma, corny comrades.
Snap your fingers then, in a dream-time moment Zulu has
vanished. Gone are the disdainful dukes and maids, magnificently
decorated floats, surreal images, and esoteric Carnival
commentary apparent only to advanced students of the celebration,
and Zulu warriors. The gang retreats from the battleground to Mac’s car
as is traditional. There they smoke a massive number of joints, and
like the universe explode in a big bang, then mystically reform.
“Whos in charge here?” Nick asks. “You’re not?” Tyger
replies. Hahaha — a round of laughter for everyone on the house.
P.D. gang busters take care of miscellaneous business like
liquid refreshment replenishment, pissing behind the trash
receptacle on the corner. Mrs. Bowers has papered over her car
window for a private lady’s room interior and, in general,
tallying up the loot while accounting for any casualties.
“Where’s Armor’s?” “Still with the nuclear family.”
”Mr. Milty?” “No fucking clue.”
“O.K. Nick is here and Sandy.” “Mary Ann?” “She went with
Sarah to the Polish Dog stand.” So forth and so on.
“Hey then, let’s party.”
Said gang parties for a short while that seems like forever
in a bottle before the arrival of His Majesty’s Bandwagon and
Rex, King of Carnival. All hail the Krewe of Polish Dog
The group returns to a ladder sea behind the closed
barricades that had parted briefly to allow tor passage of
fake Israelites, big ships and toy boats alike seeking smoother
seas, pit-stops, or any of the million, or so, no-doubt demented
functions they must perform.
Mac purchases a can of silly string from a passing vendor,
then hides behind a Cadbury’s chocolate salesman from Chicago,
or so the man dressed as a gigantic chocolate candy bar claims to
be. Mac spews the horrible pink chemical nightmare on Sarah who
jumps aside laughing in pretend horror. Splat.
Spray sticks to the next nearest target, in this
case a jowly but not particularly jolly looking member of New
Orleans’ shall we seg-way — finest.
“There goes the ozone layer,” Nick observes as Mac tries to
hide between Sandy. “He did it,” a disembodied voice sounding
like Mac claims. Sandy moves stage right. “No I didn’t,” he reclaims.
Fortunately, the policeman allows a slim sly smiles
to break the semi-comic plane as he wipes offending silly string off his face.
No matter who or what you are, dear comrades, it’s tough to
look tough with a face full of silly string. Mac makes himself
scarce for a while, staying on the safe side of the lawman.
As Mac disappears, appears in his wake the first premonition
of the Rex Parade. The Police Communications truck is tailed by
the NOPSI wire clearing floats and various vehicular odds and
ends, including the Blaine Kern Artists Inc. truck referring to
the master float builder of the area. Git along little dogies.
Deputies on horseback, maids and dukes from prominent
families atop grandly decorated mini-floats pulled by the fruits
of Belarus labor belaboring the throngs with high society.
Lookee, lookee over there . Everybody stands at rapt
attention pointing towards Lee Circle.
His white cape flowing, his long manicured beard, waving the
royal scepter above a crowd of subjects (and potential”subjects”).
There, over yonder, rolls the magnificent King of Carnival
his very self in the multi-colored costumed flesh.
“Yes, yes, yes,” Mac along with thousands roars. “Just say yes.”
His royal majesty salutes his loyal followers, waving in
the time honed and practiced manner.
It is Rex! It is Rex! The crowd cheers their regal approval
to which the King of Carnival grandly acknowledges with a royal
wave. Rex’s theme song “If Ever I Cease to Love,” plays above the
masses in an endless musical loop.
“All hail Rex'” the Bowers family among a million others
shout as almost one. “Get a real job’ Hahaha,” emanates from MacMouth.
The grand procession stops briefly at the Polish Dog Stand
for here Rex’s past momentarily encounters future acknowledgment.
Armor’s looks dispassionately unimpressed by his brush with
royalty. “I do not acknowledge monarchy,” he states and follows with a whoop.
“This is what we fought the Revolutionary War to defeat,”
Armor’s continues. “Down with the monarchy! Let the pigs eat cake.”
“Mixed metaphor,” Tyger cautions.
Armor’s shouts are drowned out by Rex’s well wishers.
If not for Rex and Carnival most would be slaves
to a far worse fate at the stinking corporate work place.
“Hey everybody,” Mac yells,· “Take the rest of the day off'”
“Get a real job,” Nick echoes.
Rex passes on his inevitable way to toasts at Gallier Hall
where the open-shirt Mayor Sidney Barthelemy hands over, for the
day, all reigns of control to the Big Easy. That’s not a bad deal for the people.
“Here is to you Rex, our majestic monarch,” the mayor
shouts, trying to raise his game a notch. “Your royal day has
been blessed with the greatest of weather.”
“And to you sir,” Rex replies holding aloft his giant cup of wine.
“And to my royal subjects, and all who have graced my celebration
from points near and dear and places afar.
Have a joyous, safe, and happy Mardi Gras. toast you all.
Without further ado, I bid you adieu. Let the party roll on'”
And it is rumbling, bumbling, stumbling the wrong way down
St. Charles Avenue as the masses scramble for purple, green,
gold, and white Rex cups and the emblem Rex beads with a golden
crown dangling from similar colors.
The Polish Dog stand lies fallow now, deserted by a fair
weather army hungry for cheap plastic baubles to feed the soul.
All eyes and attention spans are firmly entrenched upon the
floating sparrow in this year’s “Salute to Things that Fly.” The
next float greatly resembles the Space Shuttle Challenger. Oy vey.
There moos the Beouf Gras, a perennial participant with
its large white cow. “Hey hum Bingo baby,” Tyger yells in
unappreciated reference to Joe Fine’s favorite insurance claim
scam subject scandal. “Who loves you baby?”
There the Jester, as always, laughing up a storm; and
the aforementioned Majesty’s Bandwagon with the royal orchestra
serenading endless strains of the royal song. “If Ever I Cease To
Love” droning on and on as on the parade rolls into eternity’s waiting arms.
The panoply oi floats divided by military marching bands
pauses for another break. Rex now conducts the real social
business for which he has been appointed.
King of Carnival toasts the social elite on the
reviewing stand at the Boston Club along Canal Street.
Rex salutes his true raison d’etre existential court,
moving towards his final chapter in the Book of Carnival, 1988.
Unfortunately for The Texas A&M University marching band,
this salute stops the parade in front of the P.D. stand.
Milty face is their unforgiving and persistent enemy.
As they stand at attention swords and boot licking
ready for almost nothing, miracle of Mardi Gras, Mr. Milty
materializes, jumping face to watermelon face in front of
the Aggie band taskmaster.
Mac jumps in front of the chimera that is Mr. Milty
frantically snapping his still shot camera.
“Photo opportunity!” Mac informs.
Tough luck we are the men of A&M. That is Mardi Gras
justice. Smile, you are on candid camera.
Mr . Milty performs a dainty face dance, taunting the Aggies
with his advanced karma. “Nicaragua’s that way, he yells,
pointing the band in the appropriately opposite direction.
“Hey you faggies. Get a life’. And how about that mascot
Reveille. I hear the bitch has rabies. Hahaha.”
The Aggies look as pissed as possible without falling out of
rank and physically attacking Mr . Milty. But then, in a
fortuitous turn — for the Aggies or for Mr. Milty, we’ll never
know — Rex completes his Boston Club toast.
Word passes down the second line.
Crimson clad Aggie bandmaster raises his baton.
Fellow traveler Aggies march off playing the Texas A&M fright song.
Mr . Milty can’t resist the final word. “See you next year,” out he rings.
Approximately 1 p.m. and the sun is hanging a very bright
yellow overhead. The last Rex float vanishes as in a dream.
Many in the crowd disperse.
Just as many remain, however, for the truck parades with
their fumes and more egalitarian challenges immediately chug
behind majestic Rex. The 250 trucks with long bed trailers roll
one after another for three exhausting hours along the parade
route. Truck floats vary greatly in attention to detail.
Tons of trinkets, beads, doubloons, cups, plastic objects, and
throws of any variety imaginable fill what’s left of the sky.
These floats allow anyone who has $200 and the desire to ride
above the masses to participate in the long parade.
They are a favorite of everyone as the vast quantities of
throws satiate all natural desire for worthless toy objects from
the People’s Republic of China, Guatemala, the Philippines, and
from wherever else such objects spring.
The unusually usual forces of disorder predominate in typically
timeless fashion. Chaos rules the immediate environs of the Polish Dog stand.
The verbal abuse squad heaps insult upon good natured insult
at riders who return such remarks in kind,
after they stop laughing. The drunken official orbital reaches apogee.
Now. it spins rapidly back to planet earth.
The crowd thins considerably with each
passing truck, leaving in its wake, as if by a Merlin’s transmogrification,
a magnificent mystic mountain of discarded trash.
Recreational vehicles and the surrounding mass of cars,
trucks, and vans depart the immediate P.D. stand vicinity.
Indeed, the wave has reversed itself. All roads now lead out of
New Orleans, back to reality calling.
Mac is off snapping Nick. Sarah is waving her arms at Krewe
of Orleanians Truck Float #135, titled ”And All That Jazz,” with
cheesy musical instruments made of paper mache adorning the flat
bed exterior, most of the rider positions left empty through
parade attrition or rider apathy.
(After all, it is a long journey into comas from
Tchopitoulas Street and Nashville Avenue to the
bittersweet end of the Carnival line.)
Sandy, Mary Ann, and Armor’s have long since departed.
Mr. Milty says goodbye, embarking on his annual pilgrimage to the
fleshed and flushed out French Quarter. Presumably he will meet
his girlfriend, who has watched the parades with her family at the Boston Club.
Enough already. Tyger, too, must go into the tank, leaving
the fracas for a while. He follows a higher calling.
Tyger is the resident expert on the most important
parade of all, unbeknownst to the blissfully ignorant. Tyger
lives for the final parade of Mardi Gras, initiator of New
Orleans Carnival, the most secretive old-line institution of all.
Comrades, in the likely case you are unaware of the
immutable forces of history, we will set the record straight forevermore.
You have yet to greet the pre-eminent ruler who wields
goblet instead of scepter. The monarch who even Rex
must bow to as the courts at midnight meet to usher out
the Carnival season after separate Municipal Auditorium balls.
In case you haven’t heard, in case it’s news to y’all, Tyger
will be standing proudly at 6 p.m. by the P.O. stand alone —
with the exception of passed out minions and a wide awake Sandman —
awaiting his most secret regal presence.
Yes, the Mystick Krewe of Comus calls. Thankfully, Carnival
shall end with his passage. All those uninvited guests will depart for home.
All hail Comus, epitome of old school Carnival, who follows a riderless
float, never has his identity revealed. (Although a determined
investigator might deduce his identity from the Slimes-Picayune
society pages if it were necessary to know.)
Therefore, a quick pit stop Uptown already much easier to
transverse in the fading Carnival glow. Tyger splashes water on
his face, takes care of related bathroom duties. He verifies
that the VCR recorded the Mardi Gras show, in theory, for later viewing.
About 5:30 p.m., Tyger returns for a Polish Dog last stand.
Once again, he drops into the YWCA parking lot grounds zero. R.V.
world has completely vanished. A few stragglers returning from
earlier Mardi Gras engagements surround the lot.
Only Robert E. Lee seems unaffected. He continues sitting on
horseback purveying the remnants of yet another losing battle.
Tyger’s special general orders include a final surveillance
of the scene. Crowds once flooding through the streets
have slowed to a sickly burnt out trickle.
“Ahh wahh, dat who,” a semi-derelict soul wobbles downtown. He
used to be an executive vice-president, or a corporate commercial
rip-off scandal. Maybe he will pass as that again tomorrow.
Small groups of losers squirt final wads here and there,
wide and outside; ball ball ball, take a walk, you bums. A pretty
but used up jewelry-making artist whom Tyger knows staggers by
Lee Circle, pulling up her short dress, for a split-second,
exhibiting lace panties to no one in particular.
She appears drunker than a sailor on shore leave.
Tyger hopes the little sapphire survives these final Carnival hours to
make it past the Seaman’s Lounge to another port of call
Shouldn’t she be playing the French Quarter?
A mountain of trash covers every Crescent City street, but
is particularly thick along St. Charles Avenue. This is how the
success of Carnival will be judged for future generations to
beat. The next day an official verdict will be rendered as
garbage is weighed for relative tonnage. The more trash,
the better was the celebration.
Tyger takes a rough cat’s scan of the pictorial debris.
Looks like a good one, folks. And within hours,
thank you Lord, the party will have ended.
Those who love Carnival and prepare for it year-round might
be sorely disappointed, but that’s their problem. Lovers of Comus
the few, the hardy, the only, remain to rejoice atop
the trash-filled heap. The worst of the mess is past tense.
Whereas the P.D. outskirts once was home to hundreds if not thousands.
Whereas a few have bit the bullet in the nearby vicinity,
holding their heads or staring vacantly into the darkening distance.
Whereas a small thin line of topsy-tipsy post-revelers walk in wobbling misdirection.
Let it be resolved therefore, that Tyger stand alone victorious
over Carnival ready to write its final chapter.
Hallelujah sings the crosswalk between past and future attractions.
Electrical sparks fly from eyes falling on a contented disaster.
History falls to the winners to write.
The biggest winners this day are those like Tyger
who don’t much care for the trappings of Mardi Gras,
but are enticed into becoming fellow travelers.
As such, perhaps a bit guilty of having too much fun
contrary to anti-Carnival karmic beliefs. They pause in that final moment
of reflection, raising their arms in triumph,
proclaiming through incantations, “Enough is enough!”
The New Orleans Police Department, too, welcomes the end of
Carnival madness. No more triple shifts and overtime. Money
simply isn’t worth the effort after a certain point.
Prices for Mardi Gras related objects have plummeted
like the stock market crashing. Or a store closing sale.
Snap-and-pops are discounted 75 percent.
Silly string sells for below wholesale market value.
Even Polish Dogs have dropped from a $5 high on
the early morning Rex rules exchange to…see what they are now.
“Hey buddy,” Roy yells to Tyger”Come on over and get one on the house.”
And that Polish Dog, dear comrades, assumes a place of pre-eminent
stature compared to all that have passed before and all that hope to follow.
Munching, crunching, swallowing between wide flavorful mouthfuls,
Tyger must to the world proclaim, “This is the greatest Polish Dog ever Yowee wowee”’
Sandy Alexander is also one of the few hardy survivors.
Looking fit and trim as befits his southpaw hurler’s frame,
Sandy appears presto disco magic as Tyger finishes last gulp.
The Sandman satirically crosses his fingers in the form of a cross fending off evil.
“Something bad is going to happen,” he jokes.
“Something bad already happened,” Tyger replies.
They frolic in the refuse of a golden celebration, kicking
over discarded cartons and containers, gently picking through
garbage with winged feet. Wouldn’t want your hands to touch some
of that crap because you might know where it has been.
That’s about the size of it.
“What is the theme this year?” Sandy asks of coming Comus.
“A salute to deities, I believe, ” Tyger answers. “That must mean us.”
And so it goes. A husband and wife tourist team saunter by,
asking Tyger when the final parade — what is its name? — rolls
by the sacred stand.
A derelictus temalus ignoramus interrupts. “Waaalll, the
parade is supposed to start at 6:15, so that means it won’t be
here tor another hour.”
That type of disinformation passes down the line every
year. Tyger corrects this typical piece of incorrect verbal garbage.
“No. Comus always starts early. They roll as rapidly
Downtown as possible since they hate parading. The entire point
is to squeeze in as much partying as possible before midnight.”
“Naah. They won’t be here for a while,” the old bag who is
carrying an old bag filled to the brim with beads replies as she
searches through the trash heap for any uncollected booty.
(The unclaimed beading is worth a few cents a gross, to
recyclers gearing up for next year’s Mardi Gras. That can add up
to a few useful dollars for the energetic derelict.)
Tourists look confused, as always. “Believe who you want
to believe, but I am a Comus expert,” Tyger notes for the
permanent record. “I’ve been coming to this parade
forever. Comus is the most significant event of the Mardi Gras
season, the most beautiful, and most mysterious parade.
And the doubloons are totally psychedelic if you stare at them.
There is no comparison to the Mistick Krewe of Comus.”
Sandy nods his head in agreement after returning from the
P.D. stand fully armed, dangerous, and about to be self-loaded
with a Polish Dog. “Alright,” he reports. “The guy only charged
me $3. That’s last week’s price.”
Tyger doesn’t have the heart to tell him of his last dog and
slyly smiles. “What?” Sandy asks. “What?” “Oh, nothing.” “I saw
you smile.” “Nah.”
Coming on to 6:30 p.m. as Tyger looks at his watch.
“I predict Comus will come around the bend in approximately two minutes,” he avers.
Sure enough, the final sounds of Comus cut through an eerie
silence. Comus prefers small out-of-step bizarre musical units to award winning mega-bands.
The first wave of lost players trek downtown in double march step.
Band members look tired and just a little pissed as if they
“SURVEILLANCE PELI CANA”
thought they were going to march in Rex,
but instead were tricked into falling down a horrible abyss.
Lucky stiffs to march for Comus.
If only they realized their flying feet have been bestowed
the greatest of honors imaginable
“Just as I predicted,” Tyger rubs it in for the tourists.
“Get ready for the true king of Carnival who carries a silver goblet.
You stand at the precipice of history for hither comes
the Mistick Krewe of Comus.”
Olden wood wheels and ancient floats.
The first one, as always, comes riderless further confounding the uninitiated.
Tourists chatter among themselves, walking away from the parade site.
A few savvy Carnival veterans and those others who still can stand, pull their own weight,
or haven’t been satiated by the previous orgy of fun, stare in wonder at the sight.
“Comus. Comus’.” Sandy and Tyger shout together. “Who are you anyway?”
And so, the king of Carnival kings timelessly arrives.
Comus waves his free hand, holding his goblet with the other
in a toast to the few but enthusiastic fans.
A dip of the goblet in Tyger and Sandy’s direction
as all-knowing Comus recognizes them from celebrations past.
The boys are not too difficult to pick out either as no more than
seven or eight others applaud on a sidewalk that once held
hundreds. And the Tyger-Sandy connection is at the same spot every year.
Quickly, quickly passes the 22 floats of Comus interrupted
briefly by out-of-sync marching units and flambeau carriers.
The first float with riders stops briefly before the boys and tosses
them a complment of gold and silver doubloons as well as the
chintziest of plain blue beads.
This is designed to take the pressure off for Mardi Gras
would be the most abysmal of failures were not a complement of
such doubloons garnered to be cherished and examined throughout
the coming year. Comus riders know this, paying special attention
at the parade headwaters to knowledgeable sailors like the
Tygermeister and dandy Sandy Alexander by Seaman’s Lounge.
Pretty much nothing, snake eyes, shakes after that first
float. Some floats don’t have riders. Some have but a couple,
three or four depending on the whimsy of Comus.
The crowd yells for more. Maskers simply radiate plastic
molded Mona Lisa smiles. A few pull up their tunics
in “show us your tits” fashion but, as required by law, say nothing.
Comus riders do not need to speak since they are the elite
of the elite, allowed to do whatever they want. And that includes during Carnival.
The parade takes its usual New York second and just like —
snap-and-pop exploding between one’s fingers — that, has
vanished. The boys don’t leave yet as the absolute finale of the
season is about to take place, one of the stranger, yet most
functional, of hassles.
For around Lee Circle, here comes the Krewe of Krowd Kontrol
to be followed immediately by the Krewe of Sanitation. Whoa
Nellie, the KKK is an intimidating by design tradition.
The party’s final remnants are graced by those horrific
police sirens roaring, accompanied by blinding motorcycle lights
flashing. The KKK drive down the street six abreast to be
followed by a hundred cops on horseback.
They blast off for the roistering frolicking French Quarter
where they will clear the streets of unsuspecting revelers at
precisely 12:01 a.m., Ash Wednesday. Absolutely no mercy granted.
Sleazy French Quarter tourists, who at 6:30 p.m. are doing
their thing face-to-in-your-face and wall-to-wall, never quite
grasp the point that Mardi Gras is the pre-Lenten religious
celebration. Lent begins promptly with the first minute of Ash Wednesday.
N.O.P.D. KKK enforces crowd clearing tactics with
extra P.D. relish, gung-ho gusto, and special retributory attention.
Tourists always complain as they scurry for refuge inside
French Quarter drinking establishments where they are allowed to
party as long as they don’t venture into the streets.
They never realize the vast extent of their ignorance.
They probably wouldn’t care if they did.
In the final analysis, tourists and unconnected locals
alike are simply extras in the Carnival tableau, like it or nuts.
Therefore, take Carnival for what it is worth, not much at this point.
Sanity is regaining strength with each passing hour .
The Krewe of Krowd Kontrol, therefore, continues Downtown on
its modern not yet fully appreciated mission. It roars down the
avenue as fast as Comus.
Then, the related Krewe of Sanitation, consisting of giant
street sweeper machines and sanitation workers supported by
guarded Orleans Parish prisoners, sweep aside the mounds of trash.
Street sweepers wash St. Charles Avenue of all previous sins
with powerful blasts of water pushing even the most righteous
observers like Tyger and Sandy back back back and beyond the
Polish Dog outfield warning track.
Tyger waves to one of the sanitation workers walking in h1gh
rubber boots, carrying a broom. The gap-toothed black man waves back.
“Hey throw me something mister,” Tyger yells. “Oh yeah.
Oh yeah,” Mr . Sanitation acknowledges.
“I bet you like this parade the best,” Tyger adds.
“Oh yeah. Oh yeah. There wouldn’t be no tomorrow if we weren’t here,”
the star of the magic moment says.
The final meeting of the courts of Rex and Comus,
is the grand finale, a final seasonal ritual
broadcast live on a local television station.
Tyger relaxes at his home alone, observing Rex pay homage to
Comus amidst the stains of “If Ever I Cease to Love” played
ad nauseam. Although the merry tune is a lovely thought.
The courts meet with the usual precise and time practiced
pageantry. Young pages, kings, queens, and other royalty dance
unwavering at the scripted meeting. lt is the same story every
year with only a few small faces trading places.
Tyger watches a bit longer as immediately following that
traditional pageant, comes the clearing of the French Quarter ot
revelers at 12:01, also shown live on television.
So inspiring has the day been that Tyger sits right down and
writes himself a poem. So follows the Comus Parade:
“We are just a face; A subject and a place; A lily and a
rose; Rose again for Carnival.
“Shouts the willow rows; By the setting hyacinths; Looms the
long parade; Brush the final stroke.
“Empty hides the space; Where silence softly rows;
Before the wave applauds; The coming of the float.
“I float and so do you; Beneath a sky of beads; tossed by
maskers out; Nowhere left to go.
“In your darkest eyes; Shines a mandrake moon; Shooting up
the stars; Howling at the fools.
“Comus come to me; Where the marchers stop; How the garden
grows; I can’t help myself.
“To see and not to see; Hides your colored mask; Behind a
bed of thorns; Blows a stack of facts.
“We ar-e meant to be; An object and a dream; Beyond the great
arcade; Stands nothingness.”
Rubbing his bleary eyes in joy at having survived yet
another Mardi Gras, Tyger finally embarks on the sleep of
truly contented. He dreams of tracking down insurance fraud.
Not. He dreams of graceful ballerina swans dancing. Shhhh.
Don’t disturb him. All too soon, the work-a-day world
resumes again tomorrow.